Entrepreneurs Festival draws NYU innovators

Alex Bazeley, Deputy News Editor

This weekend, the Leslie Entrepreneurs Lab hosted the fourth annual NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, a two-day event meant to inspire students and showcase startups from current NYU students and alumni. The festival, which took place in the Stern School of Business and lasted throughout Friday and Saturday, featured a variety of speakers and gave attendees an opportunity to interact with veterans of the entrepreneurial industry.

The festival involved 1,200 people and hosted a handful of panels and roundtable discussions where attendees could field questions concerning startups. Other highlights of the festival included the Idea Hashathon, where competitors pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, and The Pitch, in which students showcased their already-existing startups for the chance to win a $1,000 prize.

Frank Rimalovski, the executive director of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute who helped put together the festival, said he hoped attendees walked away having learned something new about entrepreneurship. He emphasized the need for startups to focus on the customer.

“Your startup is about your customer; it’s not about you and your idea,” Rimalovski said. “It’s great that you love your idea, but you need a lot of people to love your idea to make it into a business, and the only way you’re going to know that is by going out and talking with them.”

The idea that took first place in The Pitch competition was Ephemeral, a tattoo ink that is completely removable. Second place went to Mitley, a peer-to-peer music gear rental service, and third place to Baro, an on-demand rental service for ordinary items. CAS junior Lindsey Heatley, the co-founder of Mitley, said being an entrepreneur means changing the world to how one sees fit.

“It’s kind of our generation’s thing, that we’re not just
trying to follow a pattern,” Heatley said. “We see problems of the world and we have the ability now, in this day and age, to take it upon ourselves and make things happen.”

First place in the Idea Hashathon was awarded to Steinhardt senior Noah Hyams and his idea for Studor, a platform which instantly connects students and tutors.

“According to a recent Forbes article, private tutoring will be a nearly $200 billion business globally by 2020,” Hyams said. “I believe that Studor will be at the front of that trend.”

The keynote speakers of the festival were Mark Leslie, founder and CEO of Veritas Software; Jason Finger, founder and former CEO of Seamless; and Jonathan Wolfson, founder and CEO of Solazyme, all three of whom are NYU graduates. In his time on stage, Wolfson talked about the importance of failure in startups.

“Failure is tolerated,” Wolfson said. “If you’re not failing you are not trying hard enough.”

Peter Ryan, co-chair of the festival, told the crowd that the most rewarding part of the event was working alongside the volunteers who made the festival happen.

“It was to really tell the stories of all these entrepreneurs and really celebrate them,” Ryan said. “And also inspire those people that may not yet have a startup to actually launch their dream.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 9 print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected].