Archives For

Congratulations to Brian Frumberg – founder of VentureOut – for his new initiatives: VentureOut Launch, a new long-form incubator program; and the partnership with SparkLabs, the global club for innovators.

So the offices of VentureOut have moved to Spark Labs, 25 W 39th St., 14th Floor: “We will be cohosting many of their awesome event series focused on international tech and investing – says Brian -. We have also a new partnership with Invitalia for all of our future Italian programs. We also are looking to launch a 2-month accelerator for Invitalia startups. And, I’m speaking with Eataly about running a corporate innovation program with them. Lots of Italy happening all around VentureOut!”.

Next Italian program, hosted by Why Italy matters to the World (Italian business & Investment Initiative), will be a “One-week hyper accelerator for Italian Startups” from May 21st to May 26th. You can apply here.

Finally: VentureOut is hiring a new program manager (see description and apply here).

“It was the Sputnik moment in the 1950s and ‘60s that triggered a lot of US government’s investments in science and technology. Unfortunately after the Cold War the public commitment to fund basic research has been continuously decreasing”. Andrew (Andrea) Viterbi said so at the presentation of his memoir “Reflections of an Educator, Researcher and Entrepreneur”, published by Centro Primo Levi.

We talked about his long career as a scientist, businessman, investor, and philanthropist; and about his triple identity as a Jew, an Italian and an American.

Viterbi was born in Bergamo in 1935, but he and his family left Italy in 1939 after the racial laws against Jews. He grew up in Boston, studied Electrical engineering at MIT, then Digital communication at the University of Southern California. He is famous for his Viterbi Algorithm (1967) and for being the co-founder of Qualcomm (1985), one of the largest tech companies in the world. Qualcomm’s core technology for mobile phone communications has bettered the lives of billions: it relies on a method Viterbi developed for separating information from background noise. All four international standards for third-generation digital cellular communications use the Viterbi Algorithm, as do most digital satellite communication systems. That’s why Viterbi was awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science by the President of US.

From March 2000 on Viterbi has been “an amateur venture capitalist”, investing in about 40 startups, with “a respectable outcome”, he explains in his memoir. About his experience as a VC he writes: “The ‘club’ of technology venture investors, of which I had become an unofficial member, is motivated first and foremost by making money and far less by the excitement of bringing forth new products and services through scientific and technological prowess”.

Which emerging technology is Viterbi more excited about? He said that the Internet of Things is maybe the most interesting technology today, but it implies a lot of problems about cyber security.

I’m so sad that Cella Irvine died. Together with Alessandro Piol, in 1994 she was one of the founders of the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), which is the NY Tech Meetup’s ancestor, as we wrote in “Tech and the City”.

I remember interviewing her for our book: being one of the very few women active in the NYC tech community, more than 20 years ago, she had very interesting insights into what it means “work-life balance” in this industry. She didn’t believe such a balance is possible, and instead she chose to alternate work and staying at home to raise her children.

I was also struck by her sensible and contrarian look at the enthusiasm for the new booming season of startups. This is what she told us, from “Tech and the City”, chapter 14 – “City of Women”:

<<Irvine wonders whether, behind the increased number of startups created by women, there isn’t just a bad labor market and the difficulty of finding “normal” jobs. “There is a wave of startups right now that are focused on beauty and fashion, typically with an e-commerce angle, and many of them are started by well-dressed, sophisticated, highly educated women,” says Irvine says. “Now, I think it would be interesting to dig into why that is happening, including a view on how much of that stems from managing a poor employment environment, and how much of it really is a change in how comfortable women feel about being entrepreneurs.”>>

My comment was: <<But even if it were so, it would confirm women’s ability to transform a problem into an opportunity.>>

Anyway, I think that her skeptical attitude is needed to cool down the eccessive hype about startups.

Ciao Irvine!

 

Cella Irvine

Cella Irvine

Uno scienziato italiano ha aperto una nuova strada per sconfiggere il cancro e ha fondato una startup per rendere disponibili sul mercato i risultati della sua ricerca. E’ Andrea Califano, il chairman del Dipartimento di Biologia dei sistemi alla Columbia university, e la sua startup e’  DarwinHealth, fondata lo scorso febbraio insieme al ceo, Gideon Bosker.

