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How to Start a Startup @ NYU

Part 0 — Start Here.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is primarily intended for three groups of student entrepreneurs:

  1. The NYU student who is interested starting a startup while on campus, but isn’t quite sure where to start. She may not have an idea at this stage, but is sure that she wants to invest time in learning to build a startup.
  2. The student who arrives on campus with a fully fleshed out idea or a strong sense of what she wants to build. She may already have an prototype/MVP, have conducted customer interviews, or have a live product in market.
  3. Lastly, the student who is interested entrepreneurship at NYU in the broadest sense of the word will also find value in this guide. She may be interested in joining an early stage team, hacking away on a side project, or simply learning about what NYU has to offer its student entrepreneurs.

So, whether you’re an MBA planning to start a company while in school, an undergrad seeking operating experience at a startup, or a student looking for general exposure to the NYU entrepreneurship ecosystem, you’ll be able to benefit from many of the resources listed here.

Note: while this guide is intended to be helpful to students across all of NYU’s schools, the advice and resources will skew slightly towards students in the graduate business school, where I am a full-time student. This is a function of my own bias towards my immediate environment.

Some Lite Introspection

In conversations with classmates, many NYU students arrive on campus with a vague goal of getting involved with startups or with the tech ecosystem.

If this is you, you’re in luck. NYU has no shortage of incredible opportunities — both on campus and in NYC — for students to work, intern, advise, build, invest and otherwise become involved with startups across industries and stages.

But “getting involved” can mean many different things.

Some students are interested in hacking away on a side project while they look for full-time employment at established companies. Yet others arrive on campus with the primary goal of founding a company. Others seek out opportunities at early stage companies to learn from experience teams and founders.

This is all to say: there are many entry points into startups and entrepreneurship on campus.

So, your first task should be to perform some lite introspection to determine what your goals are: why do you want to get involved in entrepreneurship? This will help you determine your ideal point of entry.


Part 1 — The Foundation: Courses and Clubs

NYU offers a wide array of courses on entrepreneurship. Use these courses to build out your knowledge base and broad understanding of entrepreneurship and startups. A broad foundation in entrepreneurship will help you determine what part of the startup ecosystem you want to participate in.

Below is a list of selected courses. Note that these course may change semester to semester, so be sure to check the most up to date course list for your school.

NYU Stern (MBA)

  • Foundations of Entrepreneurship (Glenn Okun, MGMT-GB.3335)
  • Foundations of Technology Entrepreneurship (Ari Ginsberg, MGMT-GB.3337)
  • Managing the Growing Company (Glenn Okun, MGMT-GB.2327)
  • High-Tech Start-ups & Products: A Technical Perspective (INFO-GB.2331)
  • Predicting the Future of Technology (Amy Webb, MKTG-GB.2192)
  • Creative Destruction Lab (9-month course for second-year MBAs; by application only)
  • Business Start-Up Practicum (Glenn Okun, MGMT-GB.3333)
  • Innovation and Design (Luke Williams, MKTG-GB.2371)
  • Tech and the City: Customer-Centric Digital Entrepreneurship (Arun Sundararajan, INFO-GB.2345)
  • Venture Capital Financing (FINC-GB.3173)
  • Entrepreneurial Finance (Glenn Okun, FINC-GB.3361)

NYU Law

NYU Stern (Undergraduate)

  • Social Entrepreneurship (BSPA-UB.41)
  • Social Innovation Practicum (BSPA-UB.70)
  • Digital Innovation & Crowdsourcing (INFO-UB.70)
  • Entrepreneurial Finance (FINC-UB.61)
  • The Entrepreneurship Game (MULT-UB.21)
  • Entrepreneurship 2.0 (MULT-UB.39)

NYU Tandon (School of Engineering)

  • Entrepreneurship (MG-GY 7703)
  • High-technology Entrepreneurship (MG-GY 7861)
  • Entrepreneurship (MG-UY 4404)

Still looking for more academic courses? The NYU Entrepreneurial institute maintains a current list of entrepreneurship-focused courses.

