Opinion | Op-eds

Fostering enterprise

On Nov. 30, the Brownstone Review Committee will announce the three student groups that will live in the brownstones on 114th Street vacated by the fraternities after Operation Ivy League. The Application Development Initiative, along with 13 other campus groups including seven Greek organizations, the Student Wellness Project, and several cultural associations have submitted applications. While I can only speak for my group, I do believe entrepreneurship and technology at Columbia need a home, a brownstone, where they can take root and flourish.

Many of the groups have representation on campus, but technology and entrepreneurship remain unsupported. Columbia needs a standalone symbol, a highly visible campus location to build community and demonstrate Columbia’s commitment to entrepreneurship and technology. A place where students can live and work together, building new and amazing things. A place where every idea, every suggestion is met with a network of support and resources for how to make it happen, not reasons for why it can’t. A place where all students, ranging from those seeking their first exposure to those working on the final stages of projects, can go. Columbia needs a space where we can all learn the power of entrepreneurship, and the importance of impacting the world around us.

I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting with and talking to many of my peers who have had that nagging idea in the back of their mind for the longest time, that problem they wish someone would solve, or that indescribable urge to have a positive impact on their community. Most often, these desires are forced to take a backseat as we rationalize: It’s not the right time. I don’t have the skills. I don’t even know where or how to start. I’m just a student in college. But the time for excuses is over. The act of living together would foster a tangible sense of community, an outlook not based on the fear of failure but encouragement for that yet unvoiced idea to become real.

Since my sophomore year, right around the time I became involved with the founding of ADI, I’ve been intoxicated by the need to build and create. We built this organization—unique as a campus student group in its dedication to technology and providing educational resources for students to learn and create—from 20 members to over 600 people who have shown interest in hearing about and attending our events. We created programming for students to learn and teach each other technical and entrepreneurial skills. We’ve successfully held DevFest, a week-long campus-wide series of technical and entrepreneurial lectures culminating in presentations of new applications and potential companies in front of a panel of experts drawn from both NYC and Silicon Valley.

Through tech talks, where we invited industry professionals to discuss cutting-edge technology, and hosting student-run workshops, hackathons, job fairs, and alumni dinners, connecting students with alumni working in NYC, we are developing a community of builders. A community whose collaboration can produce hot, new tech startups like Codecademy, a successful company started by ADI members, or that simple tool to make everyone’s life a little easier, like ADI’s schedule builder.

With a dedicated space, ADI can hold events like a five-week iOS workshop series in the same place at the same time. Students can work on a project for multiple hours together without getting booted from a room, leave half-finished projects laying around during all-night hackathons for others to give feedback on, and come at any hour of the day for advice.

There has never before been such a large community of alumni and students interested in entrepreneurship as the Columbia Venture Community of over 2000 members. The rising importance of technology is not limited to Columbia’s campus. New York City’s tech scene has never been any bigger with the NY Tech Meetup of over 28,000 members, or initiatives like Mayor Bloomberg’s engineering campus on Roosevelt Island.

The combination of New York City’s grassroots tech community, coupled with the growth of ADI as an organization, has created a perfect storm of forces dedicated to nurturing, educating, and facilitating entrepreneurship. ADI has made great strides on behalf of the entrepreneur community, but those strides are not enough. Columbia needs more. We need a place for all of us, who are restless with what is and want to work towards what can be. Support entrepreneurship and technology at Columbia, and work with us to make great things.

The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in computer science. He is the president of the Application Development Initiative, a former Spectator alumni director, and a former Spectator sales director.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

This op-ed is part of a series providing an opportunity to each group applying for a brownstone to explain why it deserves a space.

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Health @ posted on

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. See the link below for more info.

Health @
www.guyfix.com

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Anonymous posted on

Calm down there, Andrew Ryan.

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Anonymous posted on

If you have a problem or an idea to improve campus, your voice can now be heard! Submit your idea or vote for your favorites here: ideas.adicu.com

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Anonymous posted on

As a member of Greek Life, I humbly support ADI about their efforts to get a brownstone. With the rise of Cornell's Tech Campus in NYC I think its high time Columbia gets serious about supporting its own growing Tech & Entrepreneurship community by giving them a brownstone!

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Anonymous posted on

The growth of technology and entrepreneurship is so important Columbia, and ADI deserves the community's, and the administration's, support in getting their own brownstone.

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Anonymous posted on

The New York tech community is growing, and Columbia needs to be at the center of it all. ADI has done so much to help make Columbia an established institution of one of the biggest tech hubs in the country but it has not been enough. This brownstone would make Columbia THE center of tech and we need the university to support ADI in this endeavor.

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Anonymous posted on

Well written and informative. I hope the committee chooses to support this idea. Columbia sorely needs to give tech a place to flourish.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia lacks a space like Harvard's Innovation Lab, which is promoting tech and entrepreneurship in a way we can't without dedicated administrative encouragement.

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Anonymous posted on

I am by no means a tech person, but I think the ADI brownstone is a great idea. It's high time for columbia to stop lagging behind other schools in terms of its tech scene. I really hope the committee rises to the occasion and grants them a brownstone.

