The winners are announced and the reviews are in for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, a state-funded prize intended to spur innovation in the increasingly troubled NYC subways. Even at the time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial announcement, the prize was mocked as trite symbolism not especially relevant to the system’s short-term needs. Once the winners were known, the judgment of non-government experts like Alon Levy and Benjamin Kabak was little kinder. I have no reason to quarrel with the judgment of the Internet’s top transit commentators, and yet I feel that the Governor’s initiative still contains the kernel of an idea worth pursuing as an economic-development initiative, if not the most-direct path to improvement of subway operations.
I am pleased to announce that I have been offered and have accepted appointment to the “faculty development and technology transfer advisory board” that counsels the New York State Commissioner of Economic Development on aspects of the “research development program” administered by the Division of Science, Technology and Innovation at DED/Empire State Development Corporation.
The appointment stems from my work over the last decade with business incubators in New York State. Although the board is advisory only, because its work affects the allocation of public resources, I have been required to undergo a thorough background check and to file extensive financial disclosures with the state ethics commission. If, as, and when the board meets and deliberates, I will be rigorously disclosing any consulting assignments I have received from eligible NYS academic institutions. I may be required to recuse myself from advising on those applications that pose actual or perceived conflicts of interest and/or to turn down certain consulting assignments that pose undue risks of conflict.
Effective at the start of this month, I have turned over management of the Business Incubator Association of New York State (BIA/NYS) to Marc Alessi, an attorney and startup entrepreneur. This concludes my decade-long adventure in social entrepreneurship, building a new trade association from scratch. It’s been a rewarding if challenging task, and I’m happy to place it now in the hands of capable, energetic, new leadership.
This was conceived initially as a part-time job I could do while continuing to consult, but it always seemed to take more time and resources than planned. To become sustainable, the association now must grow revenues enough to support both the executive and admin functions. Marc is a former state assemblyman who’s also been serving as the launch CEO of a biomedical-instrumentation startup, and he’s both well suited and fully committed to the challenge.
I warmly appreciate the support I’ve had throughout my tenure from the association board of directors and the membership at large. Several have become good friends over the years, and I thank all for the many kind thoughts expressed at this transition. This change frees me to reallocate more of my time back to consulting projects, and I intend to do so. I also have begun experimenting with angel investing, and I plan to continue to expand that effort insofar as I prudently can.