You are listening to the HumAIn Podcast. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and you are listening to HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now onto the show. 

David Yakobovitch

Listeners welcome back to the HumAIn Podcast. Today I have a special guest I have with us today Fernando Gómez-Baquero¹ PhD. Who’s at Cornell tech², in Roosevelt Island in New York City. Fernando, and I’ve gotten to know each other through some of the Cornell tech, Bloomberg events hosted in the city and everything about their MBA tech programs and innovation in New York City. Fernando, thanks so much for joining us on HumAIn.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Thank you for having me. 

David Yakobovitch

It’s a trying time here in the world, but also an exciting time. In the education industry, traditionally, we are all focused on in-person learning and sometimes on-line, but there is a rapid shift in a response as we’re now in this rapidly evolving world, especially with COVID-19 and Coronavirus. I’d like us to just start off and hear about, what is your team and your organization and university doing? With all these new updates. 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

You can imagine that being a university here, we obviously have a lot of international people and the most responsible thing was to really from early on, sir, monitoring and tracking everything that was happening. We had been monitoring the situation for a while now, Cornell University in Ithaca, in one of its campuses. And we’ve had a wonderful communications team that has put a lot of relevant information. And, if anyone really wants to know that and you can find that information on Cornell on COVID-19.

And, we did think that the most no reasonable thing to do initially was to fairly quickly move every single class to online, which we did pretty fast and, get us a, the 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.

But now we also decided that it would be good to let people. It really early move go be with her family, be safe, or at least stay hunkered down. So we canceled classes, at least for a couple of weeks and we’re monitoring the situation. We hope that everybody’s stay safe and follows the guidelines that the state is putting out.

David Yakobovitch

It’s same here as well. We’re both in the education space and I work for galvanize. We’re one of the bootcamp companies and we’ve traditionally had a hybrid model of both in-person and on-line programs, but we’ve had our all hands on and in the last couple of weeks, I’ve shifted to all remote for everything, consumer and enterprise. Our goal is that it’s going to be running for at least the next six weeks, potentially up to 12 weeks. We definitely have to see what that timeline looks like in the New York City area. Many of our listeners may know that public schools with the K-12 system have completely gone online through April 20th.

So that will probably go throughout the duration of the calendar year. We’ll have to see what that means for AP exams and IB testing for those in high schools as well. But that should present a good opportunity for learning. Online can always be just as engaging on as a remote environment as well. There’s a lot of tricks of the trade for online education, whether you’re using tools like Zoom and Slack or other engagement techniques, my hope, it will definitely be an opportunity for us as humanity to get closer together. Pick up the phone again, to connect on video, to have a lot more interaction that we may have lost out on recently. So if there’s any diamond in the rough, that could be it from the COVID-19 response.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

That you pointed out something interesting is that 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 no exactly the same content and continue to work that way. So, this is really a test of the future of work, what do we really call the future of work and how is it going to look like? But we already had an idea of what it looked like. So now is this a real time test AB tests of how to do the future of work. 

David Yakobovitch

For sure. And, giving a segue to the future of work recently, a few months ago on HumAIn, we had Karen Bhatia from NYCEDC talking about all the technology developments in the New York City ecosystem. There are more digital hubs spawning up in New York than anywhere else in the United States, from blockchain, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and innovation labs. 

Even with 3D printing and manufacturing. New York city has become the hub for tech innovation in the US and one of the ways we originally connected was around the MBA tech program, the tech MBA program at Cornell Tech, which is very much focused on future work. So switching into more about Cornell Tech, Fernando, can you let us know about what is Cornell Tech, its mission and its location here in New York City.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Cornell Tech is the somewhat brand new campus of Cornell University in this city. This time in Roosevelt Island, the idea is not new. The idea actually of creating this campus came about 10 years ago, the administration of Michael Bloomberg, and it was created as an economic development story or as an economic development driver for the city of New York. 

At that point in time, 10 years ago, New York was very different from what it is right now. We thought that we really needed a place where academia really got integrated with business and basically became this creator of new businesses. And 10 years ago, we sort of noticed how academia could play an interesting role doing that, but it wasn’t pretty clear in New York as it maybe it was clear in Silicon Valley with Stanford University.

