Student Start-ups Getting A Lift At Cornell Tech
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Student Start-ups Getting A Lift At Cornell Tech

Runway Startup program luring high-tech entrepreneurs.

Israel Krush, middle, and Rom Cohen, left, with an unidentified colleague are behind Airbud Technologies, a voice platform for companies’ websites and mobile apps. They honed the idea at Cornell Tech. Courtesy of Israel Krush
Israel Krush, middle, and Rom Cohen, left, with an unidentified colleague are behind Airbud Technologies, a voice platform for companies’ websites and mobile apps. They honed the idea at Cornell Tech. Courtesy of Israel Krush

When Israel Krush, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, was looking for a master’s program, he quickly chose Cornell Tech, a graduate school that opened in 2013 and moved to Roosevelt Island in the East River four years later.

“New York City is the center of the world, and I wanted to experience what it would be like to work in such a diverse and huge business environment,” he explained. “I got both the regular MBA curriculum and a curriculum designed for the digital age.”

Similarly, Assaf Glazer, 41, who had graduated from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology with a Ph.D., saw enrolling in Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute Runway Startup Postdoc Program at Cornell Tech as “a natural transition to develop my product,” a baby monitor called Nanit, which uses an advanced computer vision and machine-learning algorithm to record babies’ sleep patterns to suggest ways to improve their sleep.

“They provided a lot of support about building a company and understanding your needs,” he said. “They helped with legal support, fundraising and access to researchers who would help you create the value. I worked with a leader in the field of pediatric sleep for almost three years, building on the work of others. I collaborated with them through my work at Jacobs. We raised nearly $40 million and are selling our products on Amazon and expanding to the United Kingdom. The software is done in Israel and the business is done here.”

The Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. The partnership between Cornell University and the Technion.
Wikimedia Commons

Glazer was a member of the first Jacobs Runway Startup program cohort in 2014; along with Cornell Tech as a whole, it was housed in Manhattan before the move to Roosevelt Island. There have now been six cohorts of students who have founded 25 companies— about 80 percent of which are still operational, according to Ron Brachman,  director of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and a professor of computer science at Cornell University.

“We believe it is unique as a post-doctoral program for Ph.D.s,” Brachman said. “The Runway Program is our crown jewel. But we also do something else — we engage deeply with the local industry and NGO communities. We are not an ivory tower but rather externally focused. … We are creating a new area of urban tech that is getting tremendous interest across the city and we are very excited about it. … And we are adding to the tech boom in New York City.”

Cornell Tech is a partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that was created as a result of a 2010 competition among universities to open an engineering-and-science center on city-owned land. The dream child of then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, it was created to diversify the city’s economic base, which had traditionally relied on Wall Street and other centers of finance.

As the winning entrant, the partnership won $100 million and opened in 2013 with seven students. This past school year, Cornell Tech had 350 students, including about 300 seeking master’s degrees and 50 post-doctoral students. Half of the faculty is from the Technion and the other half from Cornell.

Michael Waxman-Lenz, acting CEO of the American Technion Society, said the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute has “quickly become a dynamic incubator for cutting-edge technology and high-impact startups. Our students and graduates are helping grow New York’s tech scene by taking a global perspective on technology transfer, commercialization, entrepreneurship, and applying it to solve today’s problems with tomorrow’s solutions.”

Krush, the graduate of Cornell Tech’s master’s program, said he spent his first three months at Cornell’s upstate Ithaca campus learning such things as marketing, finance and operations. He then came to the Roosevelt Island campus to learn about digital marketing and entrepreneurial financing.

“I worked with other students here who are in different programs like computer science and electrical engineering and we worked on real projects and problems,” Krush said. “We also teamed up with the Parsons School of Design to get another perspective.”

After graduating last year, he and another student, Rom Cohen, who graduated with a master’s in computer science, began developing an idea they believed had commercial possibilities.

“We approached investors while we were still in school and we got accepted into the Entrepreneurs Round Table Accelerator,” he said, referring to a program that provides seed money and hands-on help to early-stage startups.

“They gave us $100,000 and they have an amazing network of 500 individuals all around New York City — from marketing experts and CEOs of companies to investors who helped us shape our idea and accelerate our growth,” Krush said of his company, Airbud Technologies, a voice platform that allows companies to add voice capabilities to their websites and mobile apps so they can have two-way conversations.

“We have already launched and it is being tested now on big enterprise clients, including some Fortune 500 companies,” Krush said.

Amir Reuveny, 37, is another Jacobs Runway graduate. He said the program helped him and co-founder Ahud Moredchai “bring the idea together, form a company, apply for patent applications and provide mentorship to start the company. We started at the beginning of 2017 and we left the campus last month because we got too big and needed an office for ourselves.”

Their company, Tatch, develops state-of-the-art smart patches for accurate and comprehensive sleep tests at home. The patches collect essential physiological data during sleep and communicate them wirelessly to sleep experts for clinical diagnosis, promising to make sleep medicine more seamless and accurate than ever before.

“My father had a sleep problem for 20 years and he never checked it because it was expensive and cumbersome,” said Reuveny. “We want to make it easier and accessible and easy to use at home. … It is estimated that 1 billion people — 13 percent of the world’s population — have sleep apnea.”

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