Hurry up: March 31st is the deadline for the Global Industry Challenge

(article first published on StartupItalia!) If you are an innovative new manufacturing company, hurry up: you have time until March 31 to enter the Global Industry Challenge. It’s a program organized by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) “geared towards companies with a customer-ready product/service, an established market in their home country/region, the financial capability to seriously enter the US market, and is already generating revenue”.

The “challenge” is open to startups from around the world: only the best 15 will win a three day full immersion into NYC’s manufacturing-tech ecosystem; they’ll “connect with large and small stakeholders in the new manufacturing area”, with a chance “to build partnerships with local and national firms”. Be aware that “preference will be given to applicants that clearly display an interest in and a readiness to expand their operation into NYC”.

The Big Apple is indeed emerging as leader in new manufacturing thanks to 3D printing. Many successful NYC startups are kind of a “cult” for the maker movement, such as the creator of low-cost 3D printer Makerbot, which was bought last year by Stratasys for $604 million; Quirky, the platform for inventors of consumer electronics; Adafruit Industries, the maker of DIY electronics kits founded by founded by Limor “Ladyada” Fried; and Shapeways, which in October 2012 opened the “Factory of the Future,” a new 3D Printing manufacturing facility in Long Island City, Queens.

The latter is a great example of a startup that was born in Europe and then moved its headquarters to NYC in order to expand, getting funds and developing new markets. Peter Weijmarshausen, co-founder and CEO, is a Dutch entrepreneur who in 2007 got the chance to work in the Philips Lifestyle Incubator (PLI) in Eindhoven on a 3D printer project. A year later, Shapeways was created and in 2010 it left the incubator and moved to NYC. Shapeways “helps make and sell things,” from really small items as a ring, to much larger ones as a chair with more than 30 material options, from plastic to ceramics, from steel to silver, from nylon to glass. The company offers 3D software to design them, the hardware needed to make them, and a virtual store to sell them from. It currently employs 80 people, it has printed more than 1,000,000 products to date, it serves 10,000 independently run shops and these shop owners earned $500,000 income in 2013. Last year Shapeways got a $30 million Series C round of financing, led by Andreessen Horowitz, which brought total funding to $47.3; other investors are Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital. Two facts made Weijmarshausen decide to move to NYC: realizing that many of his customers and designers were in the U.S., and finding very difficult to get new funds in Europe after the economic crisis of 2008. Moreover, in NYC Weijmarshausen found the right “mindset” for a startup to thrive: “It’s easy to meet interesting people who understand the business, design and high-tech. And everyone works together with an open spirit” (from Tech and the City, pag. 125).

Besides the Global Industry Challenge, NYCEDC offers other programs to international entrepreneurs. One is the annual competition NYC Next Idea: applicants have to develop business plans that can be launched in NYC. Finalist teams win an all-expense paid trip to New York City to present their idea to a prestigious panel of judges who will decide the prize winners. Prizes include a cash pool of $35,000, free workspace in NYC, pro bono legal advice, and mentorship from the New York City venture capital and startup community. The 2014 edition got over 240 ideas submitted from 51 countries. Out of the six finalist teams, two were from Germany, one from UK-USA, and three were American.

The most prestigious and selective program is NYC Venture Fellows, a year-long fellowship program that “provides successful entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their ventures by connecting them with mentors from leading companies and providing exclusive CEO-level networking and educational opportunities”. The 2014 Class of NYC Venture Fellows includes 28 entrepreneurs from five different countries, and from a diverse cross-section of industries such as media, enterprise software, biotech, education, financial services, and real estate.

None is from Italy. Why can’t you try and get into the next edition?


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