Downtown Brooklyn students spend the week at tech startups
What is the tech world like behind the headlines?
April 16, 2019
Last week, more than 40 students from Downtown Brooklyn higher ed institutions got to hear directly from founders and executives at Brooklyn startups about the strategy, the struggles, and the career moves that got them to where they are. The visits were part of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s Talent Connect initiative, which aims to integrate students with the tech economy in and around the neighborhood.
The week started at L+R, an innovation consultancy and digital studio, which helps companies build and design digital products such as applications and websites. Founder Alex Levin told the story of how he started the company with a friend right out of college and has grown it to 20 people, including an office in Barcelona.
Up next was HappyFun Corp., a product engineering firm that builds programs, applications and designs websites for companies, and counts Facebook, Amazon, and Pepsi amongst its clients. Founder Will Schenk explained how his dedication to doing the background engineering work combined with a focus on design allowed him, along with a bit of luck and good timing, to take the company from his apartment and Brooklyn cafes, to a 90-person firm.
Friday was a double-header, with Work & Co. in the morning and Sesame in the afternoon. At Work & Co. the students were treated to a presentation of the work that goes on at the agency from three members of the team: a programmer, a product manager, and a designer, each of whom explained what their role in the company is. The students were also treated to a lunch at the office, a pretty sweet perk the Work & Co. workers enjoy.
Friday afternoon found the students at the WeWork on Prospect St. to hear from Sesame, a healthcare startup trying to bring down the cost of healthcare by filling medical appointment slots for doctors who have cancellations. Cofounders Michael Botta and John Fontein went over the strategy and and thinking of building a brand new company, and answered questions from a group comprised mostly of computer science and business students.
Students were able to select which of the offices they visited over the week, so each company hosted a different group. Overall, students from seven colleges attended, including many from LIU Brooklyn, City Tech, and NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Fields of study ranged from computer science to marketing to psychology.
The outcomes of Talent Connect have been exactly what we hoped for and plan to continue. Too often, companies are completely unaware of the talent being developed right next door, and students not privy to opportunities at these companies. They’re in different worlds. Facilitating a connection between these silos helps students and companies, and builds the Downtown Brooklyn community. That’s just the first step, though. Next up: jobs and internships.
Talent Connect Open Office week was made possible by funding from TD Bank, a keystone supporter of our Talent Connect initiative. We thank them for allowing us to do this work.