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Is the coronavirus economic crisis similar to those triggered by the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the financial collapse 2008?
If true, it should inspire us a pinch of optimism: from those crises new ideas emerged, startups that became a great success, because they responded to real needs and had to focus their resources well in a difficult climate, with little money available.

“9/11 inspired innovation” was the headline of a FastCompany article on 9/9/11

An example? Meetup, born from the rubble of the Twin Towers to help people organize themselves in communities based on shared interests: today it has 44 million members in 2,000 cities in 190 countries in the world, and is part of the AlleyCorp group led by one of the veterans of the New York startups , Kevin Ryan.

Another example is Kickstarter, the platform where creatives from all sectors seek lenders for their projects: it was born on April 28, 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. In recent years, 18 million people have used it to make their “dreams” come true, raising $5 billion for nearly 200,000 projects.

Here is the story of Meetup as Scott Heiferman told us in “Tech and the City”.

But a far more devastating tragedy still was to befall New York and Silicon Alley: the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. An absolute evil that, however unintentionally, generated a good seed.
Scott Heiferman: “I was on a bus, going from the East Village to my house in NoHo that morning. I heard the news on the radio of the first aircraft hitting the Twin Towers and I decided to go on the roof of my apartment building. I arrived a few seconds after the second plane had hit. And then I lived through this experience I often talk about, of having more conversations and talking to more people in the hours and days after 9/11 than I had in all my previous years in New York. And that was intriguing because until then I had no particular interest in my local community. After 9/11, I became interested in the simple pleasure of talking to neighbors, to get to know them. And I understood how powerful people can be when they get organized. In those days we saw lots of vigils and support groups and I became interested in how people can get to know more neighbors, how in the future they could organize local communities about anything, and that led to Meetup: use the Internet to organize individuals in a community. A concept that then, well ahead of Facebook and the emergence of the term ‘social media’, seemed ridiculous.”

Manufacturing is alive in NYC, it’s smart and helping fight Covid-19.
A new type of low-cost ventilator – priced at $3,300 vs standard ventilators, which typically cost more than $30,000 – has been developed in only one month thanks to two New York based entrepreneurs: Scott Cohen, co-founder of the technology center New Lab, which is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Marcel Botha, founder and CEO of 10XBeta, a “product development firm creating future-shifting products where speed-to-market is paramount,” which is in the New Lab.

The Spiro Wave, a low-cost automatic resuscitator, Made in NYC

Early March, Cohen and Botha got a call from an Italian friend warning that a shortage of ventilators was a critical problem in Italy, and that it soon would be in the United States, too, write the New York Times. So Cohen and Botha accepted the challenge to urgently build a ventilator: first, they found a design that was developed in 2010 by the class of Alex Slocum, a renowned mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and got Mr. Slocum and a group of other M.I.T. faculty and students work to upgrade the design to help coronavirus patients. Second, they found the place where to buld the ventilator: a former perfume factory in Long Island City, Queens, that is now home to a high-tech manufacturer, Boyce Technologies: it’s a 100,000-square-foot facility that combines engineering and production with robots, a clean room, and circuitry and software design departments.

Boyce Technologies Pearson Place View

Cohen and Botha also convinced the New York City’s Economic Development Corporation – an agency of the city government – to back the project: NYCEDC gave the startup a $100,000 research grant and then a nearly $10 million agreement to buy 3,000 of the basic ventilators.
The Food and Drug Administration has already allowed the use of the Spiro wave under FDA Emergency Use Authorization during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In the meantime New York city’s situation is getting better, hospital admissions are trending down, and intensive-care units seem to have enough ventilators. So the Spiro Wave can be send to other parts of the US in need or even abroad.

You can say that the NYC startup community is able and willing to BUILD, as Marc Andreessen encourages America to do.

Boyce Technologies

Its worldwide headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York and its heart is in Italy: Fluidmesh – that was founded in 2005 by four Italian engineers, the brothers Umberto and Cosimo Malesci with their friends Torquato Bertani and Andrea Orioli – is being acquired by US tech giant Cisco.
“Our goal was to reliably deliver fiber-like performance via unlicensed wireless spectrum – providing connectivity for mission critical video, voice, and data,” reads Fluidmesh website. “Fluidmesh wireless products are the enablers of outdoor and large-scale applications of the Internet of Things: smart cities, urban video-surveillance, connected vehicles and trains, and industrial automation. Connecting things – it’s what we’re about!”.

