"We want to keep New York a place where innovators and entrepreneurs want to be....and the new businesses gathered here give us an exciting preview of the future of business in our city," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he welcomed the first tenants of the city's business incubator at 160 Varick Street at a press conference this morning.
The City of New York, the Real Estate Division of Trinity Church, NYU and NYU Polytechnic Institute collaborated to open this new business incubator on July 1. Twenty seven businesses were selected from the three hundred who applied for access to low cost office space, technical support and mentoring. The space can accommodate forty businesses and efforts are underway to screen and select additional tenants. In addition to the major benefit of office space, the Mayor called out the "stimulation that comes from being around motivated and creative people."
Businesses at the incubation center span a wide range of industries, products and services. They include:
- Hot list media, Inc. (www.thehotlist.com) a college-exclusive web application that helps students coordinate their social life by finding out what's going on,
- Paywithfriends (www.paywithfriends.com), an online financial service that provides a safe and easy way for people to buy together and for businesses to sell to groups
- NudeBar (www.nudebar.com), an undergarment company that serves women of color by providing "15 shades of nude."
- Fig Food Company (www.figfood.com), a "mission based food company focused on improving the health of people and the planet by promoting the consumption of plant-based food," and
- KeyWifi (www.keywifi.com), a new service that enables increased Internet access by allowing users with WiFi access to earn money through sharing that access using a simple web-based platform.
The Mayor is well known for his own very successful venture, created after he was fired from his financial services job. He characterized the formation and success of small businesses as "crucial to our recovery, as new products and services will power our economy." He went on to add that "we need jobs for people in all different types of fields so that we can diversity away from Wall Street. And remember that the average person who works on Wall Street made $50,000 a year."
When asked for his advice for start ups, he had a great deal to say based on his own experience: "Keeping your head positive is key. The biggest problem will be your close friends and family who will ask 'Are you sure? Is now the right time to be starting something?' Keep trying...knock on the same door twice if you get turned away the first time. Keep an optimistic attitude and make sure that you like what you're doing." He went on to talk about the many things that he needed to do to make his start up successful, including "gluing parts onto a board for the early version of Bloomberg terminals."
In addition to the 160 Varick Street space, the Mayor announced that four more business incubators are planned for the city with funding available of up to $800,000. Two thousand additional desks are available in other spaces as a result of a public / private partnership and commitment to support new business formation in New York. He announced that the NYC Angel Fund is growing to a $9-10 million dollar base and will operate with private partners to provide additional capital to support the growth of successful start ups. In addition, the first series of JumpStart NYC, week-long boot camps for entrepreneurs, will expand in the months ahead. JumpStart NYC is a free job training and placement pilot program designed for workers laid off from the financial services sector looking for opportunities within New York City's network of venture capital portfolio businesses. After the boot camp, participants will be offered a 10-week unpaid internship with a start up company with the potential of converting to full-time employment at the end of the internship.
Bloomberg described the recovery strategy as one that will make NYC a more attractive place for people who need to live here because "their jobs are here, so working to keep the crime rate low, the schools excellent and the parks beautiful are all part of the plan." The Mayor expressed great confidence in the city's ability to bounce back: "we're doing better now than many other cities, we'll rebound quickly and we will come out stronger."