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We are excited to welcome Darren Yee to our team! He is no stranger to the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and co-founded Acculis, a construction technology startup, in the NYU Summer Launchpad before graduating from Tandon with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2016. Darren then worked in operations at startups in real estate tech, in mental health at My Wellbeing (an NYU startup), and in online education. Now, in his role as Venture Associate for the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, Darren leads investments in Information Technology and Consumer Products and provides coaching to NYU startups.
We asked Darren a few questions about his journey so you can get to know him better! Check out his answers below:
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey. How did you end up at the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute?
In May 2016, right before I graduated, I hadn’t yet applied for jobs and was unsure about my career. We got a last minute interview to join the Summer Launchpad as a consolation prize for being runner up in a pitch competition. That was the first time I met Frank Rimalovski. My co-founders and I spent the summer working on our startup idea and I never looked back. We went on to participate in a number of startup accelerator programs, including Techstars NYC, and were able to see our product in the hands of customers.
I kept in touch with Frank and the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute over the years as I worked my way through early stage startups doing operations roles. One day Frank asked what I was up to and it just so happened I was pondering a career change as he was searching for a Venture Associate. The timing could not have been more perfect, it very much feels like coming home to where my career was launched.
What are you most excited for in your new role?
It's fascinating to learn about startups from the investor’s side of the table. I’ve always loved following my curiosity and this role allows me to dive into all sorts of interesting problems. As a bonus, I’ll get to be around the relentless optimism of early founders.
What drew you to working with startups?
I find it rewarding to work with bright and motivated people. The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute attracts smart students looking to build interesting businesses. It’s a unique opportunity to pass on lessons learned from my time as a founder and operator.
What is one piece of advice you've been given that you want to pass on to our community of founders?
Students might think that starting a venture is a risky career move. There are definitely pros and cons, but I would say that even attempting to build a business will teach you plenty of hireable skills. Even if your startup is not successful, you will learn more about the working world and develop yourself more than you would spending that time in entry-level jobs. There’s lots of caveats here, but pursuing a startup is not mutually exclusive to building a career.
What occupies your free time outside of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute?
I’m still getting used to having free time, but right now I look forward to spending more time with my dog, Amber.
Share a fun fact!
When I was a freshman at NYU, I signed up to do background work in major film productions as a fun thing to do. The most interesting one was being in The Dark Knight Rises as one of Bane’s henchmen. That was pretty cool to be a part of and made me feel like a real New Yorker.
What is a pain point you have that you wish a startup would solve for you?
A dog shrink ray so I can bring my dog everywhere. I can also shrink her poop, and never have to pick it up again. There’s so many applications. Let me know if you’re working on this.
Anything else you'd like to say to the NYU community?
Being at NYU is a magical time that gives you resources and opportunities you won’t have the second you leave. Take full advantage of them. If you’re good at school, great, do that. If not so much, learn skills and work on real projects that impact people. That will be just as useful, if not more, in your post NYU life.