Laid-off Wall Streeters find entrepreneurial spirit

A small-business incubator in New York steps up to rival collaborations in Boston and Silicon Valley.

Author Ron Scherer profiles Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s new business incubator, which opened its doors to 20 entrepreneurs last month, in the article "Laid-off Wall Streeters find entrepreneurial spirit." “Among [the companies]: some energy economists, a company developing wireless interfaces for trading of securities, and an online group for foodies and restaurants."

The 16,000 square feet incubator, located in TriBeCa, was created in partnership with the City of New York following last fall’s sharp economic downturn, which hit the financial sector especially hard.

“The city wants the incubator to scale up and up, with the ultimate goal of challenging America’s leading entrepreneurial and incubator centers,” writes Mr. Scherer.

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“Given the scale of New York and [its] economy, we are hitting below our weight compared to other centers like Boston and Silicon Valley,” says Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., which is spearheading the effort. “We want to start to carry the weight that is appropriate given the size of the city and our economy.”

In New York, the person responsible for putting the incubator together is Bruce Niswander, a professor of technology entrepreneurship at Polytechnic Institute of New York University…“Some [of the incubator companies] are just [brand-new] start-ups. The rest are two years old or less,” he says.

At the incubator, the companies sublease office space from NYU-Poly at well below market rates. The companies can hire students from NYU-Poly to work as interns — who will be on the payroll of the incubator, not the start-up. “It’s one of the bigger benefits,” Professor Niswander says. “The students get to work with real companies, and the companies get bright students."

One new tenant is People Data Solutions, which calls itself a “talent exchange” for people laid off from Wall Street. The concept, explains Robert Davidson, the CEO, is for companies to “sponsor” employees they have let go. Such sponsorships, along with other information about the workers, are entered into a database at the start-up. These workers can then opt to have their validated corporate data reviewed by prospective employers.