Campus Organizations and Clubs

Beyond academic courses, there are many other ways to get involved in entrepreneurship directly on campus. A wealth of student clubs and organizations exist to help students network with like-minded classmates, find employment opportunities, and get involved with startups.

ESA — NYU Stern’s Entrepreneurship and Startup Association helps its MBA members gain access to NYC’s entrepreneurial community and provides education and information on opportunities and resources resources available to Stern MBAs.

Leslie eLab — The Leslie Entrepreneurs Lab is a 6,800-square-foot facility in the heart of the Washington Square campus where aspiring NYU entrepreneurs from across all of NYU’s schools and colleges — NYU students, faculty, or researchers — can meet to connect, collaborate, and tap into a vast array resources to help develop their ideas and inventions into startup companies.

W.R. Berkeley Innovation Labs — The entrepreneurship team at the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs helps students launch and lead high-growth companies.

NYU EEG — The Entrepreneurial Exchange Group is a resource for NYU undergraduates interested in startups and building things. Newcomers and experienced entrepreneurs alike are encouraged to join the network.

Makerspace— The NYU Tandon MakerSpace is a cutting edge workspace lab created to foster collaborative design projects. The space is open to all NYU students, staff, and faculty. It highlights new kinds of iterative, interdisciplinary teamwork using cutting-edge tools of rapid prototyping and digitally driven production.

Startup School at the Leslie eLab hosts weekly workshop series taught by industry experts — VCs, startup founders, startup lawyers, digital marketers, accountants etc. All programming is free to current NYU students and faculty.


Part 2 — Getting Started: Building and Ideation

By this point, you’ve learned the basics of entrepreneurship. You’ve found a community on campus through clubs and organizations. You may have even identified a co-founder or started to build a team.

Now, you’re ready to start building your product, talking to customers, and getting your startup off the ground.

NYU’s wide array of pitch competitions, incubators, and other early-stage programs will be essential in helping you transition from the idea to the execution phase.

But as you prepare to apply for these programs, start building! Not only will having some traction, customer validation, or an early prototype give you a leg up when applying to various competitions and programs, but it’s also the most important step you can take for your startup. The on-campus resources should be treated as supplements that help you grow and build your startup, not as a fixed timeline or roadmap against which you build.

Competitions (NYU — on campus)

$300K Entrepreneurs Challenge — Participate in an 8-month challenge to develop your startup idea and compete for $300K in prizes (up to $100k funding per winning team). Regardless of whether you win, you’ll get access to advisory, legal services, mentorship, workshops.

VC Pitchfest — Organized by the Leslie Lab, this competition offers student and faculty entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their insights and innovations early to external VCs and angel investors and gain valuable feedback.

InnoVention Competition— NYU entrepreneurs from across the globe build a team, prototype products, and pitch commercially viable ventures. Part accelerator and part competition, the challenge offers 12 student-led ventures workshops, coaching, community, perks, legal services and an opportunity to to win up to $50,000.

Healthcare Makerthon — The NYU Healthcare Makerthon is an opportunity solve impactful, unmet needs in healthcare. Teams of NYU students, faculty, researchers, and staff will compete to win over $10,000 in total prizes.

Competitions (NYC — off campus)

Tiger Launch x NYC — Sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, TigerLaunch is the nation’s largest student-run entrepreneurship competition of its kind dedicated to building a network of student founders at the university, regional and national levels. Finals Competition at Princeton for $30,000+ in prize money and an opportunity to pitch to top VC firms, like Sequoia Capital.

Cornell Venture Challenge (CVC)— CVC is Cornell University’s prestigious business plan competition open to teams with New York State or Cornell University affiliation. CVC is sponsored by BR Venture Fund (BRV), Johnson’s early-stage venture capital fund operated entirely by a team of MBA students. Prizes include non-dilutive cash awards up to $50,000 and free legal services worth up to $12,000.For prize information, and other details visit the competition page.

EMRG — Hosting its first ever conference this year, EMRG will bring together student-founded startups to a single stage in New York City. 15 teams will pitch judges in front of a live audience. The top three teams will be be awarded up to $30,000 in funding.