So here’s the city they decided. 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. 

The campus has been open for two and a half years. We have been working like crazy to scale up. We have been working like crazy to build our programs. And right now we have 450 people, 450 students. We have faculty members, we have staff members and all of us really focusing on entrepreneurship and creating new companies.

David Yakobovitch

And that’s one of the highlights that you and I were talking about offline before is that new companies and new innovation is the lifeblood of technology, not just in New York City, but across the whole country. And one thing that we’ve noted is a lot of students who come to Cornell Tech come for several reasons, and two of those big reasons include, moving into research and leadership roles at companies, whether they could be product managers or tech champions in different organization capacities, and secondly, to be entrepreneurs to launch startups, to spin off startups and spin out startups. And so could you share with us more about what that looks like today?

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

You said it. That what our students and the people that are taking a look at Cornell Tech, what really drives them and motivates them to come to us is that 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 on 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.

And it was the realization that you can do both. You don’t really need to choose between one or the other ones. 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, to be honest. So i take my hat off to them because they already know that it’s going to be a lot of work.

So, and that’s one interesting part about it is every single program that we have here, we have a master’s degrees, five third Cornell Tech degrees, and three that are all too soon to be three that are dual degrees with the Technion, then all of them. Not only our focus on either, what they are, which is a tech MBA, LLM, computer science, electrical engineering, operations research, or they’re focused on the applications of computer science information technology to either connect the media health technologies or urban tech.

So that’s in general, but really what motivates them and drives them is that if you take a look at that set of degrees. It basically is a 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, and then you give them the opportunity and the training and the process to actually do that, which is our program called Studio and voilà, you have a completely different experience because it’s not just that you’re doing your degree away from everybody. Actually, what our students really like is that you’re doing your degree with everybody. And with everybody, you are creating companies, but it’s also when people that are very different from you that have different skills and expertise. 

David Yakobovitch

So let’s say I’m ready to go through a program at Cornell Tech. There’s many programs as you’re discussing there’s the Technion Cornell dual master’s degree in connected media as the dual master’s degree in health tech and urban tech, and then the runway startup post-doctoral program in addition to a few other programs. So how would I know which programs right for me?

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

It really depends on where you are in your life right now, what you want to do. I just say, if you want to be an entrepreneur our goal is that we will have a program for you. So we would be able to help you. If you are working on 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 do this.

Basically improve my skills, know something better. And at the same time, have that experience of building an early stage company. Our master’s programs are amazing to do that. Either if you select the tech MBA or you select the computer science or electrical engineering or ORI Operations Research, or even law, there are great career builders and that really lets you explore something new that you might have not explored before, if you are looking okay, if you are maybe a computer scientist and you saying, I really like computer science, but I wanna just really delve into a focus on something that I really liked. So for example, health, how can it use all of this knowledge of computer science into health?

Or how can it use all of these knowledge of computer science for media or for urban tech, which is the one that we’re going to open up right now? Then our dual degree programs are the ones for you. There’s, I have not seen programs that have that particular focus anywhere. And that is super novel and very interesting.

And then if you have a PhD and have an idea on how to create a company, but don’t know how to get started. Definitely the runway program is for you. And that’s one of the runway programs is one of the key programs that we have that ‘s under the umbrella of our collaboration with the Technion and that collaboration is called the Jacobs Technion Cornell Institute.

So it’s an Institute that was formed with a very generous gift from the Jacobs family and the Institute, what it is trying to do is, experiment, build things that we haven’t done before in the academic environment. And one of those is taking postdocs and telling them, I can train you to be an amazing CEO. And that’s what the wrong reprogram wants to do.

