David B. Lerner

Dave Lerner, 3x Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Host of Venture Studio
Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Director of Columbia University Venture Lab, Blogger, Community Organizer, Golfer-in-Exile.

A New Breed of University Entrepreneur Arrives on Campus

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This is part of my ongoing Series on University Entrepreneurship.

This past Sunday I attended the closing demos of a week-long(!) development extravaganza put on entirely by a new student group on Columbia's campus.  The format was a seven day hackathon interspersed with various instructive workshops and capped by the aforementioned final demofest. The event attracted some terrific sponsors as well as a veritable murderer's row of panelists/judges who provided some amazing feedback to the various student hackers that presented their work. Among the panelists were the likes of Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, David Jagoda of Andreessen Horowitz, Thatcher Bell of Draper Gotham, Prof. Chris WigginsJustin Singer from IA Ventures and Steve Jacobs, CIO of Gilte Groupe. Of course the faculty advisor of this group was none other than one of the great evangelists for student entrepreneurship in the country- my colleague Chris Wiggins, co-founder of HackNY

It strikes me that the important observations/question are as follows:

  • This sort of thing wasn't simply not happening when I was throwing darts and playing rugby w/other antedeluvian types on Williams College campus in the late-80's but neither was it happening on college campuses as recently as two years ago. This is NEW.
  • Through events such as these students are interacting in a very meaningful way with a cross-section of technologists, vc's, angels and others in the startup community at a very early point in their college careers. They aren't just waiting for career services to help them out when they are seniors looking for jobs. Such events give them exposure and the opportunity to spend time with and get to know influential people in the tech community who are involved in company building. 
  • And lastly- what is this new archetype of student entrepreneur? .... or better yet- who the heck are these bad-asses? First of all- they have and are honing real skills. As my friend Evan Korth says, they are fluent or developing fluency in the new literacy- which is CODE. Also, it is significant to understand that they are primarily undergraduates.

In this particular setting the bad-asses involved were a new group that call themselves ADI, short for the Application Development Initiative. ADI's stated mission is to "nurture student creativity and technical aptitude in developers of all talents". (The founding board of ADI are pictured above). To learn more about them, check out this link.

I've got to say that I was super-impressed by what the ADI guys managed to put together in a relatively short period of time. They were professional, friendly, organized, focused and simply 'made it happen' while having a lot of fun.

Groups such as ADI, HackNY, CVC, YEI and others are surfing on the crest of the tidal wave of university entrepreneurship I've been talking about for some time now. People on the shore-line ought to start looking up before it's too late.

(**Video footage of the presentations should be up soon which I intend to post below.)

(** TechCrunch just posted an article about this event as well! Find it here).

For Part 28 in in this Series, click here

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Great post, Dave and it is exciting to see meaningful entrepreneurial activities like this at Columbia!

I’m a student in the Berkeley-Columbia eMBA program based in the Silicon Valley and it would be great if we could find a way to get the BCEMBA community involved with the entrepreneurial activities at Columbia notwithstanding the geographic distance as most of us are not located in NY.

Our current students and recent grads are in management positions at places like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, Oracle, NVIDIA (just to name a few…) and a number of us (myself included) are working on startup ideas. It would be great if we could realize some synergies between Manhattan and the Silicon Valley.

I’d be happy to explore possibilities with anyone in the Columbia venture community who’s interested.

David Zilberman

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