Monday June 17, 2019

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NY Convergence ORIGINAL

NY Tech Execs Share Thoughts on Applied Science Campus Bid


Image by Lisy via Flickr

by Al Barbarino

Tech executives say the hype created by Applied Sciences bid is inspiring newfound confidence in the NY tech industry – and in the Bloomberg administration.

The competition to create a world-class engineering school in the city received proposals from 27 institutions around the world after it was introduced in December 2010. As the final bid deadline loomed this past Friday, at least six academic behemoths battled it out with competing proposals, industry entrepreneurs basked in the hoopla surrounding the highly publicized contest.

“I’m super excited about it,” said Vinicius Vacanti, CEO of yipit.com, a daily coupon site.  “It’s fantastic for entrepreneurs in New York to feel like the city is interested and supporting them.”

Stanford University’s plan to build on Roosevelt Island will cost an estimated $2.5 billion – more than two times what they had originally proposed.  Cornell University, teaming with Israel’s Technion, proposed a 2.12 million-square-foot Roosevelt Island campus, while Columbia’ University wants to tack the school onto their 17-acre campus being built in West Harlem.  Meanwhile, NYU hopes to fix up the former MTA headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, at 370 Jay Street; one of its academic partners, Carnegie Mellon, joined forces with Steiner Studios with a proposal to create a digital media lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Bloomberg administration is offering up to $100 million and free land – on Roosevelt Island, Governors Island or at the Brooklyn Navy Yard – to the institution selected to build the university.

“If they’re willing to put so much money into this it means that the city is important to them,” said Inaki Berenguer, co-founder of pixable.com, an online photo and video-sharing company.  “So for everyone that’s here they know that there’s a future in this area if they stick around.”

Mayor Bloomberg has appeared at tech events across the city – like IBM’s THINK forum – touting the initiative as one that will help New York surpass with Silicon Valley as the premier tech city in the country.

“For a long time Silicon Valley has been the place for startups and New York City has startups, but we didn’t have anything that made that big splash,” said Pritesh Damani, CEO of Winito Inc., a sports management website.  “Now we are seeing that splash.  Many of my friends are starting their own startups and before it wouldn’t be such an easy transition.”

Despite the optimism, concerns exist.  Vacanti hoped that by now the administration would have capitalized on all the media attention by asking esteemed professors from participating universities to come teach in existing city schools – a sort of “work-study” for professors.  That hasn’t happened yet. Some were also leery about all the hype, saying the administration could get cold feet and pull the plug.  Others were hesitant to rally behind the plan because it might not bring in the number of jobs, talented people and companies here that the administration hopes.

“I like that the administration is very ambitious,” said Alex Buran, CEO of Translation Services USA.  “How optimistic and enthusiastic am I about it?  I don’t know.  It’s still a wild card and a gamble.  I’m going to remain on the skeptical