Category: Thoughts

16
Sep

Entrepreneurship at Cornell

By Chip Meakem

I drove up to Cornell University last week for the ELAB’s Entrepreneurship Kickoff event held at POPSHOP, their coworking space. As a Cornell grad it was a great excuse to make the beautiful drive up Route 17 along the southern flank of the Catskill National Forest. The country up there is amazing and while only a couple of hundred miles northwest of NYC, it’s a far cry from our office at Varick and Laight.

At the event there were over 200 students crammed into one room. It was awesome, and as I mentioned in this article about the event, a real tribute the incredible progress Cornell has made supporting entrepreneurship. They finished with a pitch-off featuring 6 student startups. I guess the best way to convey the quality of the teams and ideas is the fact that we are now actively working on a few of them as potential new investments.

Thanks Cornell for having me back.

Peter Cortle of Entrepreneurship at Cornell Introduces the kickoff

Peter Cortle of Entrepreneurship at Cornell Introduces the kickoff

05
Sep

Columbia Startup Lab

By Chip Meakem

Last week I spent the afternoon at the new Columbia Startup Lab on Varick Street. It’s a great space with an incredible vibe. Congrats to Columbia for physically instantiating its support for entrepreneurship. If you have an idea and some affiliation with Columbia, you now have a great space to make it happen.

Columbia Startup Lab Sign

The private market for co-working spaces is thriving and meaningfully helping the startup ecosystem…but what could the public sector do?

Quick story – I’m an investor in a China-based VC firm and a few years ago I went to Beijing to visit a bunch of companies (and of course see the Great Wall). One afternoon I drove out to see a company in an abandoned, post apocalyptic neighborhood. There were literally blocks and blocks of identical 3-story cinder block buildings. In the center were three, 10-story buildings with no finished lobbies, just concrete stairs going up. My driver pointed and told me that’s where my next meeting was. I have no shame admitting I was legitimately scared getting out of the car.

I walked up the exposed stairs and there was Linda Wu, founder of a cool gaming company. She quickly explained that the neighborhood had been worker housing for a coal fired power plant. When the plant was shut down due to pollution, everybody was moved out and the three office towers were converted to 100% free space – free rent, power, Internet, water, etc., for companies. Within sixty days 30 floors of offices were packed with startups. Apparently there are dozens of these in and around Beijing.

As you saw in a previous blog post, our TVP team went fishing last month in the East River and New York Harbor. Looking at all those old warehouses on the Brooklyn waterfront I can’t help but think what would happen if New York State and/or NYC converted those old buildings to free startup space. At ~$500 per desk the co-working spaces are helping to spur on entrepreneurship and groups like Columbia are stepping up too but what would free space do? If it can happen in a burnt out Beijing neighborhood, why not here? I know it’s not that simple, but maybe it could be.

15
Jul

MakersKit

By Brian Hirsch

Over the last several years the Maker Movement has morphed from a fringe subculture into what is in the early stages of becoming a mainstream phenomenon. An entire industry has sprouted up to turn people from consumers into makers.

People familiar with the evolution of the consumer tech market can see clear parallels between what’s happening today with the Maker Movement and the early days of computer clubs in the 1970’s that gave rise to modern day consumer tech that is enjoyed by billions of people.

The growth of the 3D printing market is an example that many people use to highlight the Maker Movement and we believe 3D printing has a bright future. But for the Maker Movement to fully reach the same type of success as consumer tech, the definition of being a maker must broaden. It doesn’t need to be tech dependent. To reach the mainstream the Maker Movement should be accessible and simple for the masses. Finally, like many movements, multiple faces are necessary to inspire, motivate and guide people forward.

When we met MakersKit founders Mike Stone and Jawn McQuade through Techstars, we immediately saw two people who were meant to be faces of the maker community. In a short time the “Makers Boys” have created a strong brand through high quality DIY kits and approachable and fun “how to” project guides. It’s no surprise that MakersKit has seen their product fly off the shelves since launch and both Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom have signed deals to distribute their products.

We knew shortly after meeting the founders that we wanted to lead their seed round. We’re excited to be working with Mike and Jawn as well as our co-investors including Bertelsmann Digital Media Investment, Greycroft Partners, Mesa+ and Gary Vaynerchuck’s Vayner RSE.

Go make something!

23
Jun

clypd API

By Chip Meakem

Last week our portfolio company clypd announced the launch of the first ever programmatic API for TV advertising. This is a major technical accomplishment but as you can see from the number of partners needed to make this happen, it’s an equally impressive ecosystem accomplishment.

We were lucky enough to back Brian O’Kelley and the AppNexus team as they created the RTB and Programmatic market for display (and now mobile) advertising. While there are infrastructure constraints that make true TV RTB a different challenge, I find myself asking a simple question – why won’t programmatic explode in TV just as it has in digital?

TV advertisers reach target audiences via publishers and enhance those buys with various internal and external data sets. Sound familiar? clypd has redacted the entire TV ad buying process to a set of workflows and API integrations turning what used to be a laborious multi-system, multi-agency mess into a simple data input exercise. clypd is starting with a defined set of distribution partners, and integrating with more is certainly non-trivial, but the process improvement and ROI of programmatic buying are irrefutable and, just as we are seeing in the digital world, economics win in the end.

I think the guys at clypd are on to something…