David Yakobovitch

So let’s talk a little bit more about the runway and the spinoffs program. As I’ve mentioned in this, we’ve seen that tech is the new lifeblood of New York City and, looking at separate of COVID-19 and Coronavirus, the tech environment is very strong in New York. Startups are now one of the fastest growing job creators in New York City with small businesses and in all industries, as you’re describing like urban tech and health tech, connected media and other industries. So whether a little bit more about the runway program, whether some of the startups that have been scaling up and doing well in New York City to date.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

We have had 28 postdocs come in and build their own companies. So 28 companies and of those 28, there, we have a range. So we have from companies that are still one person and still, initially trying to figure out how to work in, how to do this to a company like Nanit, which is, an, it was created about four to five years ago. Baby monitor with a computer vision technology to help you and your baby sleep better. So if you just had a baby and want to sleep, I would definitely recommend it. And this is a company that, four years ago, did not exist. And then just last year they were named one of the top 50-50 best inventions by Time magazine.

So that tells you the power of building things with the right community, the right way, and also the power of amazing entrepreneurs. I take no credit for any of the wonderful things that other entrepreneurs are doing. I just say that, what do we give them is 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. So it’s really a wide range of applications. And that if you browse through the website, you’ll get lost in a wonderful journey of a whole bunch of interesting companies. And they’re hiring by the way, which is good. 

David Yakobovitch

Excellent. And all these companies, whether we’re looking at Nannied or others, often it’s thought about in times of disruption and change, like we’re seeing with Coronavirus. A lot of people hunker down, but there’s so much more you can do, some of the best companies and startups are created in these times of financial distress. We look back to 2008 and 2009. This is when Uber was created. This is when a lot of other major tech companies were founded because it’s the right time when people can launch ventures, spark up innovation. 

So it’s amazing to hear that you now have over 28 ventures that are all hiring and growing and scaling up in the New York City area across these industries. I like that you highlighted in the Nanit, particularly around babies because, traditionally we know that in times of uncertainty, especially social isolation. Perhaps in nine months or 12 months, we’re going to see a lot of babies on the market.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

For sure. We will. 

David Yakobovitch

Excellent. And so beyond companies like this and what they’re doing here, something that I find really interesting. As an individual who’s been involved in tech and attended many hackathons and even some of those were my universe, the University of Florida. I know we had an office for tech transfer and tech intellectual property. And one question that a lot of students ask when they’re launching startups or ventures at university is how does the university partner with me with tech IP, what’s the options so that we could definitely make a win-win option. So what does that look like at Cornell Tech? 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

It’s interesting that you asked that because tech transfer it’s 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, which belongs to the university. And then the university is trying to find on the outside ways of commercializing that research. But, for the most part, universities have not been very good at really teaching people how is it that they should commercialize it? So a lot of the technologies, at least on molecules, basically looking at pharmaceutical companies, let’s try to commercialize it that way. 

Or let’s try to bring the CEO from the outside, or let’s try to license it to a company and external company. What has happened is that model is not true anymore with the current economy, with the way that millennials and really most people are looking at their careers and people are saying, what? I want to give it a shot. I want to be the vehicle for commercialization of my own ideas. I don’t think that was the case before, when I was starting building companies. People that thought, maybe I can commercialize this. We’re crazy. If you were a scientist and you were trying to commercialize something, it was like, why you don’t know anything about this?.

I let a business person do that, but that’s not the case anymore. So what we realize now at Cornell Tech and then the Jacobs Institute is that the people that are creating the knowledge are the best vehicles for commercializing that knowledge. And that does not seem very revolutionary, but it is because if you really think about that, what comes to me now is empowering the people that are creating the knowledge and telling them we trust that you are the one that knows better how to get this to fruition. 

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.

And that’s really the way that we’re looking at it right now. Not I really don’t call it the transfer anymore because the tech transfer sort of implies that I built it and then I transferred it to you. So I like, I own it and they build it. And then here you go. I give it to someone else. What we’re really saying is more of, I built it. And then I make it work. I don’t have to transfer it to anyone. I make it this large company that each is supposed to be. That’s the way that we’re thinking about it right now. Time will tell if that is the right way of doing it. But so far, we’ve been very impressed with what happens when you just have that focus. Let people commercialize the things that they do. That’s the best way of partnering with them. Just empowering them. 

