Could the Next Great Start-up Come Out of Hoboken?

At Mission 50, Stevens’ students, professors and researchers now have a collaborative workspace to foster university-driven entrepreneurship

The purpose of all great companies is to improve the quality of human life. Educational institutions, in turn, have a purpose to help budding entrepreneurs launch their own companies to make society better.

From idea to investment-viability, Stevens is a powerhouse of undergraduate entrepreneurship, offering incubation programs such as Launchpad@Stevens and iStem@Stevens that help talented students design and build technologies and businesses that address true societal needs.

On Nov. 8, President Nariman Farvardin helped cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the Innovation and Commercialization Lab, an off-campus workspace where student entrepreneurs, professors and researchers can collaborate in an office environment and network with other budding entrepreneurs to help bring new ideas to market. The Lab, donated by longtime entrepreneur and businessman Gregory Dell ‘Aquila, is located at Mission 50, an 80,000 square foot boutique office space in Hoboken that has been fostering entrepreneurship and business growth in the Greater New York City marketplace since 2011.

“These budding entrepreneurs are changemakers, shaping a vision into an idea and then launching a company,” said Farvardin. “Stevens is looking forward to participating and collaborating with other institutions of higher education to support Hoboken’s and New Jersey’s innovation economy.”

The Lab will be the centerpiece of the university-driven entrepreneurial community in northern New Jersey. Four universities, including Stevens, Hudson Country Community College, New Jersey City University and Saint Peters University, will have their own individual workspaces. This dedicated space not only aims to encourage collaboration within and across schools but also to build New Jersey’s business community.

Coming full circle

Mukund Iyengar, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Stevens, is no stranger to Mission 50. When he was a doctorate student in Florida, he worked as a summer intern for a Stevens-associated start-up in the Mission 50 building. A decade later, he is the founder and director of Launchpad@Stevens and iStem@Stevens, where he mentors the next generation of entrepreneurs that will have access to this boutique space – free of charge.

“We have physical spaces on campus to create and innovate, and our entrepreneurial community is strong,” Iyengar said. “This space will benefit us because we will meet others that can help us challenge and refine our ideas. The fact that I was here ten years ago, and it gave me a spark to start this fire, you can only imagine the other sparks that are going to come out of here. That’s the beauty of it.”

Launchpad offers entrepreneurial-minded Stevens students a unique ecosystem that fosters successful enterprise-building. Through the program, students can take their ideas and transform them into viable companies poised for scale and hyper-growth. Mission 50’s Innovation and Commercialization Lab provides another avenue for these students to work.

An ecosystem for entrepreneurship

The Innovation and Commercialization Lab at Mission 50 is a unique space for budding entrepreneurs. Veronika Myshkina, a senior software engineering major at Stevens, is excited to have a professional space to work on her start-up called Gypsy.

“This space is great for start-ups because it gives you this charge of energy and community spirit and helps you to develop new ideas,” Myshkina said.

Samuel Schmitt, a junior computer engineering major, echoes Myshkina’s sentiments. He’s planning to use the space to network for his start-up, Quae.

“It will allow me to see new and more nuanced perspectives thanks to the number of connections that I will be able to establish in a space like this, and it also gives me an office environment,” Schmitt said.

As a way to showcase the talent of these university-driven start-ups, the Innovation and Commercialization lab at Mission 50 is offering $5,000 to each of the four schools for a pitch competition this spring, with the winner receiving an additional $5,000.