Entrepreneurs Festival celebrates student work, provides industry advice

Kavish Harjai, Kavish Harjai

Felipe De La Hoz/WSN

The Entrepreneurs Festival took place last weekend at NYU, bringing together entrepreneurs and students from across the city to provide advice and discuss their ideas, paths and mistakes. The event kicked off with the first of three keynote speakers, Glen de Vries.

De Vries studied biology at Carnegie Mellon and subsequently went to NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, but ended up leaving after a few months to pursue his start-up. Now, de Vries is the co-founder and president of Medidata, a multinational technology firm that specializes in cloud-based infrastructure for firms engaged in clinical research and development.

“Medidata doesn’t make drugs, we don’t make pharmaceuticals,” de Vries said. “But we make the drugs that you use better.”

De Vries also said he was effective at leveraging his passion and embracing his personality as he developed Medidata, encouraging all entrepreneurs to use their introversion to their advantage.

The last part of his talk was question-and-answer. De Vries advised students to work with each other in the early stages of entrepreneurship.

“I think one thing that will set you up for success, is realizing that as dogged and tenacious as you are going to be, it can’t just be you,” de Vries said.

Jeff Dachis, current CEO, chairman and founder of Dachis Group, was the second keynote speaker at the festival.The Dachis Group is a data social analytics firm based in Austin, Texas.

After his undergraduate career at SUNY-Purchase, Dachis created his first startup in New York City called In Your Face, a guerilla marketing firm, while also bartending and waiting tables to start his life in New York.

“New York is hard,” Dachis said. “New York is expensive. New York is difficult to make it [in].”

Dachis proceeded to apply to NYU and attain a degree in performing arts, entertainment and media administration. After describing his successes and failures, as well as his mistakes, Dachis spoke to his audience about the future changes to the digital landscape.

“There is more opportunity ahead of us, for each and every one of you to create something that you can be passionate about and get excited about,” Dachis said. “There is nothing better in the world than waking up every day excited to go do what you love to do. Every day.”

John Johnson, co-founder of BuzzFeed and founder of the nonprofit art and technology company Eyebeam, was the third and final keynote speaker for the Entrepreneurs Festival. Adam Penenberg, NYU journalism professor and editor of PandoDaily, interviewed Johnson.

Their discussion ranged from the origins and marketing of BuzzFeed to advice for student entrepreneurs. Johnson echoed the importance of teamwork and said NYU students should partner well.

“You want to be around really smart people where you can build ideas together,” Johnson said.

During the question-and-answer session, a student asked Johnson if he likes lists.

“I do like lists,” Johnson said. “We all like lists. Even whether we admit it or not, the traffic shows that we do. So, I’m not alone.”

The final event at the festival was the Pitch, a competition where the six most popular student start-ups at the NYU Ventures Showcase received the opportunity to pitch to a panel of six judges as potential investors.

The student startups included SnappyScreen, HireCanvas, One Right Water, the Reading Holiday Project, Kipin Hall and Fresco.

Kipin Hall, pitched by CAS sophomore Abhinay Ashutosh, is a software supplement for NYU Classes that won the competition. Kipin Hall received $1,000 in cash, $250 for General Assembly Class Credit and a three to six-month lease and desk space at the Varick Street Incubator.

Ashutosh said he was excited to hear feedback on Kipin Hall during the showcase.

“It was a great chance to further validate our product and we made some great connections,” Ashutosh said. “Overall, NYUEF was an amazing way to meet fellow entrepreneurs and learn from some of the best.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 3 print edition. Kavish Harjai and Ann Schmidt are news editors. Rohin Shah is a contributing writer. Email them at [email protected].