Wednesday April 24, 2019

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Wesleyan Alums Create Network in NY Tech Sector

Image representing John Borthwick as depicted ...

Image by JB via CrunchBase

Digital Wesleyan, launched in 2010, is a networking group of Wesleyan University alums working in the NY tech industry. The Conneticut based university isn’t known for computer science prodigies, but the tech philosophy that champions empowerment, democratization and bottom-up vs. top-down is compatible with Wesleyan teachings.

John Borthwick, class of ’87 and co-founder of NY startup incubator Betaworks, told Wesleyan Magazine that, “The democratization of media is something that resonates with a lot of Wesleyan grads.” Dina Kaplan, class ’93, of blip.tv fame said it’s notable that so many startup founders are from Wesleyan.  “Harvard Business School is the only other school I can think of that’s so active in digital medial,” she also told Wesleyan Magazine.

Digital Wesleyan holds events at ZelnickMedia, which focuses on later-stage investing. Its portfolio includes video game developer Take-Two Interactive and media sales firm ITN Network. ZelnickMedia was founded by Strauss Zelnick and Jim Friedlich, both class of ’79. At a recent Digital Wesleyan event, Brad Burnham, ’77, the co-founder of Union Square Ventures, talked about consumer-directed networks with Bakley Smith, ’00, CEO of Healthcare Check-In, a company that uses a smartphone app that encourages employees to participate in wellness programs.

Jack Levine, class of ’08, created Digital Wesleyan. Levine, general manager at News.me, a Betaworks firm, says the meetings are valuable. He met Borthwick at a Feb. 2011 Digital Wesleyan panel event. He heard Borthwick talking about “history on the real-time Web” and emailed him to find out more and their conversation resulted in a position for Levine as Betawork’s first entrepreneur-in-residence and then his current position.

Friedlich says Digital Wesleyan’s network was crucial and benefits veterans and rookies alike. “Innovation tends to reside in an emerging young generation. That’s always been the case. But business contacts, capital and acumen often reside in a more established generation. It’s the marriage of those two sets of people that we saw on the rooftop,” he told Wesleyan Magazine. “After each of these events, there have been dozens of individual follow-ups as well as some tangible new investments.”

Wesleyan Magazine (pg. 41)