David Yakobovitch

It’s super important to empower with tech IP. And, one of the big reasons to build a startup at a university. If you also have access to a network of alumni. You have access to capital and in the market like today, these can be very important for getting a startup created, access to capital is going to be very interesting over the next few months. A lot of startups are still accelerating investment rounds. Depending on what industries they’re in. So that’s maybe something I would share for any entrepreneurs listening to the podcast today, or new startup founders, consider what industries you’re getting into and how they could respond to the times, but also be relevant over the long term.

And so wanted to hear for yourself, Fernando, looking at Cornell Tech and the different runways. You have startups coming out from consumer education, enterprise, finance, health, media, and nonprofits. And I know urban tech is new, but you’ve mentioned you have even health tech. So, as we’re now in these new trying times, how are some of your ventures responding in the health tech vertical? 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Actually, I understated the amount of companies that we created because I told you about the runways, but we also have a portfolio of companies that have been created from our masters students and in our portfolio, we have invested now in about 41 of those companies. So like, about 40, 41 plus 28. So there’s a whole bunch of companies that we have created even more. There’s some that we unfortunately don’t track. 

So our companies, we have a lot of them that are looking at the next wave of how do you make things. So we have some that are pretty straightforward actually trying to attack this. One of our startups has sequenced that everything from the space station down to the basement of New York, the service called by OSHA and their team are working super hard right now, sequencing COVID-19 and trying to understand what it is and trying to get that knowledge out, trying to figure out what the best, and most rapid tests for it.

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.

But at the same time, we have companies that are working on things that are very relevant just for work in days that you need to do remote work. Just this morning, I was talking to some of my companies. One of them is called Grow. That is doing feedback between teams. And it could be right now it’s on Slack. They’re going to do it also, Microsoft teams. But Grow is an interesting example because we’re talking about, feedback nowadays is not just about, how was this interaction? It’s about, how am I a leader in this uncertain time? what am I doing? That is good. What am I doing that could be improved so that we really need people in uncertain times.

So it’s a great example of a digital company that he’s really looking forward and saying, we’re enabling communication in a different way, but we’re also enabling leadership in a different way. So, we have people working on the future of work this way. We have people that are really building interesting tools for the gig economy. We have a company called Startups that is building a way that people that are on the gig economy, content creators can better connect with brands. And nowadays, when there’s a lot of uncertainty for these people that are on the gig economy and they’re content creators is great that they can say, we have a tool to actually connect to brands.

So those are just some of the examples, but definitely we have a lot of people that are responding to this in a very positive way, saying what we’re building, not only already helped us help those before it can help us even more in this situation. 

David Yakobovitch

What’s so amazing about all these companies is they share something in common. They share about digital technology and bringing that to in real life experiences, which is what we’re all experiencing today. And it is the best way to make humans and machines work well together. Traditionally, when we’re looking at these new startups in a digital space, it’s been very big in the past few years that we’re doing AI for X.

All of this investment in artificial intelligence. And even in machine learning and there’s been a lock between hype and reality and raising capital and which phrase is right, which buzzword, how do you optimize for AI,ML? There’s been so much going on and so much to unpack around the AI and ML space, whether you seeing with your startups, either for your master’s students or the runway programs around AI for X.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Personally, I don’t like to say AI that much. There’s very few segment of the population that is actually doing artificial intelligence. There’s some that are, for the most part, what we’re trying to teach our companies and the people that are with us is that they can be very open and honest with what they’re doing. 

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. And that’s fine. No, those are all words that they’re real things they have a real purpose, but even more than just trying to go there with the hype cycle of, I’m using machine learning, I’m using computer vision. What we really tried to put forward always is what is the value of what you’re creating? So I can tell you a whole bunch of interesting things about Nanit in their computer vision algorithm, but what’s really interesting about Nanit is that they help parents and babies sleep and thus the value.

It really doesn’t matter that much on the background, how you’re doing it is great that we have all of these tools and resources, how we did while we do it. But at the core, that’s what we want them to talk about, the value that they’re creating. And we want them to focus on that. How are they creating value? What’s the value and not just using buzzwords and trying to figure out what is the next buzzwords? So if our companies create value and they continue to create value, they’re going to be good for many years. 

