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New York City opens business incubator

on December 28, 2011 Source: Kauffman Foundation

New York City has long been home to the big, brawny business monolith. From Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs to huge media empires to CBS and Time-Warner, the Fortune 500 has regularly taken a big bite out of the Big Apple.

But at the other end of the dial, small businesses – at least the professional medical and technology companies that drive the growth in the healthcare sector – have been in short supply in New York.

A big part of that is money. It’s not only expensive to live in New York City, it’s even more expensive to start a business there. Onerous taxes, high entry costs, stifling regulations, and the reputation – deserved or undeserved – that financing a professional startup in New York is a high-risk proposition by venture capital firms – all have left a mark on entrepreneurism in New York.

To its credit, the city has recognized it has a problem and is taking steps to make improvements.

The latest example of that “new direction” by New York politicians and business leaders is a new business incubator that should help attract the types of healthcare and technology businesses the city knows it desperately needs.

It’s the NYIT Entrepreneurship Center, which just opened its doors on December 23rd.

The new center, located in the heart of Manhattan at 26 West 61st Street, offers new local professional startups work space, business planning counseling – even a conference room for new entrepreneurs to woo venture financers.

“We’re certainly getting traction to help students interested in pursuing entrepreneurship as a career option,” explains Joanne Scillitoe, director of the center. “They’re trying to get out, meet people, network, and look for mentors.”

For professional class investors, finding financing is at the top of the list of challenges when opening a new startup. But the new NYIT center hopes to give entrepreneurs a leg up.

Kevin Hartrum, a third-year New York Institute of Technology student who wants to open a computer software firm, says the center gives him some much-needed room to develop his idea and to find some financing.

“Finding investors is the hardest part,” said Hartrum.  “You have to have a solid business plan and a solid business presentation. Using the center offers a lot of resources we typically wouldn’t have at home.”

The NYIT helps startup innovators like Hartrum by providing them with access to established entrepreneurs who have “been there, done that,” and can show newbies the ropes.

One of the entrepreneurs-in-residence is Roy Arad, an NYIT alumnus and a vice president of business development for Arocon Consulting.  Arad makes himself available to incubator students and offers assistance in getting ready for the “real” business world.

“Incubator participants become business people and not students when they are at the center,” Arad said. “They have to sell things, do presentations, get criticized by investors… this is getting them ready for real life.”

The NYIT incubator joins a newly opened business incubator in Harlem (called the New Harlem Incubator) that is also designed to lure new professional businesses into the city.

The city has an uphill climb – its reputation as anti-business is well-deserved, and amplified by the steady stream of businesses that have left the Big Apple for friendlier confines. But the NYIT incubator is a big step in the right direction.

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