GROWING COMPANIES: NYU POLYTECH’S BUSINESS INCUBATORS
NEW YORK - Given today’s tenuous economic climate, starting a new business can be a daunting task. This is especially true in New York City, where high rent and cutthroat competition can make the challenge even more intimidating. Unfortunately, business creativity and ingenuity are not always enough to see new businesses through their first year and many fail before having a chance to truly compete.
New York University’s Polytechnic Institute is changing this bleak outlook. They operate three “business incubators” around the city – spaces where new companies can work with low rent, product work shopping, and free guidance from professionals with experience in starting up a business. Companies rent space in six month leases for up to eighteen months, until they are ready to compete on their own. The businesses at 160 Varick Street, one of these incubators, range from fashion lines to financial services to film studios – a microcosm of the bustling New York economy that surrounds it.
160 Varick Street is managed by Bruce Niswander, the Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at NYU Poly. He sees the incubators as a chance to not only stimulate the economy in a very direct way, by creating new jobs and sustaining small businesses, but in an indirect way as well, by providing an example of a business model that can be replicated anywhere. He reports that 160 Varick Street, which houses just over thirty companies, has created over 250 jobs in a wide variety of fields. While these business incubators have thrived in New York, Niswander claims that they are not restricted to success there. He believes that the NYU Polytech business incubators provide an example for economic development in countries around the world. Pointing to a recent trip to Latin America, Niswander reports that once you come up with strategy, location is immaterial, and that the successes in New York can be replicated in Santo Dominigo, Mexico City, San Jose; anywhere with dedicated people committed to success.
He also stresses the importance of the fact that these incubators do not just produce jobs – they produce jobs that people like. Calling the excitement of working for a brand new company a “magic elixir” for startups and their employees, Niswander claims that “it’s the promise of being on the ground floor and really having a chance at the big apple” that makes the jobs at 160 Varick Street special. In a sense, 160 Varick Street is the cure for the doldrums often associated with the stereotypical New York career trajectory. “Many people will tell you that you go to work for a giant company, you have one job, you do it all day, you question whether you really have an impact on anything, you question how you advance, you question the boredom of your day to day experience. I will you, this place is anything but boring.”