Tech Triangle U seeks to bridge the college and entrepreneurship gap

As Brooklyn’s economy grows, so too does its technology sector, which has exploded in recent years as a veritable Silicon Valley of the East Coast, becoming the second largest economic driver in New York City, behind the finance industry, and drawing creative minds, educational and investment capital and real estate interests to nurture and create what is now known as the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

Formed in 2012 via a collaboration between the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, DUMBO Business Improvement District and Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Tech Triangle regularly hosts events such as the World Science Festival.

This year, it launched the inaugural Tech Triangle U (TechU) from April 21 to 27, bringing together over 800 college students, 30-plus companies and the leaders of some of the best-known brands for a week of mentoring, networking and teamwork.

“Brooklyn is the best place in the world,” to make things and empower people to continue making and experimenting, said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, at the 2013 grand opening tour of the Sunset Park factory that produces the company’s signature 3-D printers.

At the April 23 keynote “Tech All-Stars Panel” at 1 MetroTech Center, Pettis echoed that earlier sentiment, noting that “when I came to New York, I was like, ‘let’s make stuff,’ and people were like, ‘yeah, and then let’s set it on fire.’”

Experimentation and collaboration are important to both technology and entrepreneurship, and are hallmarks of successful businesses, agreed fellow Tech All-Stars panelists Aaron Shapiro of Huge, Chad Dickerson of Etsy, and Alexis Ohanian of Reddit.

Christopher Wink, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who serves as co-founder and editorial director of Brooklyn, a startup news organization and community builder, added that Brooklyn is “a cultural engine” and “gateway to the global standard.

“Brooklyn is both building up its local pool of talent and supporting international brands like Facebook and Google [while also] having MakerBot and Etsy and now Kickstarter,” Wink said. “There are a lot of people who are starting companies out of necessity, [without] knowledge of how to write a business plan, how to choose a payroll company, whether to get health insurance for your employees or whether to hire employees. It’s okay to stumble along that path.”

Brooklyn is helping guide them along that path, Wink noted, by holding events like TechU.

“You have people in your environment for four years—what an opportunity that is to expose them to how much great happens there and retain them,” he said. “That is a lesson every city in the country should take and Brooklyn is the leader of that.”

Capping the week off was the announcement of the Student-Mentor Hackathon winner: “Shoomai,” an app—named after the phonetic pronunciation of popular Chinese pork or shrimp-filled dumplings—that serves as a guide to the menu, ingredients and pronunciation of common dim sum items. The app’s six-member team won out over eight other teams for the $1,000 first place prize.

Other teams included runner-up Stand, an app which helps identify what mood disorders might be ailing a person and then suggests healthy solutions and contact info for local therapists; Space Hub, an app that helps users find workspaces in the Tech Triangle; and Audio Over Light, an app that harnesses audio from an iPhone and plays it through an LED light using a fraction of current energy levels cost.

Tech Triangle U may be over, but the Brooklyn Tech Triangle is still going full-steam ahead, with events, workshops and more. Visit and for more information.

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