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  • The Entrepreneurs Issue
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The Entrepreneurs Issue

March 7, 2016

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NYU Entrepreneurs Festival 2016

In an effort to promote entrepreneurship initiatives on campus, the Entrepreneurial Institute hosted the fifth NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, an event that brings together students, alumni and professionals to foster innovation and exchange ideas in the startup industry.

Frank Rimalovski, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurial Institute and the Innovation Venture Fund, discussed the five keys of entrepreneurship: opportunity, education, persistency, proactivity and prudence.

“A lot of entrepreneurs are well-trained experts in their fields,” Rimalovski said. “I would argue successful entrepreneurs are organized, calculated experimenters.”

The festival featured three keynote speakers that have been successful in their fields: Libby Edelman, co-founder and senior vice president of fashion at the shoe brand Sam Edelman; Ragy Thomas, CEO and founder of Sprinklr; and Guy Story, founding CTO of Audible.com.

CAS junior and member of the organizing committee William DeLay said the ultimate goal of the festival is to connect students who have ideas with investors.

“It’s an effort to show sponsors a snapshot of entrepreneurship at NYU by first showing the clubs, then having a venture showcase,” DeLay said. “It’s an example of NYU’s prowess.”

In total, 12 alumni ventures and 20 student ventures were represented at the showcases.

One of those ventures, MedTimes, was founded by Tandon senior Yasir Ali. The startup acts as a platform that allows medical patients to get live updates of hospital wait times via text message.

Ali, who is currently taking a leave of absence to promote his startup, chose to attend the event because he was drawn to the festival’s inspiring atmosphere.

“I love the vibe that comes out of the festival,” Ali said. “Everyone’s trying to achieve the same goal even though they’re in different markets. I think the overall goal brings everyone together. I love that positivity.”

Throughout the weekend, attendees actively visited booths and panels, asking questions and exchanging business cards. For Kierthi Shaminathan, a part-time MBA student at the Stern School of Business, the weekend was a way to get advice on starting his own company.

“I feel like attending the panels and interacting with startups would be a good place to get information,” Shaminathan said. “I wanted to see some of the challenges people faced and how they got over those challenges.”

As the festival drew to a close on Saturday night, the three co-chairs of the organizing committee — Stern junior Lori Berenberg, CAS senior Daniel Tuchman and Tisch junior Lewie Kloster, sat down to discuss why they chose to be involved in the festival.

“We’re hoping to encourage and inspire anyone in the entrepreneurial community to pursue their dream and build what they really see,” Tuchman said.

After all, Kloster said, entrepreneurship is a very useful tool to students of any background.

“The entrepreneurship mindset can be applied to so many professions,” Kloster said. “We can lift stereotypes and plug [entrepreneurship] into other industries like film.”

Entrepreneurs of all levels of experience have a wealth of NYU resources at their disposal, including the Leslie eLab, Blackstone LaunchPad and W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab. For many, it is where their desire to crack the scene is forged, and in these resources they can get one-on-one assistance on how to build and grow a business.

“It’s a really exciting time for an NYU entrepreneur,” Berenberg said. “What’s going to happen next year? I don’t know. But if there’s somebody out there in the world considering starting a venture as an NYU student, absolutely do it now.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 7 print edition. Email Yeho Hwang at [email protected]

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Jozii

Elevator pitch

Students who have searched from a summer job or internship online know that there are hundreds of sites to choose from, but Jozii aims to simplify the process. The site searches through jobs posted around the web on places and then picks out jobs that they think will appeal to students. You need a college email to sign up, so employers posting on Jozii can customize their listings to current students and recent grads.

NYU connection

Jozii was founded by Brandon Tyler, who graduated with a degree in media, culture and communication from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. For Tyler, it was his experience trying to get a job that led to Jozzii’s creation.

“I tried Craigslist, I looked on Monster, I jumped on NYU Simplicity [now NYU CareerNet] and even a lot of alumni job listings,” Tyler said.

He eventually found his first part-time job as a sales associate only after being approached by a recruiter for Abercrombie & Fitch at the Starbucks on campus.

Advice to college entrepreneurs

While graduation might seem far off for some students, Tyler encouraged them not to let their time in college slip away.

