NYU-Poly incubators receives state designation, now it looks back and says 'good job'

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on December 27, 2013

From The News Desk

Now is the time to look back over the past year and think, "Man, we did really well!" Such it is with the infinite end-of-year lists, as well as the companies and industries pointing out their record numbers or how much they've improved.

One off the beaten path is Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), which revealed this week that New York state has designated its incubators as state-certified. Numerous New York-based incubators applied to gain this distinction. According to Micah Kotch, NYU-Poly's director of innovation and entrepreneurship, the regional economic council only chose 10.

This designation gives NYU-Poly's startup-centric programs some extra economic thrust ($125,000 to be exact), which the university says will be used to "expand support services to startups throughout New York City." It's just an extra eighth of a million dollars to support the portfolio but a helpful symbol the university can tout.

The announcement of this state designation came amid a flurry of economic indicators that the school's portfolio investments are paying off. NYU-Poly writes that the incubators' companies thus far have generated $251 million in economic activity, as well as created more than 900 jobs.

NYU-Poly first starting incubating startups in 2009, and has grown to three individual incubator programs throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with a fourth to be opened sometime next year. Two of the programs look at urban planning and renewable energy, others on just being based in New York. All of them are focused on problems and possibilities in New York. But Kotch maintains that its important that the companies have a "real economic impact" all the while. In some ways, these incubators have been towing the line between espousing the civic ethos of the university and generating potentially profitable businesses.

"It took us a while for us to hit our stride," Kotch said. Now, however, he sees the companies his programs represent as getting "better and better." And he's quick to point at that these aren't just startups that are from NYU-Poly, but entrepreneurs from all walks of New York's life. "Half the companies have no affiliation with the university," he told me.

He points to the newly released numbers as proof of the programs' value. While he measures startup performances along the usual lines -- i.e. number of jobs created, large capital events, new products and services, etc. -- Kotch also looks at the amount of taxes paid from the new companies. By that gauge, the incubator programs helped contribute $31.4 million in local, state and federal tax revenue since 2009.

This year seems to be the biggest year for the programs. "Solid companies," as Kotch put it. Over the last year, the companies in the incubators have raised more than $25 million in seed, Series A, and Series A-1 rounds. Additionally, two of their companies, Enertiv and Keen Home, were invited to participated in TechStars.

It's how they perform over time that counts. That's why Kotch is excited about this official state designation. He sees it positioning the programs for what comes next. These future things include an upcoming program called Urban Future Lab that looks at energy issues in urban environments, as well as just a focus on "being a service to the companies that are in the portfolio."

For companies like TapCommerce, a graduate of the school's Varick Street program which raised a $10.5 million Series A, and Honest Buildings, who works at NYC ACRE and has raised $9.5 million to date, this next year will be the real test. And a quarter of a million dollar annual boost probably won't make the biggest dent in spurring programs to cultivate New York-based startups, especially as the institution continues to roll out more incubators.

For Kotch, it's not necessarily the amount of money the state is providing, but the seal of approval it gives.

"There's this growing feeling among policy makers about the power of entrepreneurs," he said.

This state designation proves it.