For the first time ever, New York University recently held an NYU Entrepreneurs Festival. It was a two-day event at NYU’s Washington Square campus that kicked off with a keynote speech by Dennis Crowley, founder of web and mobile application company Foursquare. It also featured a series of panels and guest speakers.
“The amazing history of startups and entrepreneurship by the NYU community was little known inside or out of the university. Thus, we created this event to share it with the larger NYU community, and showcase that NYU is playing a key role in the startup renaissance currently underway in NYC,” says Frank Rimalovski, managing director of the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, which organized the event.
Among the startup companies coming from the NYU community are Anaderm, Constellation Pharmaceuticals, Smart Therapeutics, Sugen, Touchco. Perceptive Pixel. Spin Transfer, AdSafe Media, Area/Code, BioDigital Systems, Diaspora, Etsy, Media6Degrees, The Hotlist, Audible, Symbol Technologies, The Knot, SeamlessWeb, OMGPOP, Interwoven, Nanometics Labs, FanBridge, and StyleCaster, among others. In fact, NYU claims to have 80% more new startup companies created than the national average, per research dollars expended.
So it seems only logical that NYU should host an entrepreneurs’ festival. Representatives from various schools at NYU took part in the in the event, as did several speakers, such as Carley Roney, Rob Fassino and Michael Wolfson, co-founders of XO Group, formerly The Knot. Students were also given the opportunity to showcase their startup ideas to attendees, which included several venture capitalists.
“A few things stand out for me,” says Rimalovski, looking back at the festival. “For example, the Venture Showcase with 30 startups founded by NYU alumni, students and faculty. Several of the exhibitors told me that they made good connections with potential investors, identified student interns and received valuable feedback on their product/business. There was also the Startup Roundtables, where we had 10 tables each with one or two entrepreneurs, investors and/or attorneys providing attendees with the opportunity to talk more intimately and get their questions answered. This was a highlight in that our supply (of 80 seats and 10 speakers) greatly exceeded the demand. The roundtables went on for 90 minutes and it was standing- room only the whole time. The other highlight was really the consistency of the themes that emerged from the four founder talks (keynotes) and the 12 entrepreneur panels (speakers and topics in the program). Time and again it was clear that passion, perseverance, vision and the desire to create a product that solved a problem (or addressed an opportunity) were more important than technology, the desire to build a business or make money.”
About 500 people registered for the event, which was open to anyone, though primarily marketed to the NYU community. Rimalovski says it will become an annual festival. “The goals (of the event) were four-fold: 1) To celebrate and showcase NYU entrepreneurs; 2) to inspire greater innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors among our students, researchers and faculty; 3) to encourage cross-NYU collaboration by demonstrating that startups don’t just come from the business school, but rather from all over NYU. We had 11 of our 14 colleges/schools represented among our speakers; and 4) to build connections between our current students, researchers and faculty and the larger NYU and NYC startup community. Based upon the feedback we’ve received so far, I can say with certainty that we’ve achieved these goals, though time will really tell.”