David Yakobovitch

And it sounds like all these companies that are creating value is around humans and ultimately human computer interactions. I know that Cornell Tech has one of the leading human computer interaction programs. Very similar to other leading universities out there. We know in the past few years Stanford’s come out with their high program, even Carnegie Mellon’s had their human computer interaction program and now Cornell Tech has one as well, which is very much focused on bridging the gap. I would say of humans and machines. What’s your take on human computer interaction. It’s been around since the 1980s, it’s becoming ever more present today with companies as we’re moving into this fourth industrial revolution. 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

For more detail, you definitely should go and talk to a, when did you, which is one of our professors, she’s really the expert. She came from Stanford and she’s just a wonderful researcher that is doing many interesting things in human computer interaction. And one of the things that I’ve learned from Wendy, cause she’s really the person to get to know for human computer interaction is that we really need to think of the way that we interact with machines.

And it is a very unit directional way. It, we’re still in a very primitive way on how we see machines that we interact with them. And we’ll sign a lot more of personality to them that they actually have. There was some interesting examples about us, naming our car, putting names or cars or yelling at microwaves or yelling at robots. I know that my Roomba have a name for it. So we tend to do these things. 

And that just goes to show that we’re, we have just scratched the surface of how is it that we can improve our interaction with robots. And, it’s wonderful that we have a lot of people. Focusing on what that means. Whatever it means it could be, in transportation, it could be in home use. It could be on the future of work. What does it mean to actually interact in a different way, with computers and with machines and what are we missing by just still being very archaic in the way that we interact with them. 

David Yakobovitch

As we continue thinking about this interaction, it just reminds me of the times that we’re living with Coronavirus COVID-19 that everything has become no longer a human-to-human interaction, but literally, and figuratively a human-to-machine interaction. From what we’re doing with our podcast, recording remote to every interaction on Zoom and Slack, it is a connected experience. And we’re going to start seeing in the next several months, how well designed is the interaction of these experiences and what improvements can be made. 

I know for one hand in New York City, there’s a lot going on in the response against coronavirus. We have what’s known as the New York City united against the Coronavirus task force, which has been up and running just in the past couple of weeks. It’s amazing to see how people have been mobilizing, with resources and information for all New Yorkers.

I know there’s similar programs going on in San Francisco already, but it’s incredible to see that tech workers and tech champions are partnering together and seeing how we can all lend a hand to create more seamless experiences like $0 delivery fees. And waving fees wherever we can to ensure that restaurants survive and thrive, to make sure that drivers have protections such as paid health insurance, and other opportunities there, which we’re starting to see all over in New York and all over San Francisco.

So whether we’re in a crisis or whether we’re in good times, we can always partner together. And what’s amazing to see is that all the work happening today is still led by humans. There’s no AI that can say I’m going to put together a Coronavirus task force. I’m going to put together initiatives, for bailouts, for companies. It really comes down to humans, first. So that’s really important.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

And we have many tools right now. For all the people that we know here are taking a look at the resources that they have, these technologies, these tools, and just saying, this is a great opportunity to use all of that toolset for a very big problem. It’s a very urgent, immediate problem. I definitely need to deploy it. And, we don’t really, that most of them don’t care about calling it AI or something else. 

They’re just saying, we need to figure this out right now. And, we do live in a very interesting time that we have this amazing knowledge and this amazing tool kit on how to do new things that are process more information, how to deploy it faster. So we’ll see how that gets deployed. This is the real deal. This is an experiment that we didn’t think were going to live, but here we are.

David Yakobovitch

That’s right. And looking, at deployment, there’s always so much to what that means. There could be data scientists, there could be software engineers, there could be product managers, maybe people, part of that conversation for deployment. And in fact, from, just speaking in New York City about this task force, we already have so many tech workers. Who are jumping in and saying, how can I help? How can I lend a hand? And if you’re someone who is involved in the tech economy in New York, I encourage you to reach out on any channel, to myself. 

You could even message me at I’m happy to loop you into the work that we’re doing and see how we could be volunteers to contribute to this mission, but although that mission is near and dear with Coronavirus, taking a step back to the global economy and to tech and this conversation on product managers, it really is the product manager that partners with software engineers and data scientists to deploy solutions. 

