How Founders Scale Products and Startups at Cornell Tech with Fernando Gomez Baquero


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Fernando Gomez Baquero is the Director of Runway and Spinouts at Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and Founder at Besstech LLC. He’s an innovation economist, nanomaterials engineer and entrepreneur who mentors companies on diverse topics such as IoT, digital innovations, new materials for transportation, creating better electric vehicles, improving wind and solar power, using social networks for gratefulness, and and more.

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Here’s the timestamps for the episode: 

(00:00) – Introduction

(01:37) – The most reasonable thing to do initially was to fairly quickly move every single class to online, which we did pretty fast andthe good thing is that we were already prepared for that. Most of our classes were already streaming and we already had a lot of experience doing that. 

(04:17) – We live in a good time that we definitely can move a lot of things to virtual and we are able to shift to that pretty fast. And I hope that everybody knows that by doing that, we can deliver not exactly the same content and continue to work that way. So, this is really a test of the future of work.

(05:48) – Cornell Tech was created as an economic development story or as an economic development driver for the city of New York. Why don’t we basically get the best of both worlds? revitalize an area that hasn’t been used for a while, which is the Southern side of Roosevelt Island. And then we use that space to bring a campus of a university that is going to focus a lot of engineering and scientific resources to create the companies in the future. And that’s the purpose of the campus, focusing on entrepreneurship and creating new companies.

(08:09) – We no longer see entrepreneurship and academia as a binary thing. We don’t see it as, you need to do your masters program. And then when you finish, you do entrepreneurship and you build a company in the country. What we see is while you’re in the academic environment, you can be doing your degree. You can be working towards your degree, but at the same time, you should be creating a company. And we are more than capable of not only giving you the space to do that, but training you to do that with the people that have done that. So the people that come to Cornell Tech are people that want to have that academic and entrepreneurship experience at the same time, which is a lot of work.

(09:43) – If you take a look at that set of degrees, it is  just the right combination of skills to build the company. And so once you take those people that are, one of them is a computer scientist, one of them is an engineer, one of them is an MBA, one of them is a lawyer and you put them together in teams, you build a very early stage, very good company.

(10:58) – It really depends on where you are in your life right now, what you want to do. If you want to be an entrepreneur our goal is that we will have a program for you. If you are working in a company right now, you’d be working as a program manager or a project manager for a while, and you really want to have that experience of saying, I can give myself a year to improve my skills, know something better. And at the same time, have that experience of building an early stage company.

(13:46) – We give them all of the support that they can get. And as Nanit would really focus on computer vision, we have companies working on genomics on computational biology, on computer vision for construction and infrastructure on a better simulation technologies for spaces. On big data on other types of devices. It’s really a wide range of applications. 

(17:01) – Tech transfer is something that has been done in universities for many years. And that the dynamic of tech transfer has really changed for decades. And that dynamic is, you are a researcher, inside of a university system, creating knowledge, that knowledge belongs to the university. And then the university is trying to find on the outside ways of commercializing that research. 

(18:29) – People who are creating the knowledge are the best vehicles for commercializing that knowledge. We trust that you’re the one that can make this into a billion dollar company. And what you need is for us to help you succeed, to give you the training that you need, to give you the tools that you need, to give you the resources, to give you the connections, to give you the environment that you need.

(21:11) – We have a couple of our postdocs that immediately switched their companies to say, we can develop better financing strategies for what needs to be done with COVID. We have some other ones that are saying we definitely need to work a lot on finding a test for immune response to COVID. So now we have all of these people working on the health tech side.

(23:15) – We’re enabling communication in a different way, but we’re also enabling leadership in a different way. We have people working on the future of work this way. We have people that are really building interesting tools for the gig economy.

(25:01) –  There’s very few segments of the population that are actually doing artificial intelligence. There’s some that are, for the most part, who we’re trying to teach our companies. And most of them are either doing some type of some interesting application of machine learning. Perhaps it could be some interesting signal processing or hubs or data mining in a particular way, or using tools like natural language processing and computer vision.

(27:15) – We’re still in a very primitive way on how we see machines and interact with them. We have just scratched the surface of how it is that we can improve our interaction with robots. 

(30:43) – We have many tools right now. These technologies, these tools, and just are  great opportunities to use all of that toolset for a very big problem. 

(33:07) – We have people that were product managers and they definitely don’t want to be product managers anymore. They want to be entrepreneurs. They want to be CEOs, so this is just a segment of people. We have some that have been product managers and they want to continue to be product managers, but they want to raise their skill level. Now you can be an entrepreneur, you can be a product manager, you can be a CTO, you can be other things. And this really what we want, to open up possibilities for a career. 

(36:23) – Studio is really, the most innovative part of Cornell Tech. The core idea is that you can practice entrepreneurship while you are in academia, but practicing the real way, meaning that you could be driven to entrepreneurship and you can have that experience of being an entrepreneur at the same time that you are in academia.

(39:15) – There are a lot of tools out there that you could use. Figma, Trello, Slack. There’s a lot of inducing communication. WhatsApp actually is huge in a lot of parts of the world for communicating with businesses too. So for sure use the tool that makes more sense for the community that you’re trying to get to.

(42:25) – We have amazingly smart people oriented towards the common good that are putting a lot of effort into finding solutions. So that is some positive news. We don’t want to downplay how complicated the situation is. It is an opportunity for all of us to to create things that are important for society, things that are good for society. And we are shifting a lot of resources to solve this problem.