Silicon Alley U
The public review process known as ULURP, through which most every large-scale development in the city must pass, is rarely an easy one. New York created the NIMBY, and ULURP is about the only way Joe Public can even pretend to influence such projects as Columbia or NYU’s new campuses, the Hudson Yards redevelopment, Riverside South, the Kingsbridge Armory, Chelsea Market… the list of contentious projects goes on and on. A better acronym for the Uniform Land-use Review Process might well be DIVISIVE.
That is what makes CornellNYC, the upstate university’s Roosevelt Island tech campus, such an interesting anomaly. After beating out Stanford in a breathless deathmatch for Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing to build the campus, the project has so far sailed through ULURP with nary a protest. Back in December, the campus was approved by the local community board (typically a bastion of browbeating), and now Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave the new campus his enthusiastic thumbs up.
Jack Dorsey, cofounder of Twitter and Square, recently tried to disabuse the tech industry of its infatuation with the word ‘disruption.’ “We don’t want ‘disruption,’ where we just move things around. We want a direction. We want a purpose,” he said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, humbly suggesting the biannual conference change its name. But it’s more than just semantics. The tech sector’s claim to produce world-changing products and services often gets drowned out in a chorus of me-too companies solving problems no one ever complained about. The umpteenth nightlife-recommendations tool or empty real-time dating app can obscure the whirr of a nascent robotics sector in Manhattan or a futuristic, even revolutionary, experiment in manufacturing in Queens.
Teach Me How to Startup
On a clear November day, the hard-working students of Harvard College took a collective study break and poured onto the walkway in front of Lamont Library. Undergrads, an inordinate number of them sporting hoodies, pressed their bodies against a set of temporary barricades, their smartphones and cameras held aloft, eyes intent on a grinning visitor making his way from one of the Yard’s gates to a mic stand that had been set up smack in the middle of the walkway.
The excitement wasn’t for Jason Segel, who would be selected as the Hasty Pudding’s Man of the Year in February, nor for Andy Samberg, who’d be tapped to give the Class Day Speech later that year, but a former classmate—a “concentrator” in computer science and psychology—who eight years ago had been just like them, a hard-working kid with amazing grades and questionable social skills, well on his way to a comfortable future.
As Mark Zuckerberg paused to answer questions, the giddiness was almost enough to make everyone forget that, like Bill Gates before him, the Facebook founder had dropped out of Harvard well before receiving his sheepskin.
Silicon Alley U
CornellNYC Tech, the applied sciences campus slated for Roosevelt Island, isn’t wasting anytime establishing its ties to the tech industry. On Monday, Larry Page shlepped out to Chelsea (sans Google glasses, sadly) to announce that Google would gift the campus with 22,000 square feet of office space. And today the school named Greg Pass, Twitter’s first-ever CTO, founding entrepreneurial officer. It’s a much more heavyweight hire than your run-of-the-mill entrepreneur-in-residence.
Former Twitter board member Fred Wilson, for example, has lauded Mr. Pass’ considerable virtues as a technological leader, architect, and recruiter. A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Pass was also cofounder and CTO at Summize before it was acquired by Twitter and started serving as an advisory board member at Obvious Corp after stepping down from Twitter last year. Before playing a pivotal role in scaling Twitter, he spent years as a system architect and software engineer at AOL.