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2018 NYU Summer Sprint Startup Teams Finish Strong

Summer Sprint participants and mentors

Summer Sprint participants and mentors pose after final presentations in early June.

Five startup teams helmed by NYU Tandon School of Engineering students are pursuing their dreams of making and selling cutting-edge surgical tools, stolen goods-locating software, more powerful electric motors, wearable health monitors, and a more intuitive keyboard for Chinese language-learners. The teams’ progress is thanks in part to the NYU 2018 Summer Sprint program, which began in early June and culminated last week. If any of the five teams participating in the program — Smartfire, Eckstein Guidance, Merciless Motors, G-ware, and YDK — choose to pursue their ideas for businesses, they could be eligible to win thousands of dollars more in funding.

The closing Summer Sprint 10-minute pitches saw each of the five teams reporting on their products, research, business plans, and future steps, and the progress they’ve made in just three weeks was impressive. Though each group started with just an idea, they now have business plans in place for unique products that they’ll attempt to bring to a specific market. In the last month, each team completed dozens of interviews with potential customers, users, or clients in order to determine whether their product would be marketable. Support from NYU’s Convergence of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Institute and the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Sites Program led by Professor Jin Montclare made a $700 grant possible for this round of participants, but students could receive more if they choose to further pursue their business plans.

And some teams are clearly blazing forward with their products: Merciless Motors, a startup founded by Tandon student Nader Ahmed and CAS student Anna Eva Kotyza, has completed 26 interviews with clients who might be interested in lighter, more efficient electric motors for such vehicles as scooters and electric bicycles. Other startups, like Tandon students Richard Vo and Eirik Homlin’s Smartfire, have hit road bumps in selling their technology: the team found that after three weeks of contacting potential buyers, the market for technology that can track stolen firearms is not strong. That hasn’t stopped them from pushing ahead with a related business model, however: Tandon class of 2019 student Richard Vo mentioned that although tracking stolen guns is not of particular interest to firearms vendors, applying Smartfire’s technology to other vendors, like shipping companies who frequently deal with stolen packages, may be their next step.

Students in the startup "Eckstein Guidewire" present their product at the culmination of the 2018 Summer Sprint
Students in the startup "Eckstein Guidewire" present their product at the culmination of the 2018 Summer Sprint

Participants in this month’s Summer Sprint could receive invitations this fall to become IGNITE Fellows, a selective program for NYU student- and alumni-led startups that offer valuable funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities. And whatever path they choose to pursue going forward, they have already made invaluable connections to faculty and industry professionals, as well as to New York City-based venture capitalists, including some who were on-hand during the pitches to offer feedback and discuss strategy. Among those present were Frank Vallese, leader of NYU's MD5 Defense Department accelerator, and Abby Lyall, an NYU alumna who now works at Quake Capital, a startup accelerator based in New York City, as well as to the various members of NYU’s eLab and CIE Institute. With their encouragement, the sky seems to be the limit for NYU Tandon’s newest aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Summer Sprint is one of two entrepreneur-based courses offered at NYU this summer. The other, Summer Launchpad, offers similar opportunities, with a 9-week, rather than 3-week, startup planning session.

The 2018 Summer Sprint is made possible by the generous support of National Science Foundation, grant number IIP-1644681.


Annie Brinich
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Master of Science in Integrated Digital Media, Class of 2019