Indeed its technology is successfully used by subway systems, ports and even mines. That’s why Cisco is interested in it. “Cisco will use Fluidmesh’s products – explains Liz Centoni, Senior Vice President and General Manager
Cisco Cloud, Compute, & IoT
– to extend its industrial wireless leadership position to on-the-move applications and where reliable backhaul is mission critical, including: – Rail and transportation: Provide high-speed and reliable connectivity between the trains and the trackside eliminating potential gaps in data transfer, all without the need to stop even when traveling at high speeds. – Mining operations: Improving worker safety with ultra-reliable communication systems for remote operations of mining equipment, eliminating the need to send workers into a potentially hazardous environment. – Manufacturing and industrial automation: Increased productivity with autonomous moving robots operating on a resilient and low-latency wireless network.”
The acquisition is expected to close in CYQ2 2020, subject to customary closing conditions and required regulatory approvals.

Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa

Fluidmesh has its European headquarters in Milan and a research team is Pisa, the Tuscan city famous for its University System specializing in computer science and technology research.

Data are so important to understand and fight coronavirus. The NYC based startup Cuebiq is helping thanks to its “COVID-19 Mobility Insights“: “We understand this is a tough time for businesses as well as consumers. As part of our commitment to sharing data for the greater good, Cuebiq is providing free access to mobility and store visitation patterns during the COVID-19 crisis to help businesses as they look to adjust their strategies to meet this new and uncertain market.”

The NYTimes used Cuebiq data to analyze how the stay-at-home orders have or have not halted travel for Americans. “The divide in travel patterns, based on anonymous cellphone data from 15 million people, suggests that Americans in wide swaths of the West, Northeast and Midwest have complied with orders from state and local officials to stay home. Disease experts who reviewed the results say those reductions in travel — to less than a mile a day, on average, from about five miles — may be enough to sharply curb the spread of the coronavirus in those regions, at least for now.”

Cuebiq’s data were used also in Italy by the University of Turin to study Italians’ movements during the coronavirus emergency.

Cuebiq is an offline intelligence and measurement company helping marketers understand the true impact of their cross-channel advertising in the offline world. Four young Italians – CEO Antonio Tomarchio and EVP of Product Ecosystem William Nespoli, both alumni of Politecnico di Milano, with Chief Information Security Officer Walter Ferrara and Chief Innovation Officer Filippo Privitera – founded the company in Milan in 2015. They decided to have their headquarters in New York to develop the business on a global scale, while maintaining R&D in Milan. Right now they are hiring both in the US and in Italy.

From left, courtesy of StartupItalia: Filippo Privitera, William Nespoli, Antonio Tomarchio, and Walter Ferrara

Did you know that is Staten Island’s largest private sector employer? Since 2017 Jeff Bezos’s company operates a $100 million, 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center that employs a 4,500 full-time workforce. Now has leased a second warehouse in the borough for distribution purposes. The new 450,000-square-foot building will be on Staten Island’s West Shore in Matrix Global Logistics Park, next to the first one.

Last year, Amazon abandoned its plans to locate a second headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City after facing a backlash over a state and city package of up to $3 billion in financial incentives. Although the company pulled the plug on that project, it said it would continue to add jobs in New York City, writes the WSJ.

Seven years ago, when we wrote “Tech and the City”, Staten Island barely existed on the digital map of New York. <<It’s too “uncool,” – we noted. – It has no appeal for the young people who are at the core of the metropolitan startups.>> The Staten Island’s best-known startup was the one founded in 1871 by Antonio Meucci, the Italian inventor of the telephone: it was a failure! We recommended a visit to Meucci’s museum to understand that even the most brilliant idea is useless unless it can find the capital to finance it.

Congrats to the Italian startups Avatr, Caracol, Criptalia, Cydera, Doralia , GardenStuff concluding 3 month training at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator led by Murat Aktihanoglu and Iynna Halilou with #GlobalStartupProgram launched by Michele Geraci at Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico, and managed in NYC by ITAtradeagency.

