Social Entrepreneurship Workshop by NYU Entrepreneurial Institute x Net Impact x EEG

Editor's note: This event received funding from the NYU Entrepreneurs Network Collaboration Fund. The Collaboration Fund provides grants to help promote entrepreneurship across NYU via cross-club collaboration. 

The Net Impact and EEG (Entrepreneurial Exchange Group) clubs are excited to welcome Sarah Maibach and Rebecca Silver from the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute to a collaborative common hour event to learn about the startup space from a social impact lens. In order to help students best learn how to get involved with the entrepreneurial resources available at NYU, these guest speakers helped engage students in an ideation workshop as well as informing them about the local entrepreneurial landscape. NYC is second only under Silicon Valley in terms of startups because of a diverse array of industries that flourish in the city. 

Not only have NYU students started successful startups such as SeaStraws in their time here, there have also been many social impact focused ventures that got off the ground with the help of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute. Although a large majority of venture-backed startups still fail, there were still many success stories that got their start from NYU just within the last 2018-2019 school year. Over $36 million in total funds were raised, and over 23 teams raised dilutive funding. There was also over $7 million raised from grants awarded.

But how can students get involved? The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute (located at the Leslie eLab) offers a variety of programs for startups at all levels, encompassing 1-on-1 coaching, startup bootcamps, startup competitions and pitch offs. Students are also supported by founders-in-residence with experiences in industries like tech and social ventures, as well as external mentors with expertise in different subjects. Often alumni and investor mentors will maintain a relationship with student founders after programs like the Summer Launchpad and Ignite Fellowship, even investing in their startups.

One of the most exciting programs offered by the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs and NYU Entrepreneurial Institute is the $300K Challenge, where students and Stern alumni have the opportunity to receive funding and interaction within the startup space, learning about all the exciting ideas that the community has come up with. All students are encouraged to get involved and give this competition a try!

Less well known is the Innovation Venture Fund, which actually spurred many of the other initiatives after itself beginning in 2010. This NYU fund engages with VCs in the NYC community, and is active in technology-focused startups in particular. Additionally, the Female Founders Forum is coming up soon on March 6th, and offers an amazing opportunity to network and learn from inspirational female founders. But most importantly, the Entrepreneurial Institute is a key educational tool, providing mentorship, money, and support for students who strive to become founders. 

The event later shifted toward a workshop in ideation. In order to solve large, systemic issues, attendees learned how to break apart issues to find the core problems and the stakeholders who are involved with the issue. Students also explored the development of empathy in order to get to the root of problems. There are often assumptions made about a gap, or a need in the system that a product or service can solve. Surface-level solutions do not necessarily solve the core of the issue, which is why founders need to know their target user well.

During the workshop, students partnered up to identify a target user (given some examples like an elderly woman taking NYU classes, a young man seeking to vote for first time, and a new student in NYC feeling anxiety) and brainstorm how to solve their problems through a structured framework. Many of these ideas are assumptions that can then be tested with the target demographic. Overall, the students were able to think of many different specific problems and ways to possibly solve them, which is an excellent introduction to the development of startup ideas from scratch. When starting a venture, students should not only try to solve for a customer and societal problem, but also find a venture idea that fits with their strengths and what they are interested in. Overall, students at the Wednesday session learned about many of the nuances and structures in beginning a path in social entrepreneurship, and are excited to turn their ideas into action!