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Future Labs

2020 — a year of growth, innovation, resilience

This year, the NYU Data Future Lab accepted its largest cohort, expanded events and programming, tackled the pandemic, saw ~$35M in announced funding in our alumni and current portfolio, and more

As 2020 finally comes to an end, here at the NYU Tandon Data Future Lab we can look back at the year with pride at how our startups stay focused and continued to grow, innovating, and making an impact on a virus-damaged landscape.

In 2009, when New York faced a financial crisis, the Future Labs were formed — a private-public partnership between a city and a university to kickstart entrepreneurship, create jobs, and diversify the local economy. Now, New York faces another crisis, different from the financial distress of 2009 but still one that needs the efforts of the NYC startup ecosystem to turn the city around. Once again, startups, universities, and entrepreneurs have stepped up.

To our startups, supporters and sponsors, our community members and partners: This has been a devastating year for too many. Thank you for working with us to build a better New York and a better world through entrepreneurship.

Programs & Events

We welcomed a new Next Round cohort: BuyerSight, Numina, and Sproutlogix, each bringing with them powerful solutions to a lack of data in their multibillion-dollar fields.

In the two years we’ve been running Catalyst NYC, our equity-free accelerator program, we’ve only accepted 6–8 companies at a time. Our latest cohort, recruited to recharge NY’s economy, has 15 diverse, game-changing startups. We felt that now, more than ever, expanding our program to increase economic impact was the right thing to do.

Catalyst NYC launched in December 2020

Our events this year were exclusively in anticipation of, or a response to, an urgent need.

Within days of NYC going remote, we hosted a webinar with GK Training’s Michael Hoeppner on How To Ace Your Remote Pitch.

With our sponsor and partner Orrick, we launched a series on what startups need to know about the New Normal: What to expect from Term Sheets, how to plan Workforce Management, how to prep for M&A, and Cybersecurity in the recessionary environment of 2020.

Around the presidential election, the darker impact of tech became startlingly clear. Our 90-Minute Tech series kicked off with The Business of Disinformation and an all-star line-up of investors, founders, funders, and experts. This was a quick, deep dive into possible solutions to a growing problem — and the market for them to succeed.

Panelists Bilal Zuberi (Lux Capital), Damon McCoy (NYU Tandon) & Paul Cheung (Knight Foundation) speak to Tara McGowan (ACRONYM) on the market for tackling disinformation

The COVID-19 Response

In the dark days of New York turning into the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, we turned to skills on hand — engineering and entrepreneurship. The NYU COVID-19 Task Force, led by Steven Kuyan (Future Labs MD), Grant Fox (Director, Veterans Future Lab), Uriel Eisen (former VFL ProtoShop Manager), worked with NYU teams, government agencies, organizations including the OpenFace PPE Project & Black 6 Project, and our committed founders, to tackle the PPE shortage — first with low-cost, easily scalable face shields (at last count, 2M+ face shields around the world have been based on or adapted from the open-source design); then with designs for the AirMOD and the AirVENT. The latter has led to a new startup in a new category of portable negative pressure environments — Aeragen.

Our startups were on it, tackling the pandemic from multiple angles:

Next Round alum behold.AI got the CE Mark approval in the UK and EU for their red dot algorithm for ‘instant triage’ in radiology, used to speed up detection of COVID-19 in individuals. They also received FDA clearance for use in the US.

Skopos Labs (Catalyst NYC graduate now in Next Round) launched a free Coronavirus Policy Analytics tool, displaying updates on regulatory COVID-19 policy-making from 200+ federal agencies and Congressional activity.

Stringr (Next Round alum) partnered with Google News Initiative to help supply national and local news outlets with COVID-19 content and information.

Mediktor worked with the Austin Regional Clinic to offer an AI-powered symptom checker.

Vengo Labs (Next Round alum) rolled out touchless PPE kiosks in gyms, schools, retail spaces, and subway stations (hello, MTA!) around the country.

Edquity (Catalyst NYC graduate now in Next Round) went into overdrive: The emergency student aid disbursement platform partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on a student support initiative. They joined Believe in Students, the ECMC Foundation, and other organizations to support students affected by the pandemic, raising an initial $1.1 million in aid. They scaled up to 23 colleges, received a 1500% increase in applications, and distribute funds within 24 hours. “We have been forced to meet the moment,” said founder David Helene.


