Where do startups come from? Today in Silicon Alley, they seem to come from engineers and disillusioned i-bankers. But Spin Transfer Technology, which just scored a whopping $36 million round, took a different track thanks to what is essentially a private equity-funded startup factory.
Allied Minds is a Boston-based, private equity-funded “innovation company” that discovers early-stage technology being developed at American universities and labs and then forms, funds, manages and builds startups around said technology. In September of 2007, representatives from Allied Minds visited NYU to check out research in magnetism by professor Andrew Kent, an award-winning physicist and serial inventor who was working on a “spin transfer” technology that could improve computer memory.
Allied Minds’s slogan should be something like, “We take your tech and make it into money.” Once AM determined the invention was legit, it cobbled together Spin Transfer Technology the way a record label might put together a new boy band.
Silicon Alley U
This semester, Coursekit, an academic social network of sorts that gives teachers and students a way to communicate outside of class, tried a little experiment from the Peter Thiel school of thought.
Coursekit founder Joseph Cohen, a Wharton drop-out and TechStars New York alum, was already familiar with the work of Aswath Damodaran, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business with a big academic following. So last year, he cold-emailed Mr. Damodaran to encourage him to join Coursekit’s pilot program. “I don’t think he was looking [for a solution like] Coursekit,” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat by Gchat. “But when he saw what it could do…he and I really hit it off.”
This semester, Mr. Damodaran decided to take it one step further and offer both his Corporate Finance and Valuation classes to anyone around the world, for free*. Considering that an MBA from NYU-Stern costs $100,894 for residents (with a “recommended annual budget of $82,867), we’d say that’s a pretty good deal. (*Beer pong networking sessions with the future 1 percent not included.)
Silicon Alley U
For months, Mayor Bloomberg has dangled the possibility of picking two winners for the city’s tech campus competition. He even left the possibility open while announcing that the New York City Economic Development Corporation would give the full $100 million grant to Cornell-Technion to build an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Now Crain’s is reporting that between the remaining contestants, NYU’s Downtown Brooklyn proposal may have “taken center stage” over Carnegie Mellon’s Navy Yard campus and Columbia’s Manhattanville proposal.
Hey, if the Fulton St. Mall can have its own Shake Shack, why shouldn’t the M.T.A’s derelict former headquarters on nearby 370 Jay St. be transformed into a Center for Urban Science and Progress?
Although Crain’s says NYU, the M.T.A., and E.D.C. all want to make a deal to help revitalize Downtown Brooklyn, “but money is the sticking point.”
Silicon Alley U
Throughout the drawn-out process to build an engineering mecca to rival Silicon Valley on city-owned land, the NYC Economic Development Corporation has maintained that there was no front-runner. The reason for that, EDC president Seth Pinsky has said repeatedly, is because the committee of government officials, city elders, and entrepreneurs have yet to see the proposals.
It didn’t matter that the Mayor seemed to have a sweet spot for Stanford, because it all depends, said Mr. Pinsky, on what the schools submit to the requests for proposals (RFP).
In the New York Times today, however, the paper reports that, “the decision as to who gets to build what, and where, will ultimately rest with one man“: Mayor Bloomberg. At the half-way marker of his third term which has been marred by cutbacks and managerial missteps, the campus is a potential crown jewel for his legacy. It’s not mere conjecture, even deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tells the Times, “This is going to be a mayoral call, because this is something that is incredibly important to him.”
Betabeat talked to a source familiar with the selection process for clarification.
Silicon Alley U
As we expected, with RFPs due tomorrow, this week has turned into something of a PR blitzkrieg to win a chance to build on an applied sciences mecca on city-owned land. After all, once the proposals are in, the competing schools are forbidden to speak publicly about their proposals. Until when? we asked Cornell’s PR wrangler Dan Levitan. “Forever!” he said ominously.
Hence yesterday afternoon brought some specs from “StanfordNYC” and NYU’s plan transform the MTA’s former headquarters at 370 Jay St. into a Center for Urban Science and Progress that will “make Brooklyn the urban center of the universe,” as NYU senior vice provost for research Paul Horn told the Daily News.
Crime Does Pay
With less than three weeks left until proposals are due to build a Stanford-like engineering mecca on the isle of Manhattan, no one is taking any chances. Rumor may have it that Stanford proper is a lock for the contract. But as Betabeat has reported, a source familiar with the decision-making process says it’s pretty much about the RFP. (Even Mayor Bloomberg’s imprimatur is merely a “small to medium plus,” said the source.)
Cornell’s PR firm and power lobbyist, hired to help manage the school’s campaign, seem convinced that a little community spirit can’t hurt. This Saturday, October 15th, Cornell will be the only academic sponsor for Next Jump’s Silicon Alley 500 recruiting event on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, matching engineers and engineering students with hot Made in NYC startups like 10gen, Etsy, Boxee, Meetup, SecondMarket, and Tumblr.
Cornell may need the good will. Over the weekend, NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia all showed a little RFP leg–with proposals that opt for Brooklyn and Manhattanville over Roosevelt Island. And this morning Stanford just announced that it’s partnering with CUNY and City College.
Prof. Panos Ipeirotis recently won tenure at the NYU Stern School of Business, where he teaches in the information systems department. With this added layer of protection, Dr. Ipeirotis decided to dig a little deeper into which of his students might be plagiarizing their assignments. He ran their work through Turnitin, which compares student papers against hundreds of millions of previous assignments, academic journals and the like. By the end of the semester 22 students out of a class of 108 admitted to cheating and several were expelled from his class.
It was a moral victory, to be sure, but rather than simply celebrating, Dr. Ipeirotis did what anyone with a serious engineering bent would, he analyzed the cost of catching these perpetrators. In all, he calculated, it took 45 hours to catch and coax confessions out of these students. With one in five students a convicted plagarist, classes became quite awkward. At the end of the year Dr. Ipeirotis saw his score from student evaluations drop from above to below average, which meant that despite getting tenure, he received his lowest salary increase ever.