Future Captains of Industry Visit the Urban Future Lab

“Could we discuss market capitalization? How have you addressed the obvious liability issues here?”

Those aren’t questions you’d expect to hear from the average middle school student, but when kids from Avenues: The World School visited Brooklyn to tour the new Urban Future Lab (UFL) at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, the queries were exceptionally insightful—and numerous.

“You’re all asking better questions than I’ve heard at some investor meetings,” David Mahfouda, the founder and CEO of the start-up Bandwagon, a service that facilitates real-time ride sharing, quipped to the students, who were all enrolled in an Avenues mini-course called “Plugging into the New York Start-Up Scene.” Conceived of and taught by Mark Harrison, the course aims to immerse students into the city’s start-up ecosystem and encourage the critical thinking required to understand what it takes to run a successful business.

Mahfouda was just one of the CEOs at the UFL—New York City’s premier space for cleantech and alternative-energy start-ups—who took the time to speak to the Avenues students and field their perceptive questions. Representatives from Radiator Labs, a company that converts old cast-iron radiators into precision heating machines, and HEVO Power, which makes wireless charging stations for electric vehicles, also dropped by the conference room to explain their goals and strategies to the excited young people. (All of the companies the students visited are part of the NYC Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy, an incubator more commonly known as ACRE, which is housed at the UFL.)

Asked whether they could see themselves working to bring their own business ideas to life at an incubator one day, they broke out in a frenzy of nodding. It seems likely that in a few years the UFL will be drawing some of its new crop of tech entrepreneurs from among Harrison’s students.