“You’re here for four years and those four years fly by quicker than anything,” he said.

Even though you might be nervous about striking out as an entrepreneur, Tyler said college is the best time for students to start building their skills.

“If they even think they have an idea, the time is now to try that out,” he said. “You have so many resources that you will not have once you’re not at a university.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 7 print edition. Email Kendall Levison at [email protected]

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MedPilot

Elevator pitch

MedPilot wants to change the way patients pay for healthcare. The company identified two main issues with medical billing: patients often never see the bills, and bills can also be too high for patients to afford.

Instead of getting statements through the mail, MedPilot sends their users email or texts when payments are due. And if you aren’t able to pay on time, the company’s software creates a customized payment plan based on your income.

NYU connection

MedPilot’s co-founder Rakinur Alam and chief technology officer Leonard Law both graduated from the Tandon School of Engineering. Tandon’s “i2e” motto, which stands for “invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” encouraged Alam to build his own company.

“An idea is just an idea until you execute on it,” Alam said in an email. “At NYU we were encouraged to execute on our idea rather than just dream about it.”

Advice to college entrepreneurs

If you’re an NYU student dreaming of a startup, Alam said you should start working on it while in school.

“It takes the right team to take an idea and turn it into a company,” Alam said. “I would like to suggest to all future entrepreneurs to network with people, make friends and don’t be afraid to share your ideas. You might just find your first partner in crime, and together you can build the next big thing.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 7 print edition. Email Kendall Levison at [email protected]

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Hearty Start

Elevator pitch

For as little as $3, Hearty Start allows you to sponsor breakfasts for homeless individuals around New York City. Donors log onto the site and choose how often they’d like to donate a sandwich — daily, weekly or monthly.

Hearty Start partners with local delis like Le Basket to make the sandwiches, which are delivered by Hearty Start employee Munoz Price, who once struggled with homelessness himself.

NYU connection

Two members of Hearty Start’s team, Konig Chen and Josh Gelinas, are current NYU sophomores. Chen studies hospitality and acts as the nonprofit’s Program Director for Distributions and Finance, while Gelinas is an economics major and fills the role of Program Director of Operations and Fundraising.

Hearty Start is also a semifinalist in NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge, in which it’s competing for a $200,000 prize.

Advice to college entrepreneurs

As a student himself, Gelinas encourages his NYU peers to go out and seek the real-world challenges by a startup.

“There’s no better way to gain a lot of experience — not just with business, but relating with people, putting yourself out there, selling things — than to do a new company,” Gelinas said.

In addition to the ventures sponsored by NYU like the Leslie eLab and the Entrepreneurs Challenge, Gelinas said that being in New York is a huge advantage for students who want to start a business. “I transferred from the University of Texas, and from what I’ve seen NYU is one of the best schools to be at to be an entrepreneur.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 7 print edition. Email Kendall Levison at [email protected]

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HomeSwipe

Elevator pitch

This app distills the complicated process of finding an apartment into a few clicks and swipes. Filters like “building with elevators” or “allows pets” help you narrow your search, and HomeSwipe verifies each listing to eliminate duplicates and fakes.

When you finally see an apartment you love, swipe left to save it for later or to chat with the listing agent. Swiping right dismisses the listing. HomeSwipe is like Tinder for apartment hunting.

NYU connection

Michael Lisovetsky, founder and CEO of HomeSwipe, graduated from Stern last year with a degree in finance. While his coursework gave him the background information he used to start HomeSwipe, it was the experience of apartment hunting that lead Lisovetsky to the idea.

“Being in New York City and experiencing how difficult it is to find an apartment really made the problem obvious in my mind,” Lisovetsky said.

Advice to college entrepreneurs

When Lisovetsky looks back on his own college experience, he said that there are many things he wishes he’d done differently.

“Instead of reaching out to people like me — NYU alumni who were doing what I wanted to do and a few steps ahead — I decided to learn the hard way,” Lisovetsky said.   

While Lisovetsky regrets not learning from others’ mistakes, he said that students still shouldn’t be afraid to try something new.

“The way you learn is just by doing,” Lisovetsky said.   

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 7 print edition. Email Kendall Levison at [email protected]

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