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Students and startupsStudents and Start-Ups

Computer Science Students interface with High-Tech Entrepreneurs at Networking Event

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent Start-UP NY initiative is aimed at creating tax-free zones to attract and grow businesses that partner with a SUNY campus. The timing couldn’t be better for Stony Brook computer science students who recently met with Long Island entrepreneurs at the Students and Start-Ups event, hosted by the Department of Computer Science, Accelerate Long Island and the Career Center.

The entrepreneurs included John Murcott of CEO Karma 411, an event crowd-funding software company; Jeffrey Leventhal, of Work Market, Inc., a company that helps businesses connect with freelancers, consultants and contractors; Tyler Roye, CEO of GroupGifting.com, which develops technologies that transform eCommerce into social and mobile commerce; and Maria Pineda, an emerging entrepreneur and veteran scientist who translates computational biology into practical pharmaceutical solutions.

Students networked with these business leaders in the Computer Science Building prior to an hour-long panel discussion. When the panel discussion ended, students had the opportunity to have one-on-one sessions with them.

Mark Lesko, former Brookhaven Town supervisor, and the current executive director of Accelerate Long Island, moderated the event.

When asked why he chose to become an entrepreneur, Leventhal said, “You don’t choose to be one. It chooses you.”

Students and startupsRoye said that when he launched his first start-up in 1995, the Long Island region wasn’t able to provide the resources to fuel those opportunities. “You had to go to the city to get a mentorship,” he said, adding that the region is ripe for start-ups following in the footsteps of Silicon Alley.

Because students are at a disadvantage when it comes to business experience, Lesko asked the panel how important experience is when applying at a start-up.

“Don’t worry about experience — passion is what you want,” said Roye. Murcott said that an ideal candidate has a strong skill set, a great attitude and experience. “Most of the time you don’t get all three. So if you only get two, experience is the least important,” he said.

Following the panel discussion Career Center Director Marianna Savoca left the students with this thought: “When thinking of forming a start-up, ask yourself what your passion is, and what it is that you care about so much that it is all you want to think about.  All of these panelists are still taking risks and building their business models.”

“I learned a lot about what it takes to build a start-up — sheer amounts of dedication,” said senior computer science major Yousuf Haque. “It's not just about implementing the cool idea, it's about implementing it, and standing behind your product, constantly making it better and building that into a feasible business strategy. Staying hungry is key in the world of start-ups and talking to the panel has motivated me to stay hungry and always ask for more.

“Students and Start-Ups was a great opportunity to facilitate introductions between computer science students and local start-up companies,” said computer science professor and SPIR Coordinator Rong Zhao. “We look forward to having more student and technical events that foster industrial partnerships and showcase the technology and talent we have to offer.”

For more information about the event and the Department of Computer Science, contact Christine Cesaria at christine@cs.stonybrook.edu. For information about recruiting computer science students, contact Andrea Lipack at Andrea.Lipack@stonybrook.edu.

— By Glenn Jochum; photos by John Griffin


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