BY: Jessica Jones-Gorman. After years of observing the technology boom from afar, monitoring the progress of Silicon Valley as well as all of its apps and innovation, the faculty and administration at the College of Staten Island decided to actively participate in the nation’s digital revolution.
“Technology is such a predominate, booming sector in all of the outer boroughs, but did not have much representation here in Staten Island,” noted Jasmine Cardona, director of CSI’s Tech Incubator Program, a year-old venture that has had great success in fostering a community of tech innovators. “So we created this hub that serves multiple economic development initiatives. We are focused on helping small tech startups find the platform and resources that they need to succeed, and we are also concentrating on building and scaling these companies which be of great benefit to our community.”
The Tech Incubator, which will head into its third cycle this fall, serves a two-fold purpose: In addition to being a resource for the borough’s local talent, the program also aims at attracting a new generation of entrepreneurs to Staten Island, in turn fostering a vibrant technological ecosystem, creating jobs and bringing an overall economic vitality to the community.
“We want to be an access point to attract talent to the borough,” Cardona said. “And being located in St. George, we are really tapping into the Borough President’s mission of creating this tech corridor, putting a stake in the ground and building a sort of frontier here on the North Shore where our companies can easily connect to the resources of the city.”
Companies from all over the world are welcome to apply, but the startup must be beyond the idea phase and ready for launch.
“Any new company that comes to us should be incorporated,” Cardona said. “We work with companies who have already developed a service, have entered the market or are getting ready to launch. For a $200 per month nominal fee each company receives valuable support services and participates in business development programs.”
Participants receive 24-hour access to their workspace, administrative support and unlimited mentoring: A staff of diverse professionals guides business owners on everything from branding and marketing to building equity and protection of intellectual property.
“CSI has such a wealth of expertise for these companies to draw from,” Cardona said. “Our faculty is there to offer an array of technical and legal advice. We have created a robust technological ecosystem here that includes strategic mentors, industry professionals, faculty, sponsors, government leaders and a dedicated tactical team — all with the mutual goal of supporting and elevating our entrepreneurs.”
And the unique formula has already proved successful: One of the program’s inaugural participants, Walk and Explore, a breakthrough tourism app that uses cognitive technology, recently closed a contract with IBM which will co-brand some of their apps.
Another participant, Vectuel, which designs highly innovative 3D models and websites, was awarded the SBS Neighborhood Challenge and recently signed on to develop 3D renderings for a few high profile construction projects in Manhattan.
“Each and every participant is doing new and innovative things,” Cardona said. “From artificial intelligence to facial recognition — they are all producing a wide range of amazing technologies.”
G-dii, which captures cultural data and correlates it to performance, has created an algorithm to help organizations assess their company from top to bottom, measuring how well they’re doing in terms of inclusivity and empathy. Rentah, a peer-to-peer marketplace where anyone can rent goods and services, taps into the idea that people are looking to be more resourceful and eco-friendly.
“Rentah recognizes that consumers are much more financially savvy,” Cardona said. “It’s an app that allows users to rent and share goods and services, a concept which has garnered great popularity over the past several years.”
During their time in the Incubator, each company takes part in sessions dedicated to different business development tasks and the goal of the program is to keep alumni engaged as part of a larger network.
“Our goal is to always be connected,” Cardona concluded. “There is no one-size-fits-all template for this type of program. But our vision going forward is to curate a holistic hub for startups at all different stages of development. Our hope is to expand and keep companies on board for future support and guidance. We’ve had great success over the past year, and we only hope to continue that success in the future.”