The EI Takes New York

What do you think of when you think “New York City?” Do you think of riding the subway and wolfing down a street dog? Do you think of visiting landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park? Do you perhaps think of running into a celebrity on the street, say Lin Manuel Miranda, and asking them a question you have buried down inside (“Could you not think of a better rhyme than Hamilton/haven’t done?”)?

What if I told you I think of entrepreneurship (in addition to those other things)?

Every year over Fall Break, the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative selects twelve students to tour New York City and its various startups. And boy, are there a lot of them! I had the good fortune to travel on this past trip, in which we visited ten companies, enjoyed exquisite food, and made lasting connections.

My Highlights

Gus BitmojiAfter landing in Laguardia, we began our adventure. We visited the Leslie eLab, which is NYU’s version of the EI Garage. Complete with rapid prototyping equipment, plenty of whiteboards, and a kitchen, anyone Garage goer would feel right at home. We spoke to some budding entrepreneurs, creating some exciting businesses, like Theatre Galleria, a one-stop-prop-shop for your next play, and Aculis, an construction imaging and planning startup. Combine these experience with some real Brooklyn-style pizza and already the trip was a blast.

The following day we visited Airhelp, a Justice-as-a-Service company providing legal services for airline passengers whose flights have been canceled, delayed, or overbooked. There JaaS model was intriguing and their founder had plenty of information to share about turning your passion into a business.

The next day we met with Jet.com, who were just recently acquired by Wal-Mart for $3 billion. Their office space overlooked the Hudson River but that did not outshine the company’s atmosphere. Though they had just gotten a huge acquisition deal, their company still felt small, close-knit, and passionate. Sean Echevarria, who helped organize the trip and one of the co-founders of Jarwitha~Twist, gave us a great tour and some great tips for cold-emailing.

After four jam-packed days of entrepreneurial thinking and touring, it was time to head home. However, this wasn’t a relaxing trip. Hurricane Matthew was blowing through Raleigh. Yet, we had learned that if you want to be an entrepreneur (especially in New York!), you have to learn to take risks. We were ushered onto the plane, took off, experienced a lot of turbulence, but finally had a skilled pilot break our fall at the end of our Fall Break.

Here are the companies we visited:

  • NYU Leslie eLab
  • Girls on the Run
  • AirHelp
  • 99U/Adobe
  • Shoptiques
  • Rose’s
  • Addepar
  • Venture for America
  • Jet.com

I cannot recommend this trip highly enough.

The companies we visited all had one thing in common: passion. They could tell you a million different ways to fight adversity, overcome the odds, and start your own business. But they will also tell you that this is impossible without complete passion in your idea. Without this, you will lack the drive necessary for putting in 110% effort 100% of the time.

The people on these trips are inspiring. From the staff to the employees to the students, every single person will inspire you in some way. They will challenge you to think differently, foster your creativity, and inspire you to be better than you were before you met them.

Thanks to the expert planning of Macy Thomas and Haley Huie, the trip was impeccable. From organizing the visits to navigating the subway, they made this trip possible by working sleeplessly in the city that never sleeps. Thank you guys so much!

New York is a city that embodies entrepreneurship. It’s tough. It’s confusing. But there’s a reason I <3 N Y shirts exist. Like entrepreneurhsip, New York’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It’s worth trying at least once.

Please don’t hesitate to apply to go on this trip (or the Silicon Valley one, which you can read about here). It is worth its weight in gold (and New York is a heavy city!).

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