Teach Me How to Startup

Students Push for Tech Entrepreneur Lab at NYU

The student organization Tech@NYU wants its own permanent space for coworking, demos and talks.
technyu Students Push for Tech Entrepreneur Lab at NYU

(Photo: Tech@NYU via change.org)

Tech@NYU, which sends out a newsletter to 4,000 subscribers and puts on NYU’s Startup Week every semester, is now two years old—and homeless. The organization hosts events all over campus: in the journalism school, the business school, the computer science department and occasionally the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) lab.

But as NYU’s startup culture grows, the organizers of Tech@NYU have decided to ask the administration for their own space next year.

“We’re seeing this kind of renaissance in demand in New York City for talent and also a lot of students are getting excited about starting their own companies, or at least dabbling or putting their skills to work,” Tech@NYU president Vivek Patel told Betabeat. “The library and their dorm rooms and coffee shops aren’t going to cut it.”

Tech@NYU put up a petition on Change.org to collect signatures supporting “a permanent space for student technology innovation at NYU.” So far, the petition has 135 e-signatures on a goal of 1,000.

Harvard and Stanford both have dedicated spaces for entrepreneurship, Mr. Patel said, and a dedicated space would foster collaboration between entrepreneurial-minded students.

Tech@NYU’s unofficial home base is an 8th floor room in the Stern Business School that used to be a server closet. Tech@NYU wants to outfit the room with some combination of computer workstations, a library with current programming and design books not available at the NYU library, whiteboards, Arduino controllers and mobile devices for software development. The room could also be used for meetings, lectures and workshops.

The renovation will cost NYU nothing, Mr. Patel said, as some of Tech@NYU’s sponsors, including Foursquare and Lean Startup Machine, have offered to defray the cost.

The plan is to build out the room at Stern for next year. But eventually Tech@NYU’s organizers want to get a space in a more central location, one that will be welcoming to students from all departments (and be easier to find on a map, as the current space is a bit out of the way).

“I think what we’re aiming for is something in the core of NYU, near Washington Square Park, but also something in a more neutral area where students from all majors would feel comfortable going to,” Mr. Patel said.

People in the administration have offered “soft promises,” about the room, he said, but NYU currently plans to use it to store materials while renovating bathrooms in the building. “They’re renovating the restrooms and were going to use room to store the toilets basically,” Mr. Patel said. “I think there’s much better uses for it.”

The petition notes that “entrepreneurship” is one of the university’s official goals: “The NYU Framework 2031 specifically mentions that NYU’s defining characteristic is ‘energetic entrepreneurship.'”

NYU has a number of prominent alumni in the tech scene, including Foursquare founder and CEO Dennis Crowley, who graduated from ITP. More recently, Hursh Agrawal took a leave of absence from a biochemistry and computer science double major to cofound Branch, a much buzzed-about app for web-based discussions that raised $2 million in venture funding from two of the cofounders of Twitter.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com