By the time Demo Day rolled around on August 8, the young entrepreneurs who had been chosen to take part in NYU’s Summer Launchpad had been through ten grueling but exciting weeks. They had honed their business models, practiced their presentation skills and had received intensive instruction in the lean startup methodology popularized by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank.
Out of a field of 100 applicants, only nine were chosen to spend the summer at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU (NYU-Poly) Varick Street incubator in Lower Manhattan, where the program was based. “This group is comprised of bright people, with exciting ideas and great potential for success,” Micah Kotch, the Director of Incubator Initiatives at NYU-Poly, explained. “And they will carry what they learn at Launchpad throughout the rest of their careers. We’ve taught them about customer discovery, profitable business models and much more. It’s a hands-on program that really represents the future of education.”
The start-ups target a wide range of sectors, including education (Kinvolved, software that can track student attendance and encourage parent involvement), healthcare (Databetes, self-management support tools for diabetes patients) and consumer (CrashDwell, an on-line solution to the problem of finding sublets and other short-term housing).
The fledgling entrepreneurs came from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Tisch School of the Arts, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the College of Arts and Science as well as NYU-Poly, which fielded three teams: BenchPals, which produced secure software for lab management; the BOT Factory, which devised a 3-D printer that can be used to create circuit boards; and ExVivo Dynamics, whose chelation filters greatly reduce the chances of organ damage for those undergoing blood transfusions.
At Demo Day, the teams—which had each received a generous stipend at the beginning of Launchpad so that they could focus on their startups rather than on summer jobs—had the chance to showcase their work to potential collaborators, investors, and partners, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Belying all the stereotypes, the young businesspeople spoke most passionately about their social mission rather than their future earnings. “Our devices serve an urgent medical need,” Alan Perlstein, the Poly student behind ExVivo Dynamics, said, echoing the sentiments of other Launchpad participants working in the healthcare sector. “We want to help achieve a better quality of life and better outcomes for patients.”
“Using our software, scientists will be able to share their data rapidly and efficiently, and they’ll save time on lab management tasks that can then be devoted to further research,” Jasmin Hume and Ching-Yao Yang, who founded BenchPals explained of their goal.
And if any of those scientists happen to come up with a great, new idea with commercial potential thanks to BenchPal’s lab-management software, maybe they’ll be chosen to participate in next summer’s Launchpad, learning from mentors like David Tisch, managing partner of the Box Group; Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures; and Melinda Thomas, Entrepreneur in Residence for New York City. Who knows? If Launchpad’s inaugural class does as well as expected, that list of mentors might even include Hume, Yang and the others one day.