They are ready to grow business in America with support by Consulate General of Italy in New York and Italian Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Italian Consul General Francesco Genuardi addressing the Italian startups

Here you are their pitches

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Criptalia, crowdlending with blockchain

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Avatr, telemedicine AI platform

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
GardenStuff, gardening IOT system

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Cydera, health care tech device

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Caracol, 3D printing and robotic manufacturing

Posted by Maria Teresa Cometto on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Doralia, Italian jewelry ecommerce

“State and city officials, along with business leaders, have for years pushed to take advantage of the expertise at hospitals and universities in the area and diversify the local economy with biotech.”, write the Wall Street Journal today. “Yet efforts have faced barriers including scarce, costly real estate and a laboratory’s specialized ventilation and other needs, as well as a smaller pool of health-care venture investors compared with Boston and San Francisco.”

But yesterday health-care investment firm Deerfield Management Co. announced a move that could indeed help New York become a hub for the biotech industry. Deerfield “is investing $635 million to create a transformative life sciences campus in New York City, designed to integrate the capabilities of innovators from academia, government, industry and the not-for-profit sectors to tackle unmet needs in healthcare. Deerfield additionally announced that it intends to commit more than $2 billion in research and seed funding by 2030 to develop much-needed new and innovative medicines and treatment solutions.”

Deerfield has acquired the 345 Park Avenue South property (more than 300,000 square feet) that will become a “NYCLifeSci campus”.

345 Park Avenue South 

The building construction and programming is being backed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and Industrial Development Agency. It is expected to be in move-in ready condition for Deerfield and other innovators in healthcare by early 2021.

Deerfield, which manages nearly $10 billion, said it is aiming to repeat the success of the Alexandria Center for Life Science, among the first projects to bring drug-company laboratory research to New York City.

“Yet challenges remain for New York,” points out the WSJ: “San Francisco and Boston-area companies received more than two-thirds of life-science venture capital in 2017, and more than twice the number of life-science doctorates are earned annually in the Boston area than in New York, according to research by real-estate firm JLL.”

Since last July 15, seven Italian startup have been “training” at ERA – the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York. They are into an intensive three months training, mentorship and networking program that is curated by the co-founder and managing partner of ERA, Murat Aktihanoglu.

The seven startups are part of the Global Startup Program that was created by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Italian Trade Agency to support innovative Italian startups interested in entering the US market and, as such, foster new business opportunities and attract international investments in Italy.

The program in NYC will finish on October 4. On September 17, from 6 to 8 PM at the Italian Consulate in NYC 690 Park Avenue – the seven startup will show & tell what they have accomplished so far. It will also be the occasion for a discussion about the tech community in New York, and the opportunities it offers to startups from abroad. These are the panelists: Iynna Halilou, ERA’s Global Program Manager; Jeffrey Libshutz, a managing partner at the private equity firm ArmaVir and vice chairman at the Italian Italian fixed wireless broadband provider Linkem; and Valentina Corbetta, a digital entrepreneur with strong Italian roots based in New York, founder of C.R.E.W Collective and co-founder of Family Collective and Hhype Collective.

Here you are the seven startups:

Avatr is a Personal Artificial Intelligence tool that combines different data streams from individuals and creates a single digital representation for each person, the Avatr profile. Patients can share their digital profile with doctors and health professionals, benefiting from highly personalized and enhanced medical services.

Caracol is a 3D Printing and Robotics Automation Systems company, able to work above the limits of traditional 3D printing using an extensive range of technologies and services, combining design and innovative materials to hardware and software for the industrial and the design sector.

Criptalia is an investment and crowdlending platform based on a peer-to-peer blockchain technology, serving companies and banks. This platform helps creating, exchanging and managing traditional financial assets such as debt, equity and commodities, and tokenizing them on a public blockchain.

Cydera is an innovative startup aiming to bring health services closer to the people, using new technologies and telecommunications. It operates in the healthcare industry, with the expertise of specialists, technicians in the medical and IT sectors, and collaborations with leading partners in the supply of hardware-software systems applied to healthcare. is an e-commerce platform focussed on Made in Italy jewelry. Customers buy directly from goldsmiths (jewelery artisans) without intermediaries. Doralia works with a large number of Italian producers offering, both in the European and US markets, a comprehensive service and competitive prices for the most refined jewels in the world.

Plus Biomedicals is a biomedical startup offering an innovative new hair wash basin that, thanks to a multi-leaning arm, effectively addressing the needs of people with reduced mobility.
The main market for this product are healthcare companies, nursing homes, retirement homes, home care providers and end users.

