Lean LaunchPad Lessons Learned: The NYC Ecosystem is Real, Growing Fast, but Different

What happens when you ask your network for help?

Here’s the first thing I learned when teaching Lean LaunchPad at NYU ITP. The structure and blueprint as taught at Stanford was essential to strengthening the ecosystem: a large group of Advisors as lecturers and helpful participants, and individual Mentors assigned to each team. The Mentor ask was big in a town filled with busy people – come each week for the full 3 hour class, and then host additional time with the teams to keep them progressing through the Business Model Canvas, and the course.
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There was skepticism that NYC, and NYU, and ITP was ready for this level of commitment, on a volunteer basis. Would we really get people to show up every week? I was skeptical of my own network – I had spent my career based in NY, but often tethered to the Bay Area. Did I have in my own network the former founders, investors, and experts we’d need to structure the course? Could I compel these people to give so much time?

The first person I asked was incredulous that anyone “worthwhile” would have the time to be a mentor. He wanted something back. Money, stats, something in exchange for this time. I doubted myself, and all of New York City. Would we ever build a successful ecosystem if everybody in the food chain wanted cash, upfront?

I hesitated for a whole week, wondering if I should restructure the mentor’s role, but then started again, looking for people that were former founders who had exited, former big execs who were about to leave their big companies to found a startup, and actively engaged experts who were eager to support startup teams.

Then it turned out – everyone I asked, or Josh Knowles my co-teacher asked, said yes. At local conferences, even at SXSW in Austin, we picked up more advisors, more lecturers – looking not just for the easy success stories, but those that had recently exited or folded their businesses, or those that joined after the founding team got started, or those that we about to begin again. Along the way visiting advisors asked if they could come back again, and we gained a few more mentors along the way.

Thank you mentors:

• Tom Igoe – ITP, Arduino
• Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum, Stern, Yolko
• Michael Levitz, R/GA
• Sarah Krasley, Autodesk
• Chris Milne, IDEO
• Ajay Revels, Polite Machines**
• John Bachir, Medstro**

**Advisors that become Mentors

Thank you Advisors and Speakers***:

• Adam Quinton, ASTIA Angel Network
• Ajay Revels, Polite Machines
• Andy Weissman, Union Square Ventures
• Angad Singh, Lolly Wolly Doodle
• Anthony Viviano, Lean UX Advocate
• Ben Borodach, Hublished
• Britta Riley, Windowfarms
• Carrie Barnes, Elise Communications
• Christin Roman, UX Designer
• Corie Hardee, Little Borrowed Dress
• Frank Rimalovski, NYU
• Jennifer Hill, International Tech Venture Lawyer
• Jess Eddy, UX Designer
• John Bachir, Medstro
• Josh Klein, IMAX
• Leah Hunter, FastCo
• Lindsey Marshall, NYU
• Michal Krasnodebski, Shutterstock.
• Miguel Senquiz and Sam Valenti IV, Drip.fm
• Peter Fusco, Lowenstein
• Matt Harrigan, Grand Central Tech
• Matt Jones, Google
• Nihal Parthasarathi, CourseHorse
• Phoebe Espiritu, TechStars
• Phin Barnes, First Round Capital
• Robert Fabricant, frog design
• Summer Bedard, Betaworks
• Tarikh Korula, Seen.co
• Travis Hardman, Annotary
• Thomas Gerhardt, Studio Neat
• Vlad Vukicevic, RocketHub

And thanks to NYU ITP, and the NYU Entrepreneur’s Institute for supporting this big experiment.