New York Module – Week #1 (originally posted on:

Day 1 – Monday, 18-05-2015 – Morning Session @ Bard College

Intro to the NYC Module by Mel and Bala, suggested focus areas:

  • What are the lessons learned for us?
  • What can we bring back to CEE?
  • What is relevant to us?

First presentation by guest speaker: Ziv Navoth

Ziv is an Israeli entrepreneur who after military service went to travel. In India he realized many people were selling all different kind of things on the markets which meant they knew how to create things which bear some value (e.g.: jewelry). This inspired him to start his own endeavors to produce and sell products and services.

Waves of innovation:

  1. Access Wave – How to connect to get information?
  2. Search Wave – How to structure information?
  3. Social Wave – Discover new things not by searching for them but because they find us.

Revolution does not happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when society adopts new behaviors – Clay Shirky.

For me the key takeaway is that an entrepreneur must have a partner. Not only a partner in pursuing the entrepreneurial endeavors, but somebody who provides support emotionally all the time, who reminds you who you are, what you do, why you do it.

Day 2 – Tuesday, 19-05-2015 – Morning Session @ Bard College

Guest speakers are Alejandro Crawford and Sujatha Sebastian of Acceleration Group.

During the 3 hours long presentation the speakers elaborated on the key statistical facts of each of the five borough of the city (e.g. inhabitants, prevailing industry, employment rates, etc.) and talked about the transformation of NYC:

  • Shift from a Wall Street dominated economy to an emerging global innovation center.

Emphasized the significance of the FinTech cluster and the fashion industry. Additionally, they explained that the cityscape is transforming too due to the waves of entrepreneurship and innovation: “Brooklyn is the new Manhattan”.

Day 2 – Tuesday, 19-05-2015 – Afternoon session @ Center for Urban Science+Progress

Speaker: J. C. Bonilla

  • Director, Education Serv. & Enrollment Management
  • Adjunct Professor of Technology Strategy

Topic: The promise of urban informatics

The aim of investing in innovation in order to strengthen the economy. The challenge is to make use of Big Data in order make the operation of a big city (or even smaller cities) like New York more efficient.

Big Cities + Big Data

Efficiency is becoming increasingly important as the world is urbanizing at a very fast pace.

At CUSP they look at and treat New York City as a service delivery ecosystem which they use as a big living lab for the experimental studies they pursue with an aim to bring economic value.

CUSP has partnerships with public and private sector players who provide data and experience in order to observe, analyze and model cities, which we can call today: URBAN INFORMATICS.

Examples of CUSP’s projects:

Example 1: NYC taxi cabs: the graph of the NYC taxi rides is similar to a heartbeat diagram. The taxis as sensors can provide unprecedented insight into the life of the city. Taxi rides identify patterns and reflects on usability and load on certain city parts, and help identify the most important parts of the city.

Example 2: Urban Noise: create a noise map of the city by placing sensors everywhere. This would help answering questions like: “How to find a silent park?” or “How to find a good bar?”. Another use case is to correlate noises with 911 and 311 phone calls and based on the noises predict certain events (e.g. crimes).

Example 3: Urban observatory: Record the city landscape with camera in order to identify patterns or problems. E.g. when people goes and leaves their homes, where are heating problems (infrared camera), gas emissions (methan, drog labs).

Conclusion: Urban Informatics is very important because properly correlating measured data with observed events can help with preventing crimes, better utilizing scarce resources (e.g. power plants, police patrol cars).

Day 3 – Wednesday, 20-05-2015 – Morning Session @ Bard College

The Acceleration Group presenters from the previous day continued their presentation.

They introduced the CAPTURE framework which is meant to associate innovation ecosystem elements with stakeholders, i.e. who to engage when you need to address certain problems.

Source: Acceleration Group, Inc

Day 3 – Wednesday, 20-05-2015 – Afternoon session @ NYU Incubator, Varick street

We got insight into the internal workings of an incubator for startups.

Incubator is open for any startups. In order to get accepted, the startups have to go through a rigorous application process (2-3 months) that models what investors look for in real life:

  • Team
  • Market
  • Differentiating factors

Day 4 – Thursday, 21-05-2015 – Morning session @ NYU Leslie eLAB

Speaker: Frank Rimalovski

NYC is the second largest startup hub with lot of activity in: health care, biotech, fintech, publishing, media.

On average 75% of startups fail to return the investment. Most of them fail because of lack of customers, not because of product imperfections, which means the root cause if lack of customer focus. Many of the failure cause could be eliminated with proper and through planing.

Successful startups today:

  1. Identify customers
  2. Address customers’ needs
  3. Raise money from investors
  4. Apply lean methodology:
    • Minimize the waste that customers do not value: find out customers’ needs early on.
  5. Set up multidisciplinary teams
  6. In and of the city
  7. Use experimental learning

Day 4 – Thursday, 21-05-2015 – Afternoon session @ Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP.

Law Firm

Topic: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – anti-bribery

Key takeaway: Do not bribe! Or do it wisely, i.e. leave no traces, no email 🙂

Prosecutors systematically go through all electronic communication (email, text, etc.). Email is the most important way people communicate and it proves to be the most revealing about bribery related crimes. This is why the process is expensive: everything is translated and read through.

It is very important to do FCPA due diligence prior to M&A.

Day 5 – Friday, 22-05-2015 – Morning session @ Bard College

Speaker 1: Antonio Evans, CEO of Socialdraft

How to create something with data? Data is the No.1 thing today. Process, analyze data, and create bridges between generations.

Gather data of your own venture too and make sure you analyze it wisely in order to identify problems. E.g. if Average Revenue per Account (ARPA) is trending down or stagnating, investors will turn away. Antonio explained that the problem in the case of his venture was that clients were asking for more than what they could deliver. He revealed that the root cause of this problem was that the customers misunderstood their business. The misconception was created because some leaders were leading on a wrong path. To resolve, they had to let some leaders go in order to change the team.

Key to the success of a startup:

  1. Create an idea
  2. FAIL
    • You have to fail, if you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough.
    • Take as much risk as you can, find the risk point and go there. Then take back from that risk once you failed.
  3. Never start a startup alone: min 2-3 people, otherwise you wold be just talking to yourself.
  4. Growth is the key to raising money: revenue, user base, market, any growth.


  • Slack: similar to Skype but it records everything and enables you to search through what it recorded later.
  • Trello: enables no-tech people to follow the progress of agile programming.

Speaker 2: Andres Blank,  CoFounder and CEO of Caliber

Key to success as per Andres Blank:

  • having skills
  • good timing
  • good execution
  • resiliency – you can make a piece of art which will be very popular, and make another one which nobody will like

Problems to avoid:

  • Many people give out too early – e.g. after 9 months. It takes at least 18 months to validate the idea and its viability.
  • Do not try to focus on many big things at the same time because it requires extra resources and it is bad for the moral if a product / project (or part of it) has to be shut down after a lot of work due to lack of market interest or changed expectations.

Day 5 – Friday, 22-05-2015 – Afternoon session @ General Assembly (GA)

  • GA was established with an aim to provide a co-working space to facilitate collaboration.
  • No real incubator
  • No competition is allowed between participants
  • Today GA is rather an educational institution: they develop courses and educate people.

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