Gardenstuff and Soluzioni Tirinnanziis study and develop environmental integration systems while creating a sustainable urban ecosystem. Via the portal, an online sales platform for innovative gardening products, this start-up offers its own branded products featuring and inspired by IOT (Internet of Things).

Happy birthday to Kickstarter that has just turned 10! In ten years this NYC company has helped bring 160,000 creative projects to life together with 16 million backers and creators.

Among the projects that were funded on Kickstarter: the game Cards against humanity; Beryl, a bike light laser that makes cyclists more visible at night; the investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat.

The project that I’m backing right now is “My Love Affair With Marriage“: Signe Baumane’s new animated feature film that infuses music and neuroscience into a personal story of love, gender and marriage.

This is the story of how Kickstarter was born, as we told it in “Tech and the City” (2013): <<The idea of founding it came to Perry Chen while he was trying to organize a concert. Chen, a fan of electronic music, in 2002 lived in New Orleans. He realized he needed a few thousand dollars, which he did not have, nor did he want to borrow money with the risk of not having enough of an audience to pay back his expenses. The solution would be—he thought then—to know beforehand how many people were willing to pay for tickets. Seven years of “wandering” went by from idea to startup, during which Chen was between New Orleans—the city of music and artistic entertainment—and New York—the city of “ambition,” as 36-years-old Chen likes to say. He found his partners by accident, while he was working as a waiter at a restaurant in Brooklyn: Yancey Strickler, a music journalist, and Charles Adler, a designer. The first investor was the actor David Cross, a cousin of a friend of Chen’s, who was followed by other friends in the arts.

Not surprisingly, music or movie production projects are the most popular on Kickstarter. (…) The mechanism is simple: anyone who has a project that fits Kickstarter’s guidelines (excluding investments, philanthropy and now some product categories) can submit it on the site explaining how much money it needs to raise and what it expects to give in return for the patron’s support (an autographed and personalized copy of the book being written, for instance); the idea has 60 days to collect enough commitments and, if it reaches its goal, the project is funded and the supporters’ credit cards are charged. Transparent and without risk for everyone involved. The average project costs $10,000, and the most common donation is around $10. But some initiatives have already collected over one million dollars. (…)

Chen describes Kickstarter as something between altruism and capitalism. People commit to contributing money not hoping for a gain, but because they like the idea or the people behind it; as compensation you expect an enjoyable experience or the satisfaction of having participated in the birth of a cool product. Kickstarter, on the other hand, is not a nonprofit organization: it is in the black, collecting 5% of the funds raised. And it counts among its backers the cream of American angel investors and venture capital funds, from Scott Heiferman of Meetup, to Jack Dorsey of Twitter, to Fred Wilson and Union Square Ventures, for a total of $10 million.

At the moment design and technology projects offered on Kickstarter account for only 5% of the total, but that number is growing quickly. It is a way for inventors to test their prototypes while minimizing risk and costs, turning directly to consumers and skipping traditional middlemen such as banks, who are more and more reluctant to provide funding. (…) >>

Our friend Paolo Merialdo, professor at the Engineering Department of the Roma 3 University, is the co-founder of InnovAction Lab, a program for college students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs: in 4 years more than 800 students have been part of this program and more than 40 startups have been founded thanks of it. InnovAction Lab has evolved and is now an incubator: “Dock3 – the Startup Lab”.

Paolo almost every year brings some of his students to New York to learn about our startup community. 

Giuliano Iacobelli (third from left) with co-founder Nicola Mattina (fourth) and the team of Stamplay, the Italian startup bought by Apple

It’s great to know that one of the startups that were incubated by Dock3 was recently acquired by Apple. The startup is Stamplay and its focus – according to the co-founder Giuliano Iacobelli – is “Lego for APIs,” enabling a business’ developers to more simply connect both internal and external APIs to apps — effectively, enabling one app to offer features supplied by different developers. 

Stamplay won Visa’s Everywhere Initiative API contest in 2016, and it was entrusted with an unspecified development project for the payments giant. Its experience in the financial payments industry may be the reason why Apple bought it (paying 5 million euros, according to rumors) , because digital payments are part of the services that are getting more and more important for Apple.

We wish all the best to Giuliano, who is in San Francisco: maybe he has already met the most important Italian working in Cupertino, Apple CFO Luca Maestri, and he has asked him some good advice…