Meet the Innovators: CSI’s Newly Launched Tech Incubator Program Produces Several Successful Startups
Because technology is such a predominate, booming sector in all areas of New York City, the College of Staten Island recently made great strides to build up some digital representation right here in the borough. Launching a Tech Incubator Program last year, the CUNY school created a smallish tech hub in St. George that serves multiple economic development initiatives. Focused on helping small tech startups find the platform and resources they need to succeed while also concentrating on building and scaling companies that will be of great benefit to the community, CSI was quite successful at attracting a new generation of entrepreneurs to Staten Island while fostering a vibrant technological ecosystem.
And several of the startups involved in the program have already achieved some stellar accomplishments. Here’s a look at three of the program’s big achievers.
Using proprietary psychometrics, this platform, which recently signed contracts with several Fortune 500 companies, produces predictive performance insights for business leaders by measuring the cultural factors that impact the productivity and profitability of their company.
“We measure how valued and included employees feel, how engaged and satisfied they are with their job as well as their unconscious attitudes toward managers, colleagues and people unlike themselves,” noted Greg Reynolds, the company’s founder and CEO. “Our algorithms weight and score this data and then aggregate individual results into empirical portraits of collective belonging, job satisfaction and engagement and openness and empathy.”
g-dii then segments these data portraits by level, tenure, office location, work habits, compensation and demographics, offering a core analysis and collective expectations for achieving business goals. Subscribers can also upgrade to gain insights critical to strategic resource allocation and investment.
“Unlike other companies that measure culture, our approach is holistic, objective and agnostic,” Reynolds said. “The collective insights we generate exceed other measures in terms of accuracy because they derive from empirical data captured at the conscious and unconscious level of each employee. Quite a few entities offer remedial unconscious bias training — but lack g-dii’s ability to first gauge, empirically, the collective’s unconscious attitudes and then determine, objectively, whether those attitudes adversely impact the business.”
g-dii’s architecture was informed by evolving GDPR standards and the platform’s privacy standards were written by a former consumer regulator.
“Secure data handling and processing assures employees of a ‘safe space’ in which they can afford to be forthcoming and honest with their responses,” g-dii’s founder said.
Reynolds, who has a background is in executive search, said he founded this company three years ago when he witnessed a constant refrain among his employers about diversity fatigue.
“Being a person of color with a background in executive search, I was often brought in by clients to satisfy both issues,” Reynolds said. “So many of the business leaders I worked with were concerned with putting diversity in front of performance so I saw an opportunity in the market to fix the issue and do something different, create a sort of FICO score for diversity and inclusion.”
Reynolds curated a team, hiring industry leaders like Derek Barnes, an expert in building diverse global support teams with more than 15 years of executive management experience; Jim Wilson, a highly experienced media and technology and business transformation executive, and Dr. Debb Gordon, who is well known for developing statistical models for the financial industry including the behavioral models commonly used today.
“We drafted our white paper, shared it with Time Warner and they were blown away,” Reynolds said. “So we convened with 60 other Fortune 500 companies to introduce our findings. We knew we needed third party valuation so the CUNY Incubator made perfect sense for us.”
Reynolds said the Staten Island campus’ visible diversity coupled with the borough’s historically conservative voter base created the perfect backdrop for g-dii’s work.
“For what we wanted to do, there was no place better than CSI,” he said.
And Reynolds credits the program with fostering g-dii’s success.
“The program has certainly helped our platform grow and mature,” he concluded. “When we started this journey, we never imagined how far it would go. Now g-dii has a global presence that we expect will only grow stronger in the future.”
Walk and Explore
After working at IBM for 23 years, Georgina Castanon decided to go in a new direction and left her position to augment her STEM skills. She also took lessons in photography, studied New York City architectural history and became a licensed New York City tour guide.
“I started walking around New York, my home for many years, and I noticed things,” Castanon said. “I started to see the city differently.”
So she started coding a prototype of an app for the city of New York. Called Walk and Explore, the intelligent platform creates relevant experiences and enhances interactions between people, tourism product providers and city services. It allows travelers to customize their own agenda, helping tourists to personalize their activities with the aid of navigation and weather systems. Museums, attractions, hotels and restaurants can join the app to be highlighted as a point of interest.
“Our first product launch was our city product which then evolved into our artificial intelligence product,” Castanon noted. “New elements made the app stronger and involvement from chambers of commerce and other government agencies also enhanced the functionality of Walk and Explore.”
The app understands the movement and activity of the user and recommends endeavors accordingly. Castanon says it’s an efficient way to increase tourism.
“It’s an extremely interactive way to travel,” she said.
And her participation in the CSI Incubator Program has taken Walk and Explore to the next level.
“Since we joined the CSI Incubator, we have experienced the dedication of CUNY and its faculty in helping my company grow to scale and stay in the borough,” Castanon said. “Through a series of mentors from different areas, the CSI Incubator helped us reposition our products from a city app provider to a broader and more focused AI company. The new positioning and messaging have opened new opportunities for Walk and Explore. The office space has not only served as a place to work, but the interaction with the executives from other incubator companies has also opened business opportunities. CSI has enabled access to government officials, to the Staten Island SBDC — New York Small Business Development Center, Industry Mentors, and many other organizations which have helped our company in multiple ways.”
The Walk and Explore New York City app recently received an award from the International Tourism Trade Fair, named “Best Destination App in the World” — an honor that makes Castanon extremely proud.
“Starting your first company at 48 is challenging in any industry,” she concluded. “Having your startup stand out in New York with Innovative Technology is extremely difficult. But with the investment in the CSI Incubator, New York City is reducing many of the challenges companies such as mine would have to solve alone.”
Founded in France in 2007, Vectuel, which has been a part of the CSI Incubator Program since its inception, integrates state-of-the-art building modeling technologies — from augmented maps to immersive virtual reality experiences — into user-friendly platforms dedicated to stakeholders collaboration, community engagement and marketing.
“Our passionate team helps its clients develop tailored solutions that facilitate dialogue and consensus building between planners, architects, developers, public actors and other stakeholders, while also contributing to developers’ real estate marketing strategies and city/neighborhood branding,” the company notes on its website.
Vectuel also develops visual communication and engagement tools dedicated to urban planning and real estate development. CSI administration chose the company for its unique platform and innovative business plan but also because of its timeliness: With a commercial construction boom happening throughout the Island, Vectuel was a noteworthy and relevant addition.