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Dave Whittemore posted on

It's very exciting to see ADI take the initiative to try to create an entrepreneurship house on campus. As an alum who has only worked in the startup world since graduating CU, I know first-hand the value and personal satisfaction that comes from taking an entrepreneurial path. I continue to see more and more of my fellow grads from '06 move over from the finance and consulting worlds into entrepreneurial pursuits. I can only imagine that with a program/house like this in place on campus, more Columbia grads would discover entrepreneurship as their calling in life earlier in their careers.

-David Whittemore
CC' 06

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Anonymous posted on

This. The ADI's goal to "nurture student creativity through application development" suggests that a house focused on tech is really the answer. Not because Columbia needs more businesses, but because creativity really requires community, a relaxed atmosphere, and passionate younguns.

Housing like the brownstones offers the perfect opportunity for next generation tech-curious Lions to curate their skills and dream bigger than before. It is this group that deserve a truly authentic way to live together coding, learning, and connecting *without* the sole intention being "to make a company." Back in the 70s, when my dad was a student at SEAS, he could go to the Computer Science Lab (that building right by Dodge Gym) where an enclave of nerds would huddle by bright terminals in the night time, teaching one another APL. With laptops, high speed wifi, and comfy dorm rooms, Columbia's lost that kind of environment.

Hitti's idea hits it out of the park, but is also not out of left field. The Computer Science House at RIT, for example, has been around for at least 10 years. Having spoken to people who lived there in the early 2000s and are now leaders in tech, all I can say is that there's nothing more powerful than a great community of people in a single house to stir great ideas and make exciting things happen.

Columbia has gone through it's tech dark ages of neo-Luddite administrators and student leaders, who dismiss programs like Udacity or Coursera in favor of CVN or who fail to move past Cubmail for years, to those who stubbornly kept dismissing the power of web when it came to their school newspaper. All until student groups like CULPA, Bwog, the ADI stood up to the challenge of changing that current.

Hitti and the ADI should make this happen, but be careful to make sure their focus isn't so short sighted as to be on only creating more entrepreneurs; rather, they should be thinking about what kind of a benefit this house will be for the students who live there, and what kind of change it can make in the lives of the future generation of Columbia Lions (it's clear that their heads are already there already, just by the looks of ideas.adicu.com).

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Anonymous posted on

Why didn't ADI apply for a Brownstone then? I've heard a few groups, varying in quality, making the case that they should be spontaneously "given" a Brownstone from the University. This is all happening by a non-circumvent-able process- if you missed the deadline, you missed the deadline. The failure of a group to take advantage of an opportunity like this has nothing to do with the University not appreciating ingenuity and entrepreneurship in their undergrads. Obviously they don't, but that's being misappropriated as the cause for their lack of Brownstone. If they applied and were rejected, that would be a different story...

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Anonymous posted on

In the opening paragraph it states that ADI has submitted an application to the brownstone review committee.

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Anonymous posted on

Whoops, my bad. Best of luck then! The Greek groups, SWP, and QHouse get so much more press that I instinctively assumed that this was a "we should have applied, in retrospect" type of article.

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Evan Sanchez posted on

As President of the Columbia Venture Community (CVC), I write on behalf of the community in support of ADI's Brownstone Application..

CVC has supported entrepreneurship on and off campus for over 5 years and strongly believes that the creation of the ADI House is one of the greatest opportunities to further entrepreneurship on campus and build a culture of entrepreneurship that runs through the Columbia student body. It’s critically important that there is a physical hub of entrepreneurship and technology on campus, and the ADI House will serve this need.

At a macro-level, ADI House would help to move Columbia in the right direction on entrepreneurship, an area of growth and innovation that will drive the future that we’re currently ceding to other top-tier institutions such as NYU, Cornell and MIT (not to mention schools on the West Coast).

Personally, I wish there had been a place to go and create when I was on-campus, as I consider myself lucky to have simply fallen into entrepreneurship. A path for other students supported by the university is the way to go, and the creation of ADI House would be a very big, public step in the right direction.

-Evan Sanchez
CC '06

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MD Hamilton posted on

This is much needed at a place like Columbia. We have a very active entrepreneur scene, and the administration should do more to support it.

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Anonymous posted on

You guys have a great organization/project going on - I really believe you guys deserve a space for yourselves to create this environment of entrepreneurship and optimism. But do you specifically need a brownstone? A shared space where you all live together? In the sense that what you guys do is based a lot on innovation - solving the problems/improving the experiences that people face every day - wouldn't it be better to immerse yourself in external/general community to see where you can play that part? I feel like what you guys actually require (after you go out there and figure out what people need) is a place to huddle together and come up with the solution, which doesn't make use of all the possibilities of a brownstone.

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Anonymous posted on

I think ADI should get it with Psi U and AEPi. Anyway, keep doing your thing and as long as ADI events remain open to the Columbia Community, I am very much in favor of this.

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Anonymous posted on

I would like to edit my comment and place Pike in there instead of Psi U. (Not that it matters to anyone.) No offense meant to Psi U, and if there were enough spaces, I wish they would get one also.

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