NYU Alums Form Network to Help Each Other, and Undergrads, in Entrepreneurship

12/3/13Follow @jpruth

Landing the right introductions can change the fortunes of startups.

That can mean getting a big-name customer or finding the perfect developer to join the team. But making that first, important contact is a challenge for many founders.

To tackle this, and other matters that plague startups, Ricky Berrin, an MBA grad from New York University, co-organized the NYU Alumni Entrepreneurship Network. “Sometimes all that a startup needs is a first customer, one little breakthrough,” he says.

This new group held its first event last night, letting alumni-founded startups pitch their ideas to their peers and others. Seasoned graduates have wanted to give back to the university’s entrepreneurial community, Berrin says. He believes the new network can be a catalyst for such efforts.

“There’s great value in connecting NYU startups with NYU alums,” he says. In particular, some alumni have become executives, angel investors, or simply have a lot of business connections. Those are the kinds of resources Berrin says he wants to put within reach of startups at the university.

Help already exists for current NYU students who want to become entrepreneurs. The NYU Entrepreneurs Network, for instance, connects undergrads and grad students across the university. Berrin, who graduated last May, says he wanted a way to keep alums in touch with the innovation scene after they leave the school.

Part of the group’s mission, he says, is also to highlight startups that emerge from NYU. Those companies include TapCommerce, a developer of ad retargeting technology which raised $10.5 million in late November and Shake, developer of an app for creating legal contracts, which raised $3 million last month.

Other startups with DNA from NYU have also been busy establishing themselves. For example, WeeSpring—a platform for parents looking for advice on buying products for their kids—graduated last summer from Techstars New York. And then there is Jack Dorsey, who admittedly did not finish his studies at NYU, but has been just a teeny bit busy with Square and Twitter.

Last night’s event also let Berrin pitch his startup, SalesBus, which he co-founded in the summer. SalesBus connects product makers with individuals, for now mostly college students, who get cash for selling goods to their friends on campus. Before attending businesses school, Berrin worked for a startup, Click Diagnostics, out of MIT. That experience gave him the impetus to pursue his MBA and entrepreneurship.

Berrin plans to host a follow-up event next spring. He also he wants to learn more about what NYU startups need to grow, reach more alumni who can help, and match founders with the appropriate resources. The hunt for talent, he says, remains a problem. Berrin plans to setup a database that founders can peruse to find folks in the NYU community with the skills they are after. “A lot of the startups are looking for interns,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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