We usually talk about our companies being acquired — such as Trash, the Catalyst NYC graduate & AI-powered video-editing app, which was just acquired by photo/video editor VSCO.

But 2020 is also the year Next Round graduates made acquisitions of their own.

CB Insights had a busy one, acquiring two companies in Blockdata and VentureSource data from Dow Jones.

Vettery acquired Hired to create a more unified solution and platform for job-seekers and employers.

Wunderkind (FKA BounceX) acquired SmarterHQ to turbocharge capacity for shipping high-impact tools for enterprise retailers. It had also crossed into $100M in ARR.

Raises & Funding

Spruce, the online real estate platform and Next Round grad, raised a $29M Series B led by Scale Ventures.

Edquity raised $2.4M in an oversubscribed seed round.

Next Round alum Mutable raised $1.5M in seed.

ClearOPS (Catalyst NYC) closed another round of funding, accelerating their mission to aid customers in privacy and security assessment and vendor management.

New Catalyst NYC company (and Veterans Future Lab graduate) Edgeworth Box completed its pre-seed round and launched two marketplaces: Innovation Sourcing and Fintech.

Catalyst NYC alum scite was awarded a $1.5M Fast Track SBIR grant from the NIH to expand the use of its Smart Citations.


Medivis (in Next Round) collaborated with Microsoft and Verizon on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs first 5G-enabled hospital rollout.

Scite (Catalyst NYC alum) partnered with the International Union of Crystallography and publishing house Wiley for their Smart Citations tool.

Mediktor worked with Yale New Haven Health, integrating their AI-based tech to give clinically validated diagnoses in minutes.

Skopos (Next Round) coordinated with Westlaw Edge on a tool that will provide attorneys with ML-based predictions on the likelihood of passage, continuing their work to decode policy data and transform intangible developments into quantified impact.

Paperspace (Next Round grad) partnered with Gradient Health to bring reproducibility to the medtech company’s ML pipeline.

Next Round’s Pryon is working with K4Connect on an AI-based assistant to aid senior living caregivers’ knowledge and decision making.

Awards & Accolades

Carmera and Kisi of Next Round are in the DUMBO Dozen — the DUMBO Improvement District’s roundup of game-changing companies.

Next Round alum Nude Barre was one of Forbes’ 100 Black-Owned Businesses to Support (along with Urban Future Lab’s Dollaride, founded by Su Sanni — who also founded Next Round acquired graduate WeDidIt.)

Next Round alum Wade & Wendy was on Tracxn’s list of Top HR Tech Startups.

Edquity won the Rise Prize from Imaginable Futures and Lumina Foundation for its work in emergency student aid.

Feelmore Labs’ Cove wearable (feelcove.com)

Next Round’s Feelmore Labs launched Cove, a breakthrough stress-canceling wearable that won the 2020 Well Tech Award by Shape Magazine. (Get your hands on one here.)

For the second year straight, Next Round grad Vettery was on Fortune’s Best Workplaces in New York.

Nami Baral, CEO of Harvest Platform in Next Round, is one of Crain’s New York Notable Women in Financial Advice for her work increasing the net worth of the 99%.

CEO Drew Sterrett of Catalyst NYC alum LEX Markets was in Crain’s New York’s 2020 roundup of Rising Stars in Real Estate AND 20 in their 20s.

Clarifai, Next Round alum and computer vision enterprise platform, was on the Inc. 5000 list, putting it in the top 25% of the fastest-growing private companies in the country.

Spruce, Next Round grad, landed on CB Insights’ Top Fintech Companies list for the second year running.

Next Round grad Avanan was named one of Deloitte’s Technology #Fast500 for 2020 AND Embroker’s fastest-growing startups.

To keep in touch and up to date, sign up for our monthly newsletter or email us at hello@futurelabs.nyc.

Words: Michael Frank (michael.frank@nyu.edu)




Discussing the present and future of AI, AR, VR, Blockchain and other technology impacting startups and society.

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Future Labs

Future Labs

The Future Labs at NYU Tandon offer the businesses of tomorrow a network of innovation spaces and programs that support early stage startups in New York City.

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