NYU-Poly Varick Street Incubator Taps Into Student Talent and Helps Startups Grow Up

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ACRE environment; Micah is 90-plus percent of that,” says Niswander in response. “His performance has been so good and so creative and so positive that that’s probably what makes the negative comments sting more than they might.”

Kotch works “in collaboration” with NYU-Poly in its cleantech efforts, Niswander says. “They’re a monster in the environmental sustainability footprint,” he says.

Niswander is focused on creating a collaborative environment where startups can get products to market, rather than just a space for co-working. “I was never a big fan of incubators; I never really felt that a business didn’t succeed because they didn’t have good real estate,” he says. “They usually didn’t have good commercial plan. They really need to go after sales.”

Part of fostering successful commercial environments involves housing companies and services that benefit entrepreneurs, Niswander says. There’s the startup venture data service CB Insights (an Xconomy partner) and NYC Seed, a seed-stage technology fund backed by a crop of city organizations.

Prospective Varick Street tenants can apply for a spot at online. The incubator requires applicants to describe their product, growth and commercialization plans, and month-by-month predictions of their cash flow requirements.

“We’re objective when we review,” Niswander says. “We look at the status of the product. How close is it to being commercially viable? Will you benefit from the services we offer here? How many jobs might you add when you get going? We err on the side of increasing employment. So far it’s worked out pretty decent. The results are what we want them to be.”

The result is a mix of companies in the financial services, IT, fashion, film, food, social media, and cleantech spaces. “We’ve tried to replicated the NYC commercial scene,” says Niswander. “We tried to model it after where are the big businesses in NYC, and get startup companies.”

Tenants sign six-month leases initially, and then review where they are against their initial goals, Niswander says. The incubator rents closed-door offices to companies for $1200 per month, or $300 per chair in an open working space. Once a startup has hit four chairs, they can cram as many as they want into a cubicle while still only paying for the first four chairs at $300 apiece. (Talk to CB Insights about how to optimize that one. I counted about seven chairs in their space, and I’m told they’ll be lofting it soon to add more. Kidding. Sort of.)

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