NYU Entrepreneurs Festival showcases alumni success stories

Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. Born out of necessity following the economic meltdown, they have emerged from the latest recession with new ideas and a new drive showing no signs of slowing down.

From college dropouts revolutionizing the Internet in their dorm rooms to working professionals ironing out inefficiencies after work, we live in a world where store-bought mentalities are losing ground to do-it-yourself pihlosophies.

The NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, taking place this Friday and Saturday in Tisch Hall, is a celebration of this entrepreneur culture. After Hurricane Sandy forced the event to be postponed last fall, the festival is inviting back successful NYU entrepreneurs to share stories and advice through showcases, panels and roundtables.

You may not have guessed it, but the university knows a thing or two about churning out great businesses.

“When I first started here a couple years ago, literally not a week went by when I didn’t learn about another start-up founded by either an alum or a current student or faculty,” recounted Frank Rimalovski, managing director of the NYU Innovation Venture Fund and the festival’s organizer.

“I began to put together a list of all these different NYU start-ups and entrepreneurs,” he continued. “It quickly became a long list that just kept getting longer.”

With the launch of the festival last year, two important goals were achieved. The first was inspiration. The plight of an entrepreneur can often be scary — it starts with a leap of faith and continues down a road filled with obstacles and challenges. The NYUEF provided a platform to share success stories as well as trials and tribulations. For aspiring entrepreneurs, learning from these experiences can be a big first step.

The second goal was to build a community of entrepreneurs at NYU. As a testament to the truly eclectic mix bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, featured alumni businesspeople last year came from 11 different colleges across the university. At a school that can feel more divided than unified, the festival created a space in which motivated, like-minded people could connect over a shared passion for entrepreneurship.

A hugely popular program from last year was the festival’s Venture Showcase, an open forum where current students were able to show off their projects. One of this year’s exhibits will feature BigPlay, an interactive new technology that enables hundreds of spectators to participate in real-time digital experiences using their smartphones. A collaboration of three Tisch ITP second-year students, Paul Groman, Danne Woo and Frederico Zannier, the venture and its founders will host a demonstration in Chelsea this Friday.  The event will be an attempt to set the Guinness World Record for multiplayer gaming on a single screen. On Saturday, the trio will be at NYUEF hopefully pleased with their possibly record-setting feat.

“We’re very excited to be promoting BigPlay at the showcase this weekend,” said Philip Groman . “It’ll be a great opportunity for us to get exposure and really hone our presentation of the product.”

Indeed, the vision for this year’s NYU Entrepreneurs Festival has followed a more refined tune. In addition to over 30 NYU start-up displays, more than 20 successful NYU alumni speakers and featured keynotes by Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, and Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, the festival will also be adding skill-building workshops, more roundtables and an opportunity for students to sit in and listen to a live pitch session.

Sam elaborated: “This year we understand that, while you have an interest in venture, you might not be ready quite yet or it might not be the perfect time. We want to establish that NYU is a place you can always come back to for resources, and everyday we’re building more.”

 

Daniel Huang is a contributing writer. Email him at features@nyunews.com.

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