Early Stage Accelerators and Programs

Stern Venture Fellows— ($10k stipend, prototyping funds, office space, advisory, mentorship) The Stern Venture Fellows (SVF) program supports NYU Stern’s high potential entrepreneurs in advancing their venture over a customized summer program. Fellows will spend ten weeks, full-time, developing their startup ideas and nascent businesses with the guidance and support of NYU Stern’s faculty & staff, alumni, and bi-coastal mentor community.

NYU Summer Launchpad (SLP) is an immersive 9-week accelerator for teams of graduating NYU student entrepreneurs to bridge their part-time dedication to their startups while in school, with full-time commitment after graduation. Now in its sixth year, the program was the launchpad for successful NYU startups including Brooklinen, Kinvolved, and Smart Vision Labs, and SLP alumni are collectively generating more than $60 million in revenue. SLP offers $10,000 in non-dilutive (zero equity) grant funding, $15,000 in perks, 1:1 coaching, and more.

Blackstone LaunchPad at NYU is a campus-based entrepreneurship program designed to support and coach aspiring NYU entrepreneurs — students, researchers, faculty, and staff — regardless of major, experience, discipline, or NYU school affiliation.

Ignite Fellowship— A selective program for startups founded by current NYU students, researchers, and faculty across all disciplines that have committed to a venture concept, formed a team and begun developing their business.

Grants and Early Funding

D-Prize Social Venture Competition — Submit your idea to distribute proven interventions to alleviate poverty. Turn in your concept for the chance to win up to $15,000 in seed funding.

VentureWell E-Team Grants — Get funds and learn how to turn your social impact ideas into startup ventures with a grant from VentureWell.

PowerBridgeNY — Accelerate your clean energy startup with PowerBridgeNY’s program focused on green and cleantech developed in NY State.

Green Grants — Earn up to $20,000 in funding through this grant program that supports NYU campus sustainability initiatives or social-entrepreneurial ventures.

Prototyping

Prototyping Fund — Receive up to $2000 for hardware or software prototyping to bring your startup ideas to life.


Part 3 — Beyond: Funding and Growth Opportunities

Congratulations! You’ve launched and maybe even found some early traction. Now, you’re looking to grow and scale your startup.

If you’ve completed one or more of the above programs, you may be at a point where you’ve outgrown the on-campus offerings. This is a great problem to have — it’s time to look beyond NYU to seek additional funding and resources to continue growing your startup.

Pre-Seed and Seed Funding Opportunities

Innovation Venture Fund — NYU’s seed stage fund. Funding amount varies. Apply to receive funding from this seed stage fund that invests in startups founded by NYU students, faculty, and researchers. In recent years, IVF has funded talented NYU startups like Brooklinen, Keen Home, and Vengo.

Dorm Room Fund — Dorm Room Fund is a student-run venture fund backed by First Round Capital that invests exclusively in student-run companies. DRF offers a strong network of investors, world-class mentors, and a $20,000 check.

Rough Draft Ventures — Powered by General Catalyst, RDV is a student team building and empowering a nationwide network of student founders. Get access to a network of founders, mentors, and advisors. RDV invests $25,000 in its portfolio companies.

Contrary Capital— a university-focused venture fund with investors on campus at more than 40 universities across the U.S.

Quake Capital— Founded by a NYU Stern alum, Quake’s 12-week accelerator is housed in its Manhattan office. Quake’s program provides hands-on training to improve participating companies’ value props, distribution, sales, messaging, monetization and capitalization. Funding for participating startups varies, but Quake typically invests $150k in exchange for 4% to 7% equity.


Closing thoughts

There is no better time and place to begin work on a startup that in New York as a student. The incredible concentration of talent and resources the broader NYC startup ecosystem make NYU a best-in-class home base to launch your startup.

NYU has made significant investment in its entrepreneurship offerings in recent years. Today, there is no shortage of resources and opportunities on campus for entrepreneurial students.

But, the sheer volume of high-quality opportunities available can be daunting. Use the resources listed in this guide to support you at the various stages of your entrepreneurial journey.


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