George Liu thinks there is untapped ingenuity among New York’s college students. So he and his team have created Almaworks, Columbia University’s first-ever student-run incubator.
“Last year we put out a feeler for it, in terms of creating a series of workshops and events at Columbia,” Liu, Almaworks’ executive director, said by phone. “We got a lot of great feedback and said, ‘There’s a lot of interest here and people from outside of Columbia.’ Now we’ve taken what we learned from the initial launchpad program.”
Almaworks will provide mentorship opportunities with heavy-hitting leaders (including the cofounder of Genius), a willing test audience of college students and the chance to pitch in front of VCs and students from across New York.
“One of the main areas we’re trying to push for is Brooklyn,” Liu said. “It seems like there’s kind of a psychological break between Manhattan and Brooklyn sometimes.”
Applications for the program are now open and will close on Sept. 19. The program will run for eight weeks during October and November with the teams meeting every Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. During these meetings, teams will meet with mentors who will help with: growth, product, fundraising and accounting. The program will culminate in a demo day that will be attended by venture capitalists.
Liu himself is a junior and has been involved in Columbia’s Organization for Rising Entrepreneurs program all three years of his college career. He studies economics and computer science and has worked for a 3D-printing accelerator.
“Ultimately it would be great if a lot of these startups ultimately got seed or Series A funding,” Liu said. “Ultimately what we’re looking at is growth in terms of whatever indicator is most appropriate. The goal is just trying to help really early-stage startups gain initial traction.”
But for all the disruption and innovation this program hopes to encourage, it might be hard to beat the disruption by Almaworks itself of the traditional tech (and college) group food options.
“You don’t have to tolerate cardboard pizza. We offer non-pizza food at every meeting,” he said. “It’s pretty revolutionary.”
You can apply here.