And, a lot of employees in the tech economy always wonder, am I ready to be a product manager? is this something I can do in my creative enough? Do I have the business experience? And, we know for certainty that the Cornell Tech program attracts a lot of the tech workers who are interested in making that shift or pivot into product management. So wanted to hear some of your thoughts around that, who’s ideal for product management. And is this something that is great to explore now, especially if you’re looking to transition your career. 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

That if you take a look at the people that either want to continue or they work product managers. So 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 having product managers and they want to continue to be product managers, but they want to raise their skill level.

So that the question is that’s, whether you can be a good product manager or not. That we definitely give you those skills, but it’s more about, can you be around the person that has all of these different experience and by having all of these experience, having the entrepreneurship experience, having the teamwork experience, having led and worked with teams that are multidisciplinary in a real sense, because here are people that are on the tech MBA are with computer scientists and with electrical engineers working and vice versa. So as you do that, does these really help you just become a better professional? And it does. That it really informs you. And then all of a sudden your life is no longer one thing. It’s no longer. Or I can be a product manager and a better one.

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. That we want to open up possibilities of career. We don’t mandate what your career should be. So at the end you have to decide what is it that you want to do and what is more attractive and what interests you most.

But if you have these experiences and you have not only the knowledge by the time on experiencing entrepreneurship and actually that’s what we call it the practice of entrepreneurship, which is practicing this thing that we call entrepreneurship, it just gives you a completely different mindset and complete different experiences. So you go out there in the world. Either already with your own company. So you’re already managing not just product, but you’re, you might be managing several products and separate teams, or you go out there and in a company you are a much better professional. 

And that’s a little bit of what is changing right now is in academia, we tend to use say be very specialized in one little thing. And, for the most part, that’s still, it’s still good that you’re very specialized on one thing, but just having that one experience is not good enough. You need to have a little bit more, you need to have other experiences. You have to be a little bit of a Renaissance person right now. I love the idea of us bringing a little bit of that, of bringing a little bit of this multi-discipline and you will still be very good at one thing, but now you have these ideas and many other different things, and you understand how they work to your advantage.

David Yakobovitch

And so looking at multi-discipline and being a Renaissance person today, one thing that I’ve discovered, that’s so unique at Cornell Tech, and I’ve heard this from different students at programs hosted by Bloomberg, like companies like Via and others that have spoken about the innovation is that Cornell Tech has something very unique which is known as Studio. And it’s really about letting students go beyond the classroom, which we don’t see in a lot of other masters programs, what Studio meant to you, Fernando? 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Studio is really, the most innovative part of Cornell Tech. And we have a wonderful team running Studio, Leandra is the Studio director. Josh was the head of entrepreneurship before them, Greg Pass. So I more than motivate people to actually go and look at the details. But Studio is this, the core idea 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 entrepreneurship at the same time that you are in academia.

And it’s a wonderful concept because, people like myself that in many years, we, I spend, I did a PhD for maybe too long. I don’t want to say how many years it took me, but spending so many years on that, I wish I had the opportunity of someone telling me, what, at the same time that you’re doing this, you could be practicing what it means to be an entrepreneur.

And it’s a very powerful but simple concept. And, Greg Pass, had this vision of how to create it and how to scale it up. And if you take a look at the whole Cornell Tech team right now behind, it is just a, I’m amazed every time that they do the program with practitioners, with professors, with VCs, with a whole bunch of amazing people. I can, there’s people on a non that I feel that are amazing, but they’re also, they’re just saying, what? We just want to teach these kids what it is to practice entrepreneurship, to be an entrepreneur. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s very challenging, but that’s definitely something that makes it, makes us a very different experience than any other university.

David Yakobovitch

And, in the time that we’re in today, there’s so many options out there to learn and we’re continuing to move online. We’ve talked about during the episode today about online education and the intentional shift there as a result of the response to COVID-19. One of the most fantastic things about the tech economy is you can successfully build products, both in-person and on-line.