 

Andrea Califano, the founding director and chair of the Columbia Department of Systems Biology

Andrea Califano, the founding director and chair of the Columbia Department of Systems Biology

“Finora  la medicina di precisione contro il cancro e’ stata  basata sullo studio delle mutazioni genetiche delle cellule tumorali – spiega a CorrierEconomia Califano, dal suo laboratorio alla Columbia -. Sfortunatamente questo approccio si e’ rivelato meno ‘preciso’ di quanto si sperasse: secondo i dati più recenti, solo il 5-11% dei pazienti curati su base genetica risponde in modo ‘clinicamente rilevante’ e molti di questi solo per un periodo di tempo limitato”.
Da 13 anni il metodo di ricerca avviato da Califano alla Columbia usa invece la matematica e la fisica per indagare come funzionano le cellule tumorali. “E’ come studiare gli ingranaggi di un orologio – racconta lo scienziato -. Prendiamo dati molecolari su centinaia di pazienti e li mettiamo nel nostro supercomputer, tra i più grandi al mondo per questo tipo di ricerca, per creare modelli con milioni di interazioni fra le biomolecole. Abbiamo cosi’ scoperto che tutti i tumori, dal linfoma alla leucemia, dal cancro alla prostata a quello al seno, hanno la stessa architettura: le mutazioni attivano sempre lo stesso piccolo gruppo di proteine che chiamiamo ‘regolatori chiave’ e che costituiscono la ‘cabina di regia’ del tumore. Infatti abbiamo dimostrato in decine di pubblicazioni che se si bloccano queste proteine, si ferma il cancro”.
La squadra di ricercatori guidata da Califano sta gia’ mettendo in pratica il nuovo metodo con i pazienti che decidono di partecipare ad un esperimento clinico chiamato “N of 1”: il malato di cancro si sottopone a una biopsia, le cellule vengono analizzate dal supercomputer che individua i regolatori chiave del paziente e i farmaci che li bloccano, sia quelli gia’ approvati dall’autorità americana Fda sia quelli in studi clinici. Poi le cellule tumorali vengono trapiantate nei topi per verificare l’efficacia di queste predizioni.
“I risultati sui primi sei tumori sono molto confortanti – dice Califano -. Nel peggiore dei casi, due medicine su cinque hanno fermato il tumore, nei casi migliori tutte e le sei le medicine selezionate dal computer hanno funzionato. E si trattava di tumori gravissimi, considerati finora incurabili”.
Califano, 55 anni, e’ un pioniere dell’approccio matematico allo studio dei tumori: ci lavora fin da quando nel 1990 era entrato in Ibm, al Centro di ricerca TJ Watson. Ha una laurea in Fisica conseguita all’Università di Firenze e vive negli Stati Uniti dal 1986, quando andò al Mit di Boston per una specializzazione post-laurea.
I brevetti dei sui nuovi metodi ce li ha DarwinHealth, la startup nata e tuttora ospitata nell’incubatore di tecnologia e scienza biomedica della Columbia, che ne possiede il 5% del capitale e parteciperà ai futuri profitti, secondo il modello di trasferimento tecnologico comune alle università statunitensi.
“DarwinHealth lavora su due piani – spiega Califano -: con le case farmaceutiche per scoprire nuovi impieghi delle medicine esistenti e svilupparne di nuove; e con i grandi centri di ricerca medica nel mondo per sviluppare studi clinici basati sulla nostra tecnologia”.
  A pochi mesi dalla nascita, la startup ha gia’ un cash-flow positivo. E’ molto snella, con quattro impiegati, oltre ai due fondatori, e utilizza il Laboratorio di Biologia dei sistemi della Columbia, pagando i suoi servizi. Ma il potenziale di crescita e’ enorme. Basti dire che Roche, leader mondiale nelle cure oncologiche, l’anno scorso ha comprato per 1 miliardo di dollari la maggioranza di Foundation medicine, una società che usa l’approccio più tradizionale, rispetto a quello di DarwinHealth, basato sulle mutazioni genetiche.

