Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Varick Street Incubator

This week (Friday, September 16, 2011), as part of my Media Organizations class at NYU-Poly, I visited the Varick Street Incubator in Manhattan.  Here, several small business can get their start-ups and hopefully succeed in this troubled economy.  It was started by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYU-Poly in July 2009, as part of the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan.  

We were first greeted by Steven Kayun, Operations Manager at the Incubator, who gave us a basic rundown on what goes on at the incubator.  He also discussed how one can start a business at Varick Street, and how several other students and entrepreneurs began there. 

Also present were three representatives of three different start-ups housed there.  Sai Punjabi, MIT alum and CEO of Baba Apps, spoke of how he started his mobile applications developer company.  Amanda Moritz, Social Media officer of Brainscape, introduced the many aspects of a technology start-up.  Philip Estrada Reichen, CEO of Local Uncle, spoke about the benefits of starting a technology and media company. 
There were several bits of advice that the speakers gave us.  One bit that was very important was the idea of working with a team.  They all agreed that it was far better to start a company with a dedicated team of people than to start one alone.  While several great entrepreneurs have done so, it is always a gamble, even if it is successful.  All of the companies represented had about six employees.  They had a CEO, a designer, a back-end developer, a front-end developer, a content manager, and a marketing manager/social media specialist, with several freelancers and interns contributing as well.
Another important bit of advice was to be comfortable with complete chaos.  This is a key quality that anyone wanting to start a company must have.  There may be times where there’s going to be less clients than usual, or even no clients, but you have to remain calm even when things look bad.  I admit that I do have a bit of experience in this.  I have been in situations where I was the only one in the office at the time, and I had to learn on my feet pretty quickly.
Personally, I never really gave much thought of starting my own company.  I mean, I always thought of how great it would be to work for myself, and I always wanted to be in a position where I can actually make a difference in an organization, but I just always figured I was going to end up doing menial, stable work at a larger company.  Now that I heard from a few people in start-ups, I can honestly say that I am definitely reconsidering this path. 
 This was an amazing trip.  I heard from people in the industry, and I have been presented with a new option for the near future.  I have a lot of respect for the guys at the Varick Street Incubator.  They put everything on the line for these small start-ups and came out strong.  Doing something like that takes ambition, bravery, and perseverance, three qualities that I find very admirable. 
That’s it for this week.  Next week we’re going to eMusic!


  1. I agree with you that if you want to start your own business, you are better off working with a group of people representing different opinions and skills.This would make the business more efficient and representative of the society, enhancing the chances of success.

  2. that's a hard one, to be "comfortable with complete chaos." that's not exactly how i run my life personally. but it's ok if I do it at times. It could teach me a thing or two about taking risks. these guys took big risks for themselves, and won out in the end. good for them.

  3. Guess I missed that advice about being comfortable with complete chaos! Although it totally makes sense: the combination of trying to manage technical challenges on self-imposed and publicly announced deadlines, answering to investors while trying to solicit new ones, and living on little to no income would probably become stressful pretty quick! The potential rewards are fantastic if you have the fortitude, but it’s far better to know what you’re getting into beforehand. Those young entrepreneurs at the Incubator (and elsewhere) have even more of my admiration and respect than they did already. It was a good point, so nice job on catching it.