Cornell vs Stanford - Cornell NYCTech campus
Last week I attended a reception for alumni of Cornell University where some of the plans for the new Cornell NYCTech campus were discussed. Cornell has has been chosen by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York City to build a technology campus on Roosevelt Island with a grant of city-owned land and $100 million.
The Cornell campus will occupy 2.1 million square feet, accommodate up to 2,500 graduate students, and will cost more than $2 billion to build. A $350 million gift from Chuck Feeney '56 will help foot the bill.
Cornell has long had a natural pipeline to Stanford University and Silicon Valley. The original founders of Stanford, including the Stanford family, used Cornell as a model. They were intrigued by Ezra Cornell's now famous/infamous quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."
Part of the discussion last week was focused on what Cornell NYCTech should be and what it should not be. I started a failed start-up in Silicon Valley (Fremont, CA) during the Dot-bomb era of the 1990's with a technology licensed from the Cornell Research Foundation (now CCTEC). As a result, I have a unique perspective on Cornell NYCTech.
Film Annex is well past the start-up phase. However, we are now in the process of expanding Film Annex beyond the core film platform. CEO Francesco Rulli likes to say that he has his "PhD in Life from the City of Florence" (Italy). That is Francesco's clever way of saying that he had to make it on his own after high school graduation. I asked Francesco some of his views of start-ups, capital and Silicon Valley. Here is a summary:
- Speed: How fast can you change patterns? Film Annex went from a focus on China to a focus on Afghanistan in 7 weeks. Film Annex has now invested in and received a profit from the Afghan investment.
- Inbound Marketing: It has been three years since Francesco last called an Advertising Network. Now, they call him to offer advertising inventory, and his advertising portfolio includes 28 ad-networks with a total of $4.0 million in monthly advertising contracts.
- Quantification and Documenting Performance: Everthing is measured. This Blog, advertising spent, advertising received, Film Annex traffic, Klout, Film Annex Buzz Score, MAP mentions, and Quantcast traffic are all measured on a daily basis. In addition, the algorithms of how we measure change weekly.
- Investors: Film Annex has no outside investors as it started at a perfect time in the market. It has also outlasted many other film platforms that raised too much money and had no focus on ROI. When it is your own money being invested, ROI really is a focus.
- The Next Level: NATO was an early content partner of Film Annex and it gave the platform credibility in international business. Now USAID, Time Magazine, The United Nations, Citadel Software, and many others are reaching out to Francesco and Film Annex due to our work on the Film Annex Afghan Development Project. Now our constraint is the time spent managing people and projects.
Circling back to Cornell NYCTech, my advice is to NOT focus on the Silicon Valley model of build a following and then figure out the business model. This is New York and investors expect to make a return on every investment. That won't happen obviously, but if you cultivate a culture of business at Cornell NYCTech where ROI is expected, I believe you will have a unique culture in the technology world.