(articolo originariamente pubblicato su CorrierEconomia, 31 ottobre 2016)

“It was a very good first quarter for venture capital-backed companies in New York. For companies in California and Massachusetts, not so much – writes CRAIN’S New York Business -. Bucking a national downturn that began late last year, VC spending in New York totaled $2.6 billion, a 76% spike over the previous quarter and a 75% improvement over the same period a year ago. That’s according to the Q1 2016 Venture Pulse Report from CB Insights and KPMG.”

In particular: “New York’s good fortune hinged partly on mega deals for WeWork ($430 million), Oscar Health Insurance ($400 million) and Flatiron Health ($175 million). But even without those deals it would have pulled ahead of previous quarters.”

PIOL- iItaly 27-2-16 pag 1PIOL- iItaly 27-2-16 pag 2 PIOL- iItaly 27-2-16 pag 3

NYC tech startups in 2015 received $5.95 billion in venture-capital funding up 62% from 2014. “Startups are increasingly seeing the city as a viable place to put down roots, citing a growing pool of talent and an urban environment attractive to young developers,” the WSJ points out.
Of the 395 venture-capital deals in 2015, 143 were in software, 83 in media and entertainment, and 60 in information-technology services, according to the the last report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association’s MoneyTree. Among the smaller industry categories, 10 deals were in biotechnology, two in health-care services and one in medical devices and equipment.

Indeed biotech and life sciences are the two industries where NYC potential has not been developed yet. That was one of the most interesting issues emerging from “Hacking NYC: Beyond the Rise of the NYC Startup Ecosystem”, the conversation organized by the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia Technology Ventures and Columbia Entrepreneurship, which took place last January 12.
“Biotech and life sciences startups are growing in NYC”, said Orin Herskowitz, VP of Intellectual Property and Tech Transfer for Columbia University and Executive Director of Columbia Technology Ventures, who moderated the conversation and mentioned impressive data about the city’s ecosystem (he also said that “Tech and the City” is his “bible”: thanks!). For example there are now 150 incubators and co-working spaces in the city, and at Columbia there are 400 requests per year for tech transfer.
“NYC has so many big hospitals and medical research centers, but not so many startups in this field. Maybe biotech and life sciences startups will lead the next boom”, observed Steve Blank, recently named Columbia University Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship, and author of the bestseller “The Startup Owner’s Manual”.
Maria Gotsch, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership Fund for New York City (PFNYC), agreed: “Medical research is the asset most undervalued and underutilized.” That’s why the PFNYC has launched programs that can help seed new industries, such as the New York Digital Health accelerator and the BioAccelerate Prize, as Maria Gotsch explained already in “Tech and the City” (chapter 19, “Beyond Consumer Web, What Other Technologies are Promising in NY?”).
Maria Torres-Springer, the President and CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), stressed the continuity between the Bloomberg and the de Blasio administration in fostering the tech community in NYC. “The only difference is that the current Mayor wants to give New Yorkers more opportunities to take advantage of this boom”, she told me. Hence his emphasis on tech educations in schools, so that young people can be ready to work in the city’s tech companies.

Good news for startups! New York City ranked first in a survey of 40 global cities, in the way it utilizes technology to foster an innovative economy. Read what NYCEDC’s Blog writes:

In its first ever study of economic innovation, City Initiatives for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CITIE) named New York City #1 in the world for a public policy ecosystem that is supportive of startups. Placing ahead of London, Helsinki, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, New York City’s long-term investment in tech appears to have paid off. The 56-page study, sponsored by British charity Nesta, management consultancy firm Accenture, and Future Cities Catapult, analyzed 40 international cities in dimensions including “openness, infrastructure, and leadership.”

New York City’s greatest strength was its role as a strategist, developing world-class infrastructure that allows for clear, consistent development and innovation. The NYCEDC-led Applied Sciences Initiative, based at the Cornell-Tech Campus, helped carve out a physical campus that helped anchor, and demonstrated the City’s commitment to the tech sector.

“New York City prioritized innovation and entrepreneurship earlier than other comparable cities, [taking] an extremely active stance towards its start-up and tech communities over the last few years.”

