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How Can We Jumpstart Entrepreneurial Ventures Here?

First let’s give credit to some of the leading entrepreneurial development efforts already

underway. UNCW, and especially its CIE is a leader, as are TekMountain, the associated

Coalition, and the sprawling Live Oak Bank campus and its Fintech enterprises. Additionally, Jim Roberts and his company, NEW, bring together large turnouts of entrepreneurs seeking advice and financing. (Apologies to others we omit.)

Our last blog on April 1 outlined the reasons NYC created Cornell Tech as a “talent engine” for technology and the extraordinary early results they have achieved in helping make the City a leading TechHub. We promised to say more, because we can learn so much from them.

Unique Mission and Structure—Cornell Tech is a joint effort of Cornell University and

Technion of Israel. Master degree programs include electrical and computer engineering, “law, technology and entrepreneurship”, operations research, information engineering, health tech and “connective media” and design. They also offer a post-PhD program with a specialty in startup ventures. Needless to say, the curriculum is unique and well formulated. The students are from all over the world and highly talented.

A Product Studio is an Entrepreneurial Factory—Central to the curriculum is a “Product Studio”. The 340 students are organized into multidisciplinary teams using software tools to organize and match students to challenges posed by startups, companies and organizations. Recent examples came from Weight Watchers, Google, Samsung, Vayner Media and the Anti-Defamation League. Social and business challenges are welcome. The teams develop product solutions, then tests and prototypes, educates audiences and demos the results, all while working with a representative of the sponsor. Annual awards are presented for the best solutions.

This is the process that has led to 50 startups and $60 million in venture capital in the short history of Cornell Tech. It is a process the Wilmington Region could replicate if it determined to do so, working with UNCW and other partners. What an exciting and rewarding future that would create for our many talented and entrepreneurially motivated residents and what an attraction for many more to come here and create the Wilmington Region TechHub that would reward us so richly. We may not match the $23 billion forecast for NYC, but we have no doubt the region and state will be happy with a healthy share of that economic impact.

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