Written by Tristan Harris, Class of 2020
NYU boasts an impressive pedigree of startups ranging from Twitter to Etsy. The location of Stern in the heart of New York City means that students are also in the heart of “Silicon Alley.” Many students decide to attend Stern due to ease of access to both the city’s and the school’s abundance of resources. For a school so famous for its finance program, however, the rising startup culture often goes unnoticed.
Freshman Elliot Waxman came to Stern with plans to create a company after graduation, if not while at Stern. Waxman has been greatly impressed with Stern’s initiatives and encouragement of student entrepreneurship. He points towards the Leslie eLab, the design thinking program taught to all freshman through the required Cohort Leadership Program, and initiatives such as the Reynolds Changemaker Challenge and the 300k Challenge as allowing students to gain access to startup education, mentorship, and community as early as in their freshman year. The design thinking component of Cohort Leadership Program is new this year and encourages students to help explore solutions to food related issues such as food waste on college campuses. Stern has partnered with VSA Partners, IDEO, and Fahrenheit 212 to develop the program. It is through these programs that Waxman believes that NYU is inspiring “stern and non-Stern students to pursue their passions for entrepreneurship and challenge their perceptions of start ups.” Waxman hopes to win funds in the near future through a Stern competition, and create a startup that he hopes will enable him to tackle Colony Collapse Disorder (when worker bees abandon their Queen for unknown reasons), a phenomenon that has resulted in decline in bee populations causing skyrocketing costs in the agricultural industry.
Stern Junior Joshua Sakhai who is currently the COO at NYU start-up Ephemeral, a company that produces a tattoo ink with a safe removal solution. Ephemeral won $75,000 under the “Technology Venture Competition” category of the 2014-2015 $200k Entrepreneurs Challenge hosted by Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The startup also graduated from NYU’s Summer Launchpad Accelerator. Ephemeral recently won Inc. Magazine’s “Coolest College Startups” championship round in 2016 and is currently working towards testing their ink for safety and efficacy. Sakhai commented that the “general interest in startups and tech have increased” within the Stern community, however he laments that “we’re on the right track, but we’re not quite there yet.” He does, however, look towards “the progress we’ve made as a whole is great,” specifically commenting on the involvement of more students in entrepreneurship and more resources available for startups.
Stern’s location, alumni-base, diverse student body, and resources all position it to be a hub for startup culture. As NYU continues to direct more funding and faculty to entrepreneurial initiatives, students will increasingly feel more driven and supported in launching startups while on-campus, instead of waiting until graduation. Although Stern doesn’t offer an Entrepreneurship Concentration, many students are now pursuing the Data & Computer Science Concentration as a way to gain the technical skills needed for their start-up ideas. For students looking to get more involved in entrepreneurship, they can consider attending Office of Student Engagement sponsored speaker series and workshops hosted by the Entrepreneurial Exchange Group.