2015 CITIE Study

The City also ranked highly as an advocate, customer, host, investor, “digital governor” (enabling citizens’ use of tech through open data programs like the BigApps competition), and “datavore” (optimizing city services and maintaining open communication with the public).

The report found New York City’s only shortcoming to be the regulation of some of the technology it otherwise encourages. Cities around the world face the common challenge of regulating newer business models in the sharing economy. Particular praise was given to New York City’s investment in its youth, highlighting apprenticeships in the tech industry and the use of coding courses in New York City school curriculums as evidence of Mayor de Blasio’s goal of making the tech sector more inclusive and accessible.

“As New York City’s relatively young tech sector continues to grow,” the report concludes, “the City can feel confident that it is doing its bit to provide the right conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish.”

(Originally published on StartupItalia! )

Do you have an American Dream? You may come to New York and see how difficult or easy it is to pursue it, thanks to ICE’s hospitality. In fact the Italian Trade Commission has opened its doors to Italian startups willing to test the water.

It’s part of its new commitment to help Italian startups to enter the American market.

That’s good news to begin the new year with, while on the other hand the project of creating a space in New York for European startups has been stalled. 

First, the good news. The Italian Trade Commission has a prestigious location in New York, a townhouse on 67th street, close to Fifth Avenue. The director Pier Paolo Celeste, who is also the coordinator of all ICE offices in the US, has just announced the launch of the bimonthly newsletter “SUV –StartUp Value”. The goal is to inform about the high-tech sector in North America.

“We will tell you the sentiment from NYC and Los Angeles, the two areas that are more involved in technology innovation – explained Mr. Celeste -. We’ll tell you which actions are the most effective in order to be heard in the cradle of startups. We’ll inform about the most important initiatives in this industry such as trade shows, conferences, job markets and so on”.

The first issue of the newsletter will be out in February: you may receive it sending an email to newyork@ice.it.

 

You can also send ideas, suggestions and questions to suvnewsletter@ice.it. And – as I wrote earlier – you may ask to be hosted for a while at ICE’s offices in New York. The space is limited but free, and some Italians have already taken advantage of this opportunity, for example the founders of Qwikword, a “new social media app” that launched its operations last October.

Now, the bad news. You may remember that in November 2013 Talent Garden was one of the 20 finalists at the H.E.L.M.  (Hire + Expand in Lower Manhattan) competition. Since then Elio Narciso has been trying to find partners to open the first international co-working space in New York. Last year the idea was to work with the European American Chambers of Commerce in the United States (EACC) and create a “Euro Garden” or “The leading hub for European entrepreneurs in the US”.

Talent Garden and the EACC tried to get funding and space from the new START-UP NY program launched in 2014 by the New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: the creation of tax-free zones across the state for new and expanding businesses. But they were offered locations far away from New York City, because the program wants to stimulate economic growth in underdeveloped areas upstate NY. Besides, the program offers tax incentives, but not cash money. Actually, according to some critics, Cuomo’s startup program has not been a great success so far, that’s why “the Empire State Development Corp. quietly announced it’s delaying its promised report on START-UP NY by four months”, wrote Claudia Tenney on the New York Post.

Anyway, at this point the Euro Garden is still a dream, but not dead yet. In four weeks or so the EACC board will meet to discuss the project again and see if it is feasible with private funding.

Qwikword was founded in 2013 by Gianmarco Crismale, Fulvio Menegozzo, Matteo Pivetta, Alberto Grimaldi and Luca Monfredo, and because of its global ambitions it chose to be headquartered in New York City with satellite offices located in Italy and Hong Kong.

(Originally posted on StartupItalia!)

Italian tech entrepreneurs and all non US startups thinking of coming to New York have a new friend in the Big Apple: Gianluca Galletto, who has just been appointed Director of International Affairs at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Gianluca was born in Taranto, 45 years ago. He’s been a New Yorker since 1998, now he lives in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and he holds both Italian and US citizenship. “This is my dream job: I can use my experience in finance and my passion for policy making, working for a public administration I believe in”, he explained to me from his office, Downtown Manhattan.

