Partner and CTO at Tendigi; engineering director at Work & Co.
“Sometimes you can’t wait to ask permission,” Nick Lee says. “You just have to dive into a project and hope it works out.” Lee was describing how he came to be hired by NYU IT while still a student, charged with designing and developing end-user-facing mobile apps for the school, as well as internal applications for attendance management and tracking.
Lee had been interested in computers and software since childhood, and after the first iPhone was released, when he was in high school, he began building and selling apps for it. “One of my best-sellers was an app that securely stored sensitive information on your phone,” he recalls. “It made money because the phone itself didn’t have a way to do that back then.”
By his senior year at Randolph High School, Lee had found a job as a software developer and technician at a New Jersey-based manufacturer of handheld microscopes. He chose Tandon because he sensed a match between the school’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation and his own ambitions. Working from his dorm room, Lee began developing NYU-focused apps wherever he saw the need. In any other school that kind of bravado might have earned a reprimand, but the school’s IT department ended up offering him a work-study job instead.
Soon, through one of his instructors, he met a like-minded former Apple engineer, and together, the two began building a mobile-app development company, while Lee was still an undergraduate. Tendigi, as they dubbed it, went on to create award-winning iOS applications, developed tech for the Apple Watch and Apple TV, and took on projects for a wide range of startup, non-profit, and Fortune 500 clients. (He mentions the World Wildlife Fund’s iOS app, which helped the organization earn some $8 million as a personal favorite.)
Tendigi was housed in the school’s DUMBO-based business incubator, part of the network of startup spaces now known as the Tandon Future Labs. In late 2012, less than a year after joining, the company had grown so large it became the first enterprise to graduate from the DUMBO incubator and move into a space of its own. “We’re grateful to have been there in such a nurturing environment,” Lee recalls. “Some of our very first clients were fellow incubator companies.”
Tendigi reached another milestone in 2019, when it was acquired by Work & Co, a global design and technology company with a client roster that includes Apple, IKEA, Mercedes, Epic Games, and Planned Parenthood. “We wanted to start taking on even larger, more ambitious projects,” Lee, who is now Work & Co’s engineering director, says. The company is a go-to for launching websites, apps, e-commerce platforms, and AI tools like chatbots. “We’ve already built mobile products that have enriched millions of lives, and now we’ll be able to have even broader impact.”