NYU Tandon Future Labs Start 2019 with a Bang
Incubator Network Ushers in a New Year of Job Creation and Tech Innovation
NYU Tandon School of Engineering's Future Labs have made a significant economic impact since launching in 2009 with the support of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as well as numerous corporate sponsors and partners. The Future Labs are a network of technology acceleration and commercialization hubs for startups that incubate data- and digital-focused enterprises; businesses launched by U.S. military veterans, their spouses, and others affiliated with the Department of Defense; and initiatives devoted to clean energy and artificial intelligence, among other forward-thinking fields.
In addition to their extraordinary direct impact of well over $4 billion, the visionary Future Labs — conceived at a time when New York City was not the epicenter of tech entrepreneurship that it is today — have helped create thousands of jobs and supported more than 100 thriving companies along the path to success. Named a New York State Certified Business Incubator in 2013, the Future Labs now comprise the largest university-led startup ecosystem in New York City, with sites strategically spanning Brooklyn’s Innovation Coastline — DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, and Sunset Park’s Industry City — as well as the SoHo area of Manhattan.
“The Future Labs are strongly woven into the fabric of our school," said NYU Tandon Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Kurt Becker. "They contribute greatly to the entrepreneurial spirit of our faculty and students and strengthen our mission of creating practical, technological solutions to some of the most pressing societal challenges.
The Future Labs expose Tandon students and faculty to an entrepreneurial culture that ignites their creativity and inspires them, and the tenant companies benefit from their know-how and enthusiasm. In a similarly symbiotic manner, our Faculty-Engineers in Residence and student interns contribute their much-valued engineering expertise to the start-ups, while exploring the possibilities of taking their own research discoveries to the marketplace."
— Kurt Becker
The Urban Future Lab, for example, has incubated almost 50 cleantech and smart city companies, including the PowerMarket, a marketplace for community solar in the Northeast, which finished 2018 with a cumulative 50 MW of clean, local, renewable solar projects under management. Devoted to clean-energy and smart city initiatives that help alleviate climate change, the Lab has launched the annual Urban Future Prize Competition, one of the largest U.S.-based startup competitions for cleantech and smart city entrepreneurs. With support from the New York Community Trust, NYSERDA, and Con Edison, two winners — one in the “smart grid” category, for startups seeking to reduce emissions through business model or technological innovation, and one in the “smart city” category, for those creating healthier and more resource-efficient cities through next-generation urban technologies — each receive a $50,000 cash prize and admission into ACRE, the Lab’s program for Pre-Seed to Series A startups.
Since its launch, Urban Future Lab companies have raised more than $380 million in capital and created more than 340 jobs. Its recent notable funding events included:
- Honest Buildings finished a $30 million Series B round and their CEO, Riggs Kubiak, won the Best Executive award at this year’s MIPIM PropTech New York.
- Voltaiq, a battery intelligence company, raised $6.6 million in an oversubscribed Series A funding round.
- Dandelion Energy, a spinout of Google-X, raised $4.5 million in a funding round and was named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018 by Fast Company.
“Our Future Labs network makes NYU Tandon one of the brightest stars in New York City’s entrepreneurial firmament,” said Managing Director of Cleantech Initiatives Pat Sapinsley. “There is evidence at every turn that we are making a major positive impact on the economic vitality of the city; to name just one example, for every dollar NYSERDA invested in ACRE during the first phase of grant funding, its companies raised $100 in project finance and venture capital from the private markets. That’s an incredible result, and other Future Labs programs and initiatives have proven equally successful. Economics aside, we are helping transform the tech landscape in New York and beyond, graduating companies that are meeting some of the world’s most pressing needs and making life better for countless people.”
On the whole, the Future Labs network saw its companies raise over $130 million in 2018 alone, proving the success of such programs as ACRE, Next Round (run across the Data and Digital Future Labs, for Seed Stage to Series A startups), Catalyst (across Data and Digital Future Labs for Pre-Seed to Seed Stage companies), and Apex (for Veterans Future Lab’s Pre-Seed to Series A startups).
Like the Urban Future Lab, members of the Data, Digital, and Veterans Future Labs also celebrated impressive new investment.
