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Columbia Harbors Entrepreneurs In Business Lab

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They're known as "incubators" - low-cost, shared office space for new businesses. The city has sponsored several over the past few years and now Columbia University is launching it's own space for cash-strapped entrepreneurs. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

It may look like your typical modern office but two dozen businesses are growing in the Columbia Business Lab, companies selling tequila, helping surgeons create medical devices and taking vegetables from urban farms to your front door. Just weeks ago, all of these entrepreneurs were Columbia Business School students.

"This is sort of a transition from being a student to being in the hard-nosed real world," said Murray Low with the Columbia Business School. "So it's a third year but we don't charge any tuition for it."

The Columbia Business Lab was founded by two students. But when the University signed on, their plan and office got a big upgrade. This summer, 22 recent graduates moved in to a space miles from campus, all armed with business plans in various stages of development.

"The main point of the program is to help entrepreneurs be successful by providing them with resources, everything from alumni to networking events to access to school data-bases, while also giving us this great co-working space," said Allison D'Eugenio, the co-president of the Columbia Business Lab. "And also, to build an extremely strong network of alumni entrepreneurs from Columbia Business School.

While the business school has long attracted students from around the world, alumni starting new ventures increasingly want to stay and do it here.

"New York is a very, very fertile entrepreneurial ecosystem at the moment," Low said. "So a lot of our students want to stay here, they want to socialize and network with other students who are doing similar things."

Sage Wohns said there would have been no question that a tech business should start in California five years ago. Now, he'll be launching in New York.

"It's Ninoh," he said. "It's a machine learning platform and it basically sits inside of your calendar and gives you recommendations on things you can do based on where you're going to be and who you're going to be with. We use a lot of technologies that are very New York-centric. We started out using the FourSquare API and it's fantastic because FourSquare is just a hop, skip and a jump down the street.

Next year, a new crop of budding entrepreneurs will take over the space. The business school faculty already anticipate significant demand and steep competition for a seat in the lab.

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