In an age of pandemic, NYU Tandon-based startups prove the power of pivoting

hand sanitizer

Air Co, a startup company in Tandon's Urban Future Lab is redeploying its technology (originally developed to extract carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with water to create vodka) toward producing hand sanitizer, which will be donated through collaboration with NYC officials.

NYU Tandon’s Future Labs, the school’s network of business incubators and accelerators, has a wide variety of startups in its portfolio, and while they remain committed to their original entrepreneurial visions, many have turned their focus to helping during the COVID-19 crisis. Lean, agile, and creative, these businesses are swiftly pivoting to pitch in.


Air Co. 

Founders: Gregory Constantine and Stafford Sheehan

Business as Usual:

We’ve developed a technology that extracts carbon dioxide from the air, combines it with water, and turns it into pure ethanol to create a high-quality vodka in a process that is actually net carbon-negative.

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

Because hand sanitizer is exceedingly hard to find lately, we’ve basically converted our technology studio into a hand sanitizer factory, to help combat the shortage.  The sanitizer is made up of 80% ethanol, so it’s very effective, and we’re donating as much as we can make — about 2,000 bottles a week right now — to first responders and others.


Black 6 Coffee Trading Co. and the Black 6 Project

Founder: Joseph Zoleta 

Business as Usual:

Black 6 Coffee is a veteran-owned business that has always used its proceeds to fund humanitarian missions around the globe through its Black 6 Project arm.

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

We had to close the cafe of Black 6 Coffee to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and we immediately began devoting ourselves to helping out. 

NYU has a Protoshop lab as well as a MakerSpace, where businesses can create prototypes and strategize their manufacturing methods before sourcing their resources for full production, and we knew this was a great way to find solutions to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. The Black 6 Project’s role in this initiative is to find a workforce willing to assemble face shields and other devices. Given that most gatherings are forbidden, we’re doing home drop-offs of the supplies as well as pick-ups of the finished equipment. We’ve also joined forces to supply free meals to healthcare workers, and we delivered more than 200 in a single week! 

We are engaged in an “all-hands” effort in the battle against this virus.

ClearOPS, Inc. 

Founder/s: George Rosamond and Caroline McCaffery

Business as Usual:

Our mission is to end data breaches caused by human error, improving the privacy and security of businesses worldwide"

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

We know that a crisis like this means that business needs to move fast, but regulations still apply and compliance has to happen. We don’t believe that compliance has to slow things down, so we’re focusing on health-tech companies that need to get their technology into the hands of hospitals and medical workers quickly. We offer them an automatically generated privacy and security overview report, from publicly sourced data, that they can, in turn, provide to their potential customers. (The report can be used in other ways, but our main focus is to help them get through privacy and security compliance reviews quickly and easily.)



Founder: Su Sanni

Business as Usual:

Dollar vans play an integral role in New York City by providing fast, affordable travel for commuters in areas where public transportation options are most scarce. Our app delivers a cashless solution and opportunity to serve marginalized communities more effectively.

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

We’re reaching out to hospitals and clinics that employ a large and vital healthcare workforce to make sure they can reliably and safely get to and from work every day.



Founder: David Helene

Business as Usual:

College students often face food and housing insecurity, insufficient financial aid, and other day-to-day economic issues, and Edquity is dedicated to helping them manage the money they have and find emergency supports on- and off-campus when needed.

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

This is a truly unprecedented moment for higher education, and many institutions have moved swiftly and forcefully to react to the threat posed by COVID-19. We’ve partnered with Believe in Students (a nonprofit focused on college student living expenses) and Rise (students fighting for free college) to launch the Student Relief Fund, which has already raised tens of thousands of dollars for students affected by the Pandemic.

We’re also making the Edquity platform available for free to select institutions who serve a large percentage of students struggling with basic needs challenges and who view emergency aid to students as critical to their COVID-19 response. 


Skopos Labs 

Founder: John Nay 

Business as Usual:

A.I. platform decoding the intersection of policy-making and companies.

How you're pivoting or pitching in during the crisis:

Skopos has used our existing technology and data to build a COVID19-specific tool that is freely available for anyone to use. Media companies such as Reuters, law-related organizations such as Fastcase, research groups such as the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, and the general public (via sites such as are benefitting from this tool as the central portal of updates on policy-making activity. The website aggregates activity on COVID19-related congressional and regulatory policy-making from all 200+ federal agencies for display on interactive and downloadable charts and tables, and federal contract spending can be tracked as well. As part of Skopos Labs' commitment to the Open COVID Pledge, we made the charts, tables, and datasets on the site available under the Creative Commons Attribution license.