- BounceExchange provides behavioral software to direct marketing campaigns and recently raised $37 million in Series B funding and moved into One World Trade Center.
- Carmera, developers of HD maps that deliver real-time road details to autonomous vehicles (AVs), raised some $20 million in a Series B funding round. (The enterprise also began a collaboration with the City of New York, went global in Japan and Korea, and won Best in Show and Startup of the Year at the first-ever PlanetM Awards Show.)
- Insurance enterprise Spruce recently raised $15.6 million, bringing its total Series A financing to $19.1 million.
- Paperspace, a cloud GPU company, raised $13 million in Series A funding.
- Pryon, an artificial intelligence (AI) venture at the intersection of human language technologies and machine learning, raised $4.5M million in Seed funding.
- Intello, developers of a platform to manage the lifecycle of software applications, raised $1.3 million in its Seed funding round.
- Stringr, a marketplace that allows media organizations to buy video from both amateur and professional videographers, raised $1 million.
- Nowsta, an integrated platform for scheduling, time and attendance, and payroll, raised $1 million.
- 7Park Data, which provides analytics software and leading performance indicators to the world’s most sophisticated institutional investment firms and Fortune 500 companies, was acquired by Vista Equity Partners.
- Bubbl, creators of an innovative video-sharing platform, was acquired by Cricket Media.
- Vettery, whose mission is to provide a more transparent recruiting process for hiring managers and job-seekers, was acquired for an estimated price of over $100 million. (The company also landed on Inc.'s annual list of Best Places to Work.)
In 2018 the Veterans Future Lab — opened the previous year thanks to support from Barclays, the Empire State Development Corporation, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and New York Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol — accepted the first full cohort of companies for its Apex incubation program, which now boasts a portfolio of 20. (This past year the Lab also graduated a class of 17 members from its pioneering, intensive 12-week program, Veterans Entrepreneurship Training or VET.) Its director, James Hendon, was recently named by Mayor Bill de Blasio to the city’s vital Veterans Advisory Board.
The year 2018 saw several Future Labs-affiliated people and companies lauded in various other ways for their accomplishments, including:
- Allison Kopf, the founder of Agrilyst, was named to the 2018 Forbes “30 under 30” list of young innovators in the food-and-drink category.
- BoardVitals landed at number 251 on the Inc. 500, a ranking of the country’s fastest-growing private companies, with 1,947.6% growth since 2014.
- HiddenLevers, a provider of financial risk technologies, surpassed the $200 billion mark for assets on its platform.
- Highview Power won the Regen Green Energy Award in the Clean Energy Innovation category.
- Kinvolved was honored in the “Best for Community” and “Best Governance” categories by the nonprofit B Lab.
- Mt. Cleverest, an online, open educational platform that converts web content into quizzes for students and teachers using natural language processing, is in the running for the prestigious IBM Watson AI XPrize.
- Oculogica, the developers of EyeBOX, an eye-tracking technology that detects concussions and other brain injuries invisible to existing scanning methods, was honored by the Angel Capital Association for its ingenuity, creativity and innovation.
- Opus One Solutions was named as one of the three leaders in Microgrid Controls by Navigant Research, placing them far ahead of many big, established players.
- Skopos Labs was listed as one of the top 100 legal tech companies for legal research and analytics. (Its co-founder John Nay also appeared on the prestigious FastCase 50 list, which honors the legal field’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders.)
- Social Solar helps urban residents consume, purchase, and store renewable energy smartly, and the company took home the top pitch prize at the Cleantech Open regional finals.
- WeDidIt was named one of the top 10 financial tech companies revolutionizing charitable giving.
“This coming year marks our 10th year anniversary in partnering with New York City and NYCEDC to radically shift the lens of NYC from a singular focus on finance to being diverse and supportive of a number of industries driven by startups,” said Steven Kuyan, Managing Director of the Future Labs. “The rise of NYC to the second largest startup hub over the years is a reflection of the cumulative efforts of this city, its many startup support programs — including the Future Labs — and, of course, the immense work by companies like those in our portfolio, to make NYC one of the best places in the world to start a company. We look forward to another year of supporting the incredible companies that make up the City’s ecosystem, whether they join our programs or attend our community events.”