And there’s so many tools out there today, not just Zoom and Slack. There’s Figma, Airtable. There’s so many excellent tools out there today that are helpful for that collaboration. What are some of the best practices that you might’ve seen? Fernando with some of your master students or some of your participants at their startups that they’re spinning off from runway, or today that they’re starting to set up and say, these are some great best practices that we’ve been setting forward and whether it’s for during COVID-19 or post that this is how teams can thrive in a remote economy.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

So that the best practice now obviously there are a lot of tools out there that you could use. And you mentioned, Figma, there’s Trello, there’s 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. And it becomes obvious that there’s a lot of these tools that are now being used by many people to communicate. So that’s great. But that more than just focusing on the tools that you’re using is focused on what is it that you’re doing that is valuable now? How are you creating value? 

And if you focus on creating that value, then you say, in order for me to create that value, What do I need to do? What’s the most important attribute that I need to place now? What is the most important thing that I need to focus on to create it? And that would really drive the tool that you would use. So it really is. I want to create a lot of value, but then let’s say for hospitals, we have a company used to be called Airboard. 

Now it’s called a Highbrow and Highbrow is putting a voice to work for hospitals. You go to a hospital website and no longer have to type and try to find a doctor. You can do it via voice. So what they say is that I can use natural language processing and voice to give the value of no longer having to take all of this time and effort to finding a doctor finding information. So that is the type of vision that we tell people is first find the value and then. What is the tool that I need to build that? 

And, for project managers and all that then. For sure. So utilizing tools that are going to help your life easier and, it could be, in those, some of them would like to use Monday, it could be Salesforce. Maybe it could be HubSpot if you don’t have enough money to pay for Salesforce, which a lot of startups don’t have. So there’s plenty of tools out there use that, but more than the tools that you use for the day-to-day is really focused on how is it that you’re creating value and what? I’ve seen a lot of amazing companies that create a lot of value using Excel. 

To me, i like Excel and Word, I have been reference revolutionary and I know that it is crazy that we’re still doing a lot of health work and maybe medical record work in Excel, which I don’t think is very optimal to be honest, but we can’t also deny that it has been wonderfully useful. So we’ve created a lot of value with that. 

David Yakobovitch

Like many of our listeners here, I could say that I got my career started in Microsoft Excel. And as the software keeps moving into Python and other languages, I definitely think it will be around for many years to come. And, speaking of the future we’ve had today, a great conversation. About how Cornell Tech is not only responding to COVID-19, but how your startups in the runway and spinoffs program are accelerating growth and the tech innovation economy in New York City and globally beyond that, Fernando, what other calls to action or messages would you like to share with our listeners today?

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

For all of you that are out there first off, that we want to put the message out there that we have amazingly smart people and 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. We are taking it seriously because it should be taken seriously. But at the same time, that it is an opportunity for all of us to take a look at opportunities 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.

And we have wonderful people that the first thing when things were no were really escalating and said, I need to get on this. I need to find a way of working with people. I need to bring solutions. So I see it, not just in us. There’s been a wonderful entrepreneurship community out there that every day has been sending messages saying, I want to find more startups.

I want to fund startups. I want to help startups that are doing this. And so give you a message of hope that you have a lot of people and you have a community that is looking out to solve these big challenges and is really working, day and night. Now, it could be working 20 hours a day, saying know that some of our researchers are trying to figure out what is the sequence of COVID.

So, really, it is wonderful people with a lot of tools and knowledge that are trying to help. And that should give you a hope and that should give you some column that, we’re definitely going to get through it and we’re going to figure out very interesting things and hopefully know what to do next, or that is not as bad as it was before.

David Yakobovitch

Fernando Gomez-Baquero from Cornell Tech. Thank you so much for your messages of hope and inspiration and on how Cornell Tech is being part of our new digital economy. Thank you for joining us on HumAIn. 

Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Thank you for having me. This has been a lot of fun.

David Yakobovitch

Thank you for listening to this episode of the HumAIn Podcast. What do you think? Did the show measure up to your thoughts on artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. Listeners, I want to hear from you so that I can offer you the most relevant trend setting and educational content on the market.

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Works Cited

¹Fernando Gómez-Baquero

Companies Cited  

²Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute