Launching Student Entrepreneurs to Startup Success
Imagine trying on tattoos that only last for 3 months, or quickly printing a circuit board at your desktop. These are some of the ideas Tandon and NYU students pitched to the NYU Summer Launchpad — the startup accelerator program sponsored by the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute — and have now developed into startups and companies. The 10-week accelerator employs methods like the Lean Launchpad model, grant funding, and one-on-one coaching sessions with local entrepreneurs and investors to transform unique ideas and prototypes into successful companies.
In its fifth year sponsoring student entrepreneurs, the NYU Summer Launchpad has much to celebrate. Many of its teams have gone on to become thriving businesses, with a number of companies featuring Tandon students and alumni at their helm including Ephemeral, BotFactory, Acculis, and MEG Cura.
Founded in 2014 by Seung Shin and Anthony Lam, then Tandon students in chemical and biomolecular engineering, Ephemeral is developing tattoo inks that, once applied by a tattoo artist, can disappear completely on their own. Ephemeral ink allows people to test-drive a tattoo without a lifelong commitment, or change their tattoos to reflect a new look or different tastes. After winning the grand prize at the 2015 NYU Stern $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge, Ephemeral went on to secure funding of over $700,000 from Techstars Ventures and Kima Ventures. With its upcoming New York City launch in 2018, people across industries, from technology to dermatology to fashion, have been buzzing about its potential to revolutionize the tattoo world.
Construction timelines frequently face setbacks — a fact that Acculis co-founder Darren Yee observed during internships at construction sites. Yee, who graduated from Tandon in mechanical engineering and management and established the NYU Hyperloop team, joined forces with his Acculis co-founders and fellow Tandon students Nicholas Molinski, Christopher Lysiuk, and Ada Slusarczyk to create a more seamless and efficient workflow through a collaborative platform with on-site access to 3D building visualization models. After their acceptance to the Summer Launchpad, Yee expressed how the program “impressed upon us to learn more about customer discovery and the business side of startups,” he said. “By the time we had exited the program, we had developed a significant network and skill set that was instrumental for the next phase of the company. With that network, we were able to get pilot leads and other opportunities that still benefit us today.”
At the heart of many electronic devices is the printed circuit board (PCB), but for years electrical engineers, students, and tinkerers required manufacturers to print PCBs, resulting in higher costs and longer wait time. Inspired by their experience in a course at Tandon, where many students failed a project due to PCB manufacturer delays, the co-founders of BotFactory and Tandon alumni Nico Vansnick and Carlos Ospina developed Squink — a desktop circuit board printer reminiscent of a 3D printer that functions as a mini PCB factory, efficiently printing and assembling custom circuit boards. After placing third at the 2013 InnoVention competition and participating in the Summer Launchpad, BotFactory maintained residence at the Tandon Digital Future Lab before expanding its business with numerous grants and seed funding, including $1.3 million from New York Angels.
After surgeries or injuries, physical therapy is crucial to a patient's speedy recovery, but many fall behind on completing exercises on their own, MEG Cura co-founder and Tandon alumnus in electrical and computer engineering Meshal Alhathal noted. Evolved from a prototype Alhathal developed for his senior capstone project, MEG Cura is a wearable device and software platform that tracks a patient’s activity, and assists physical therapists in individualizing the best exercise regimen. Through the Summer Launchpad, Alhathal and his co-founder Maryam Alkhaldi identified their company mission and ideal consumers through intensive customer interviews, and through mentorship by healthcare professionals. “As graduating students, the Summer Launchpad was essential for us as the first test of customer discovery, and determining if our product is useful or not,” Alhathal said.
New Kids on the Block
The 2017 cohort of the Summer Launchpad program is equally impressive as the above-mentioned companies, with three seed-stage startups — INVIP, Levitas, and TABu — featuring Tandon students who are exploring the ways technology can impact society.
TABu simplifies paying a bar tab with its mobile payment application that connects directly with a venue's point of sale (POS) system. Created by Integrated Digital Media student Miguel Guerrero and Kyra Durko of NYU Stern, TABu will allow users to easily open and close a tab or split the check with friends, and saves venues and customers time and money. Through the Summer Launchpad, TABu will develop greater incentives for venues to adopt the app. TABu will also be featured on Apple’s new competition show Planet of the Apps.
Levitas is a wearable activity monitor that helps nurses by ensuring the safety of their patients and reducing the risk of falling and possible injuries. Developed by recent Tandon graduate in electrical and computer engineering Amar Seoparson and Anthony Oganov from NYU CAS, Levitas alerts nurses when patients get out of their bed so they receive proper attention, and limits false alarms.
Past recipients of the NYU Prototyping Fund grants, the INVIP team is developing an object recognition device to aid the visually impaired, pairing voice interactive technology with computer vision. Identifying a person’s surroundings, INVIP acts as an “interactive assistant who can be a part of the user’s daily life,” co-founder and Tandon Management of Technology alum Nicolas Metallo said. Metallo, alongside Tandon teammates Nuvina Padukka vidana and Brenda Truong, Columbia University student Isabel Izquierdo, and University of Guadalajara Professor Edson Tapia, joined the Summer Launchpad to “improve the design and refine the user experience” of their product.
Upcoming Pitchoff Pits NYU Against Yale Entrepreneurs
Thursday, July 13, Levitas and TABu will participate in the fourth annual NYU-Yale University Summer Accelerator Pitchoff. The two startups, alongside their NYU Summer Launchpad colleague ShopDrop, will be pitted against three competitors from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s (YEI) Summer Fellowship to pitch their promising startups to venture capital judges. Levitas, TABu, and ShopDrop will represent NYU to an audience of over 300 NYU, Yale, and NYC community members. Past winners include the Tandon-founded Ephemeral, who took home the trophy in 2015 for their pitching skills and business viability.
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018