“The Making of a “New” New York and Implications for Global Management” – Week 1.

New York with so many famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty Empire State Building, Times Square and the hustle and bustle around Wall Street; the city is known for being one of the most important cities in the world, most notably as a financial hub.  However this week we learned that there is a “New” New York emerging from behind the scenes.

Through a combination of classroom sessions, guest speakers and company visits we have been introduced to “The Making of a “New” New York and Implications for Global Management” in Week 1.

DAY 1 (18/05/2015):  Ziv Navoth, CEO of Paragrah (http://www.paragraph.com/) gave us an overview of his journey from selling advice to locals and tourists in Goa, India to his time at StartupStation, Verve and Bebo to finally setup his current company which helps people discover, tell and experience great stories.  Niv provided us with his 10 rules for setting up a startup and also provided us with some of his expertise.  He believes that “Talent is everywhere in the world” and backs this up by having resources located globally with a database designer in Mexico and the Creative Director in Israel.  Secondly, “Every business is a digital business” and therefore there will be two types of people in the future – “those who tell computers what to do and those who are told by computers what to do”.  Niv elaborated that an entrepreneur needs to have the “ability to succeed and execute their ideas” and also have the “ability to translate and idea and take it to the market really quickly”.

Day 2 (19/05/2015):   Alejandro Crawford, Senior Consultant at Acceleration Group (http://www.acceleration-group.com/) gave us an overview of the city with some very interesting facts and figures.  New York is undergoing a rapid redevelopment as there is a shift from Wall Street to an emerging global innovation centre.  The City has very unique and diverse boroughs and each borough has strong and profound connections to global innovation.  There is significant Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and it is the 2nd highest city in America for micro loans after San Francisco, however it is still very expensive to do business in New York.  There is triple taxation in place as businesses have to pay Federal, Government and City taxes.  Alejandro believes that New York is a “Cusp City” in that it is a not yet a well-developed ecosystem for innovation but it could be a tech centre as the number of startups and tech companies is increasing.  The main conclusion is that we need to somehow get people to buyin to the idea of NYC as a tech centre even though it is not yet proven or matured and to do so we need to prove the value, have the correct resources, skills, infrastructure, capital, market relationships etc in place to be a global innovation centre.

In the evening we visited the NYU Centre for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).  The Mission Statement is that CUSP is a “a unique public-private research center that uses New York City as its laboratory and classroom to help cities around the world become more productive, livable, equitable, and resilient. CUSP observes, analyzes, and models cities to optimize outcomes, prototype new solutions, formalize new tools and processes, and develop new expertise/experts. These activities will make CUSP the world’s leading authority in the emerging field of “Urban Informatics.”  We got a tour of the impressive facilities and got an overview of Big Data and 3 of the projects which are currently under way.  The “Four Vs of Big Data” are Volume, Variety, Veracity and Velocity.  The 1st Case Study presented was a project to collect data from New York Taxis using 5 records GPS Origin and End Points, Fare, Tip (if any), Distance and Time collected every time a credit card is swiped to pay for a taxi ride.  The data is used to understand how the city operates, the taxis are seen as “city sensors” and “pulsemakers” when viewed on a map of the city, which was particular interesting to see before Hurricane Sandy and post-storm in recovery mode.  The 2nd Case Study is an Urban Noise project which is in proposal stage to place sensors in public places around the city to analyse sounds and conduct auditory scene analysis.  The main challenge is the legalities around data collection of human voices in the recordings due to data privacy laws.  The 3rd Case Study is a project called Urban Observatory which shows thermal imaging of Manhattan.  Lights in the city and the emission of gases are shown on a map of the city.  In future it will allow the government to identify which homes that are rented to low income families are over-heated and loosing energy (levels of energy consumption) and also to track methane gases.  It may also have the ability to predict how people interact with their building.  The key takeaway is that Big Data is not the answer to all our problems as there is a big difference between the predictive power, the correlation and causality of the data.

DAY 3: (20/05/2015).  The morning session was a second session with Alejandro Crawford, Senior Consultant at Acceleration Group (http://www.acceleration-group.com/) and two of his colleagues.  Some examples looked at were “Never In Line Coffee”, “Zip Car”, the “Rent the Runway” case study (https://www.renttherunway.com/) and the success of Sarah Blakely the inventor of Spanx who solved a simple problem of shape wear for women and now has a net worth of over a billion dollars.

Some of the key takeaways include;

  • Recruit a team who complement each other with different skills.
  • Put a team in place before people have time to debate it to death.
  • “Steroid your business model”
  • Knowledge of the market and knowledge of the technology are vital to the success of your company.
  • Check if your idea for a startup is worth it by reviewing the “Risk” against potential “Reward” and check it makes “Strategic Sense”

In the Afternoon Session we visited the NYU incubators.  We got a tour of the facility and received an informative talk from Steve.  Here we learned that an investor is looking for 3 things in a startup; Team, Market and Differntiator.  “Everyone is fighting the same war in the same trenches” so your startup needs to differentiate itself from all the others and execute your idea better than everyone else.  The goal of the NYU Incubators is to have everyone who has a startup there is raising money, everyone creating jobs, everyone having a successful product.  43 of the graduates from the NYU Incubators have been very successful as they have a combined portfolio of $720 million dollars.  The NYU Incubator uses the Puul Model and has identified 5 things that a company needs; Talent, Server Providers, Customers, Investments, Mentors.

DAY 4: (21/05/2015).   In the morning we went to visit the NYU Entrepreneurial Lab and had a tour of the building and talk form Frank Rimalovski the Executive Director.  According to Frank, there has been a real transformation in New York in the last 7 to 10 years and NYC is the 2nd most active startup hub, however 75% of startups fail.  He advises that your product needs to be a “Toothbrush Product” where it is a product that customers will use at least twice a day to get real economic return from it.  As an entrepreneur you also need to first engage with your customers and then build your product to meet their needs and then find funding.  Every good team needs a Hustler, Hawker and a Designer and everybody in the team should also have a Coach.  Lastly a very evoking quote from Frank, “the rising tide lifts all boats and the NYU Entrepreneurial Lab is trying to rise the tide in New York”.

In the Afternoon session we went to visit the esteemed law firm of Friedman, Kaplan, Seiler and Adelman at Times Square to receive some advice from Mary Mulligan, Partner in the Litigation Department and one of her colleagues on the Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA).  The Cases Studies covered were Telco in Haiti and Walmart in Mexico.  The key advice is to have any bribery case fully investigated by an external law firm, report it to the board of directors and the Department of Justice.

DAY 5: (22/05/2015) consisted of very informative talks from Antonio Evans, CEO of Socialdraft and Andres Blank Co-Founder and CEO of Caliber who shared both shared their entrepreneurial journeys and their top tips for starting a startup. In the afternoon we visited General Assembly which is a Co-Working Space for startups but then decided to fully pivot towards education and made it the full offering in 2013 so they provide training and courses for individuals who want to be entrepreneurs and start their own companies.

Overall the week has been exceptionally informative and I am very excited to see what’s to come next week!! 🙂


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