Faculty

What’s a Faculty Startup Sprint like?

Faculty and Postdoctoral Participants tell All.

Photo of NYU Faculty Startup Print Cohort

 

We kicked off the first annual Faculty Startup Sprint this past August. Our hats off to the dedicated scientist and clinicians and their tremendous efforts for translating their research discoveries! The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute hopes to continue to be a resource for the teams moving forward. In total the 12 teams from 6 schools across NYU, conducted over 300 interviews during the sprint to explore the potential value of their venture concept.

 

We sat down with Miguel Manzanares Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Fellow, NYU School of Medicine, team Calregen) to ask him about his experience in the sprint:

 

- What was your biggest motivator to show up at 8:30am every morning for the Faculty Startup Sprint?

For me, the bigger motivator was to attend the classes, workshops and coaching interactions during the morning and early afternoon, that I knew were going to help the team to move forward with the full project during the rest of the day. Of course, breakfast and coffee were a plus!

- What was the most challenging part about participating in the Startup Sprint, and why?

As a scientist that spend most of the time working in the lab or interacting with other scientists, the harder part of this startup sprint was to get out of the building and conduct customers interviews, leave in the lab our white coat shells and release that extrovert persona we all carry inside.

- Over the course of the Startup Sprint, where did you see the biggest shifts, both in yourself as an entrepreneur and in your startup? What do you think brought about those changes?

The biggest shift happened to me by the end of the last week, when we all in our team arrived to a big understanding of the complex startup ecosystem in which our project was immersed, and we were able to define a clear and specific value proposition for each of our potential customers. That will certainly help the next steps on our startup progression.

- For those who are jumping into their first Faculty Startup Sprint, what advice do you have?

Be ready to work hard, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to learn and take advantage of this great experience.

- In a few words, how would you sum up the 10 days of the Startup Sprint?

Intense, challenging, eye-opening and absolutely worth it.

 

Photo of NYU Faculty Startup Print

 

Chinaza Egbuta, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Fellow, NYU School of Medicine, Laboratory of Dr. Leslie Gold, team Calregen) similarly provided her perspective:

 

- What was your biggest motivator to show up at 8:30am every morning for the Faculty Startup Sprint?

My biggest motivator was participating in activities (understanding the riskiest hypotheses, identifying customers, brainstorming, prototyping) that were foreign to me.  I enjoyed the challenge learning to develop a lean/agile BMC for our startup. It's not something we typically (ever) do in academic research labs. It was truly an eye-opening experience to test the commercial viability of our technology.  The instructional material and application of the concepts (due diligence via customers interviews, identifying partners, and market research enabled me to develop a better understanding of key criteria our startup needs to succeed.

 

- What was the most challenging part about participating in the Startup Sprint, and why?

Apart from the staggering volume of work that had to be completed in such a short time, I think our team struggled with creating a clear business thesis that effectively communicated the technology behind our start up.  I believe it is because the technology requires further development. This led to some challenges with identifying the value proposition for the different types of customers in our start-up ecosystem, challenges with developing our marketing channel, etc.

 

- Over the course of the Startup Sprint, where did you see the biggest shifts, both in yourself as an entrepreneur and in your startup? What do you think brought about those changes?

The biggest shift I made was learning to think with the customer in mind.  I found it interesting that some of our hypotheses were pretty-much invalidated by the customer interviews.  Furthermore, I was initially intimidated by the idea of creating a prototype because I didn't know how it could be applicable to our "young" biotech startup.  Our team was able to utilize one of the brainstorming activities in creating a prototype that was simple but served the purpose we wanted it to accomplish. As a startup,  the biggest shift was made in terms of the function of our technology (we went from focusing on a topical agent for wound healing to a topical agent for skin rejuvenation).  This entailed reconstructing our customer ecosystem, developing value propositions for each customer, etc.

 

- For those who are jumping into their first Faculty Startup Sprint, what advice do you have?

Come with a prepared mind that is willing to learn, accept the challenges as part of the process, and be humble enough to accept the changes your technology/idea needs to become viable product (or to be set aside for a more viable alternative)

 

- In a few words, how would you sum up the 10 days of the Startup Sprint?

This was the most valuable program for our innovation.  It enabled our team to rigorously test the viability of our innovation before fully committing to its advanced development.  I am certain that I will apply this training to other projects!

 

Two other participants summed up their experiences:

 

Faculty Sprint was like an academic version of Shark Tank. Preparing for the presentation that we refined every other day, motivated me to get to the Leslie eLab by 8:30 every morning. Over the course of the Sprint, as an entrepreneur, our business hypothesis honed in to a specific urgent user. As an academic, I learned new models and frameworks that could help in developing research questions as I develop new grant ideas. And lastly on a person level, the Sprint showed me the value of drawing from prior work experiences in managed care and marketing can contribute to entrepreneurship in academia.”

  • Chung, Alicia, Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Healthful Behavior Change, Innovate Health team

 

“The combination of the Leslie eLab and Faculty Sprint provided an exceptional well-rounded and broad exposure for Faculty that have startups based on their technologies. One last point: I think that having this program and the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute available at NYU to encourage novelty and learn how to commercialize one’s technology is a highly essential component of NYU’s education.”

 

  • Dr. Leslie Gold, NYU Langone Health, Calregen founder

 

 

To learn about the participating Faculty Sprint teams, read this post and this post.