NYCEDC is a not-for- profit entity that reports directly to the Mayor’s Office and is responsible for encouraging the economic development of the city. It’s organized like a private business and is always interacting with the private sector. It has been the catalyst of initiatives such as the creation of Cornell Tech in New York. One of the divisions of NYCEDC is the Center for Economic Transformation (CET), a bridge between Government and private entrepreneurs, including those in the high-tech sector. It is CET that has helped launch 15 startup incubators across New York City’s five boroughs.

 

Its role is to assist all the stakeholders, including the building managers and the operators who want to manage an incubator: it gives some public money only to facilitate the startup phase, while responsibility for the functioning of the incubator, and its profit and loss, is up to the private partners, which the CET continues to monitor as long as it is needed.

EDC’s mission is inclusive growth

Gianluca’s office, with a staff of four people, is part of CET. He oversees the international programs that support the three pillar strategy of NYCEDC: physical transformation, industry transformation through innovation and entrepreneurship, income mobility and reduction of income inequality. Gianluca stresses that under Mayor de Blasio NYC «EDC’s mission is “inclusive growth”.

New York attracts the best talents from all over the world already, but it’s never enough according to Gianluca: global competition is growing too, and other cities such as London, Dubai, Hong Kong are competing to become international hubs for innovation and for the tech industry. “My task will be to leverage NYC brand to attract even more talents, startups, direct investments from abroad,” goes on Gianluca.

Right now Gianluca is elaborating his strategic plan and thinking of new ideas. One is to find new ways to involve also non American partners in creating incubators. Another one is to increase the size and depth of “World to NYC” programs, which are currently two per year. He wants to combine them into one much larger program per year with a multi-sector focus. He’s also thinking of organizing educational and training programs such as exchanges of students, young entrepreneurs and civil servants between NYC and non US cities. In fact Gianluca believes that civil servants should go and learn from other experiences, and NYC should exchange best practices with other cities.

Keeping the NYC’s tech industry growing

Gianluca’s intention is to work closely with other NYC agencies, including the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, which operates from the United Nations headquarters and takes care of relationships with other countries’ representatives; and NYC & Company, the City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization. He’ll work also with the Empire State Development (ESD), the New York State’s chief economic development agency, which has just launched the START-UP NY initiative to create tax free communities for new and expanding businesses on SUNY and other university campuses across the state.

 

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is a tech entrepreneur himself, played a great role in fostering the city’s tech industry in order to re-launch the economy after the 2008 financial crisis. After him, the city’s startup community didn’t know what to expect from the new Mayor. “De Blasio is very committed to keeping the city’s tech industry growing – says Gianluca -. He has just appointed the first ever Chief Technology Officer of the City, Minerva Tantoco, a veteran of the tech industry who has worked with both startups and large enterprises over the last 25 years, and we have just launched the new website Digital.nyc”. The latter is “The Hub for tech and startup” or “the result of a partnership between NYCEDC and NYC-based Gust to create a one-stop-shop for all things tech in New York City” (as you can read here).

Galletto’s career

Gianluca came to the US in 1996 to study international Economics at Yale with a Fulbright scholarship. Previously he had studied Economics, Business and Law at Università Bocconi in Milan. From 1993 to 1996 he worked in Brussels, Belgium, for the European Commission and private clients.

At Yale Gianluca found a great mentor, Professor Emeritus of Political Science & Management Joseph LaPalombara and that changed his vision of the world: that’s why he decided he wanted to stay in the US and to live in NYC. After graduating at Yale in ’98, Gianluca got a job in New York at the global credit asset manager Muzinich & Co, where he worked until 2009. Then he set up his consulting firm and from 2011 until he joined NYC EDC, Gianluca was also the co-lead/Senior Advisor of Italian Business & Investment Initiative (IB&II), an organization that is “committed to promoting Italy’s start-ups & small and medium size enterprises” and that is a partner of Mind the Bridge.

Gianluca’s passion has always been politics and policy. He met Bill de Blasio while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2000, when she was running for senator. When Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor, Gianluca thought it was his occasion to contribute to the new administration, putting to work his international experience in business. Now his dream has come true.