Five Cornell Tech Companies to Watch (September 2018)

Happy Election Day! If you haven’t already, please don’t forget to vote. If you’re still deciding how you’ll fill in your ballot, Tech:NYC has put together a handy voter guide to help.

Who you vote for matters. Our elected officials can and have consistently helped shape the broader tech industry here. For example, back in 2008, New York government officials realized early that the city presents significant opportunities in the tech sector and recommended a series of initiatives to better capitalize on these developments. In response, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a competition to build an applied sciences campus in New York City with a focus on entrepreneurship and job creation.

Less than a decade later, Cornell Tech was born. It now has a full campus on Roosevelt Island, and it’s quickly become an anchor for the New York tech community. As of mid-2018, more than 40 startups had been formed on the Cornell Tech campus. Together, those companies have raised a total of $46 million in funding, employ more than 170 people, and we’re glad to say, 93 percent of them are headquartered in NYC.

Tech:NYC is proud to work with Cornell Tech, along with Bloomberg, to present a speaker series leaders in New York tech, and tonight, we’re kicking off the next series of events with Zola CEO Shan-Lyn Ma. To mark the new season, we’re highlighting five startups that were created and cultivated at Cornell Tech.

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Crater

What does your company do?
Crater co-founder and CEO Arpit Sheth: Crater is a new type of local TV — led by creators, made for mobile, and powered by AI. You can discover unique local shows or create your own.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
AS: New York is home to immigrants, new residents, and families that have lived here for generations. As a result, this city understands that in a globally connected world, we’re allowed to call multiple places home. At Crater, we set out to celebrate this diversity and work with up-and-coming creators who are passionate about their hometown roots.

Large media outlets and aggregators are focusing more on pushing out viral content. How are you working to push local coverage through the noise?
AS: While a lot of online media is currently manufactured in short snippets for virality, we also know that audiences enjoy five-minute long YouTube videos and hour-long livestreams on Twitch. Longer content has the potential to out-compete a 10-second Snapchat video when we feel an authentic connection to a creator or community. At Crater, we see a huge opportunity to cover local topics with video stories that are intentional and narrative-driven. Crater encourages aspiring creators to speak directly to their local community, instead of adding to the noise by diluting their message for a fickle global audience.

For many, their source of local news is a hometown newspaper or radio broadcast. And we’ve had vlogging, livestreaming, and social media-native video. What’s the next wave of digital media look like?
AS: The future of digital media will be AI powered. We’re at a point where artificial intelligence can do serious creative work. We can train it to make movies, copy dance moves, and create art based on sketches. Right now, this computation can be somewhat slow. But as creative AI approaches realtime processing, you can imagine creating a stunning movie trailer with about as much effort as it takes to share a video on Snapchat. The raw content of today may become an outdated norm as AI adds a layer of polish to our ideas and unlocks radical new ways for us to express ourselves.

Best local TV show you’ve come across?
AS: Casey Neistat has a very unique way of covering life in New York City in his YouTube vlog. His style of storytelling is both entertaining and authentic.

Do you still have cable?
AS: I’ve never had cable! I grew up watching free local TV that we picked up with a TV antenna.

How has the support from Cornell Tech helped build your company?
AS: Our company was born out of Cornell Tech’s Startup Studio program. Throughout our journey, we were taught by professors that pushed us into the wild. Cornell Tech connected us to investors early on, brought in industry leaders for candid conversations, and ultimately invested in our company after we won the Cornell Tech Startup Award.

What’s a hidden gem on Roosevelt Island that every New Yorker should discover?
AS: The Roosevelt Island Garden Club! It’s a beautiful, calm place to connect with nature. I had the privilege of working with the organization when I was a student, and they’ve inspired me to advocate for and celebrate urban greenspaces.

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
AS: I have an unhealthy obsession with Joe’s Pizza in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

What’s your favorite New York building?
AS: The Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech. (I might be biased). The architecture is nothing short of sci-fi, and it looks like a real spaceship at night. The Oculus is a close second because it also looks like a spaceship.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
AS: Grace Street Cafe in Koreatown.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in NYC?
AS: I once saw a bunch of nuns screaming and running away from a street engulfed in smoke. I was freaking out, but most people around there didn’t seem bothered by it. Then, I found out that they were shooting a scene for a movie.

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Cabinet

What does your company do?
Cabinet co-founders Julia Hawkins and Evan Kesten: Cabinet helps executive assistants and admins connect with each other across companies, cities, and industries to share best practices and travel recommendations. Our mission is to unlock the potential of the admin network.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
EK: New York City is the center of commerce, and home to tens of thousands of administrators. Starting here gives us the opportunity to work closely with many of our users, and stay connected with the rapidly growing local startup community. We were also awarded co-working space from Cornell Tech and jumped at the opportunity to start our journey at the beautiful Roosevelt Island campus!

