Keith Cowing

Keith Cowing

Product guy. Entrepreneur.
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Bloomberg changes the future of NYC with Cornell / Technion Tech Campus

December 19, 2011

Today was the official announcement that Cornell and Technion have won the bid to build an engineering campus in NYC that could literally change the future of New York’s economy. While it will generate jobs today, start coursework in 2012 for masters and PhD students, and boost the technology ecosystem immediately, the program also looks out as far as 2040 to support a future of innovation and job creation as the industries in New York (and everywhere) continue to be disrupted.

As a technology entrepreneur in NYC (Founder and CEO of Seamless Receipts) and a proud holder of two Cornell degrees (Engineering and MBA), I’m clearly biased. But I’m more excited about this partnership than anything I’ve heard about in awhile. Good technology and startup ecosystems need four key components to be successful: a superb pipeline of talent, a culture that promotes idea generation and risk-taking, an ecosystem of partners and mentors, and access to capital. Stanford and Silicon Valley have mastered this model and Cornell is going to launch a giant spark into an already thriving startup ecosystem in New York. Cornell will bring to New York a $150M venture fund to support early stage companies, 20K jobs to build the infrastructure, 8K sustainable jobs for faculty and staff, and top talent from around the world who will be encouraged to start and grow companies in New York City. The future of our economy clearly relies on innovation and the proliferation of new ideas. Nothing will support New York City’s future and optimism more than building the next Facebook or Google in Manhattan.

Looking at New York City, all of the components of a startup ecosystem exist today (talent, culture, ecosystem, and capital) but talent is clearly the piece that holds NYC back from being as transformative as Silicon Valley has been for the past 50 years. Cornell will inject a pipeline of talent that will generate new businesses and drive the growth of current companies (who are all desperately trying to hire engineers). Bloomberg expects the program to increase the number of engineers finding jobs in NYC by 85%.

In return, Cornell has all the components of an entrepreneurial education except the ecosystem. There is an honest disadvantage to starting a company in Ithaca (ice hockey games are great, but the number of successful alumni who have built and sold companies in the Finger Lakes region is definitely limited vs. New York or Silicon Valley). Trust me, I’ve done it. So putting a permanent program in New York City will bring to Cornell the one missing piece in its entrepreneurial endeavors – a subway to New York so students can visit Google, Facebook, tech entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists on a random Tuesday afternoon. The 50K Cornell alumni in New York City will serve as a perfect launching ground for the program’s ties to the New York economy.

I see the partnership between Cornell/Technion and New York City as a perfect marriage. I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future and I look forward to taking part in the initatives that will come.

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