As you’ve been building Cabinet, what needs have assistants sought advice on most often using the platform?
JH: A lot of business travel! When your leader travels to another city for work, it’s extremely helpful to have a like-minded, administrative person in that new city be able to provide recommendations on where your exec should stay and where to hold business dinners.

What’s your favorite tip for running a smooth office?
JH: I recommend admins spend time getting to know their colleagues. That means understanding what keeps them up at night and what makes them tick. Once you get inside their heads, you can start to take some of their work off their shoulders. It is a deeply human process and one reason why we don’t believe that AI “Assistants” will replace human assistants anytime soon.

How has the support from Cornell Tech helped build your company?
JH: Cornell Tech has given us the opportunity to meet smart, ambitious people who are all willing to help. We’ve received dozens of introductions to admins through this network and been given great advice on scaling our business from professors, administrators and peers.

What was the best thing about going to grad school in NYC?
JH: Since you don’t sleep much in grad school, it’s nice that the city doesn’t either and you can always order food or pick something up at all hours.

What’s a hidden gem on Roosevelt Island that every New Yorker should discover?
JH: The Four Freedoms Park.

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
EK: I don’t eat dairy, so my recommendation is Double Zero. Even people without dietary restrictions love it.

What’s your favorite bagel?
EK: Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company makes phenomenal bagels, so I’ll give this one to them.

What’s your favorite New York building?
EK: For a classic choice, I would choose Grand Central Terminal. For a more modern “we are living in the future” choice, and excluding Cornell Tech so I don’t seem biased, I would give the win to the Zaha Hadid-designed building at 520 W 28th St.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
EK: Citizens of Chelsea.

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OnSiteIQ

What does your company do?
OnSiteIQ co-founder and CEO Ardalan Khosrowpour: OnSiteIQ provides a visual documentation and risk assessment platform for construction projects. In other words, using high-resolution 360-degree image capture and some astounding technology our team has built, the platform enables building developers and their key stakeholders to explore their sites and pinpoint progress, quality, and safety issues in an easy-to-navigate virtual environment from any device with a web browser.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
AK: New York is a natural choice for a home base, given the massive amount of construction and insurance activity, in addition to its wealth of tech talent.

There’s obviously lots of new development happening very quickly in NYC all the time, and City Council just passed new safety legislation for construction sites. How is the OnSiteIQ platform helping on that front?
AK: Three workers a day die on the construction sites here in the U.S., a tragic outcome of unsafe conditions on these job site. One cause of those unsafe conditions is the lack of proper safety education programs for workers before they enter their job sites. The new construction safety requirement legislation passed by the city should increase workers’ awareness and knowledge of safety issues and procedures. It’s a significant step toward maintaining safer sites, but doesn’t help with safety inspection and risk control, which are obviously key components of keeping these sites safe for workers — and is where our vision and technology are focused.

What’s your favorite real estate project that’s used your technology?
AK: 108 Leonard Street, a historic landmark going through a major renovation by New Line Structures. First completed in 1898, it used to be called the “Clock Tower Building” and originally the New York Life Insurance Company before the city bought it in 1967 — and subsequently sold it in 2013.

What’s the most common thing that slows down construction in NYC?
AK: Disputes and rework most commonly hold things up. The construction environment is highly dynamic and extremely hard to control. In addition, there are several stakeholders with unaligned incentives involved in each project. The combination of the two results in disputes, mistakes, and rework on projects.

How has the support from Cornell Tech help build your company?
AK: Besides the investment in OnSiteIQ, the Cornell Tech Runway Startups program trained me to become an effective CEO and put my scientific background and computer science skills into work and start OnSiteIQ at the intersection of construction, insurance, and computer vision industry.

What was the best thing about being a postdoc at Cornell Tech?
AK: Access to the entrepreneur faculty, VC community, major industry players, and support — in addition having access to the most modern and sustainable workplace in the entire city.

What’s a hidden gem on Roosevelt Island that every New Yorker should discover?
AK: Four Freedoms Park! The view at the very end of the park where it meets the East River is magnificent.

Subway, bus, or bike? How do you get to campus/your office?
AK: Tram and subway! Believe it or not, using the tram is a legitimate mode of transportation if you live on Roosevelt Island.

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
AK: I gotta go with Joe’s. The margarita slice taste amazing!

What’s your favorite bagel?
AK: Russ and Daughters. I’m a big fan of their classic bagel and smoked salmon.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
AK: L’Adresse American Bistro. We recently moved from Cornell Tech to Company (formerly Grand Central Tech Hub). L’Adresse is one of the few non-touristy amazing places for business lunches close by our office.

What’s your favorite New York building?
AK: The Flatiron Building. The triangular design is marvelous! And its historic nature — it was completed in 1902 — makes it even more fascinating for a civil engineer like me.

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Biotia

What does your company do?
Biotia co-founder and CEO Niamh O’Hara: We work with hospitals to eradicate hospital acquired infections. We leverage DNA sequencing and our AI software to identify pathogens and drug resistance makers and stop them before patients get sick.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
NH: Because I'm a New Yorker and there is a thriving healthcare ecosystem here. I went to school here and have lots of connections too, so it’s easier to set up pilots and grow the business.

Where do hospitals fit on the spectrum of germ levels? Are there cleaner spaces than hospitals?
NH: Hospitals are especially problematic because you have sick people who are shedding germs, so the environment is generally teaming with pathogens, many of which are drug resistant. Hospitals are constantly battling these germs through cleaning, but they are doing so blindly. Combine that with highly susceptible patients you find in hospitals, and you get a real problem. There are certain areas of the hospital that are cleaner, either because there are less infectious patients or because the hospital does a better job cleaning—for example, labor and delivery and some other units tend to have a healthier microbial profile.

Are we more likely to get an infection in the hospital or the NYC subway?
NH: Definitely in the hospital, and especially if you are a patient staying there and receiving treatment. But for your average healthy person, both places are still pretty safe.

What you’re favorite hospital drama on TV? Which one’s depiction is closest to a real life hospital?
NH: I love House because I love solving puzzles and Hugh Laurie is the most likable angry man ever. General Hospital is closest to real life (just kidding).

What’s your top tip for every day New Yorkers to stay germ free throughout their day in the city?
NH: This might sound counterintuitive, but microbes are really good for you and essential to your health. Instead of sterilizing our homes and hands, we should cultivate healthy microbiomes. But I also still wash my hands after riding the subway.

How has the support from Cornell Tech help build your company?
NH: Cornell Tech has been instrumental to building Biotia. Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute was our first investor, and they have provided extensive business training, resources to build our tech and find our product-market fit, as well as extensive connections for fundraising.

What’s a hidden gem on Roosevelt Island that every New Yorker should discover?
NH: The park on the south side of the island, Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, has a really long name, and also has amazing sweeping views of the city and is pretty quiet most of the time.

Subway, bus, or bike? How do you get to campus/your office?
NH: Subway, always. The microbes don't scare me!

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
NH: I have celiac disease so no pizza :( Before finding out I had it, and I was living the happy gluten life, I loved Di Fara.

What’s your favorite bagel?
NH: No bagels allowed :(

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Tatch

What does your company do?
Tatch CEO Amir Reuveny: Tatch advances sleep medicine and makes it more accurate and accessible than ever before.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
AR: It’s magical, everything happens here. Just look outside.

What are the patches currently testing for? What are the most common sleep disorders?
AR: Sleep apnea and insomnia are the most common sleep disorders in the U.S. It is estimated that 30 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from sleep apnea. At Tatch, we measure parameters that help physicians in the process of diagnosing and managing sleep apnea with their patients.

What makes it a “smart” patch? What kinds of data can it tell me about my sleep habits?
AR: That’s a great question. The patch provides measurement of parameters that were not possible before in such small form—factor and cost. It contains hybrid electronic solutions and sensors that give you valuable information about your respiration (or the lack of), sleeping position, oxygen levels, heart rate, and more. Everything we measure is compared with the best clinical equipment available to provide clinicians and patients with the most accurate information they need.

Do you have any unexpected tricks for getting a good night’s sleep?
AR: Clear your mind — write down all the tasks that you need to do tomorrow, and put the phone away!

Did you sleep more or less after founding Tatch?
AR: Obviously less; but when we do, we know much more about it!

Nap pods: pro or con?
AR: Pro! A nap at the right time easily pays for itself in productivity.

How has the support from Cornell Tech help build your company?
AR: We are very lucky to have it. Their approach to entrepreneurship is very unique in the global ecosystem. The leap-of-faith, the funding, the mentors, the Maker Lab, and the great network — all together make Cornell Tech an amazing place to cultivate great ideas and build strong founders.

What’s a hidden gem on Roosevelt Island that every New Yorker should discover?
AR: Many come to see the cherry blossoms during the annual festival, but coming on a different day while they bloom is far better! Often, you’ll have the entire row of trees just for yourself (for that perfect Instagram pic :).

What’s your favorite bagel?
AR: I used to go to H&H on the UWS a lot back in the day (before it closed). Now I go to Zucker’s.

What’s your favorite New York building?
AR: I like the Jefferson Market Library Tower. Especially on Halloween when the big spider comes out.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in NYC?
AR: Being invited to an underground boxing match at a clothing store in SoHo.

Photo credit: Cornell Tech Campus by Iwan Bann