Inc.com: “New York Gets New Start-up Lab”

Pace University opens up entrepreneurship lab, hoping to incubate interdisciplinary collaboration between students—and create some new companies in Lower Manhattan.

ENTREPRENEURS

February 17, 2012

New York Gets New Start-up Lab

Pace University opens up entrepreneurship lab, hoping to incubate interdisciplinary collaboration between students—and create some new companies in Lower Manhattan.

Before they were entrepreneurs, Rob Caucci and Jeremy Pease were students by day and residence hall RAs by night. That meant after classes in Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and computer science program, respectively, then would come home to “have to mediate dozens of conflicts every day between roommates,” Caucci says.

In an effort born of that frustration, the pair launched their first company, a roommate-matching software called Reslutions, which they dubbed “eHarmony for college roommates.” Then, after winning Pace University’s 2010 Pitch Contest with that idea, the pair shifted their plans: They are now looking for a $500,000 investment for their roommate cost-sharing and household management start-up, called SpaceSplitter.

Pace is the latest university trying to foster just this kind of partnership—in which a business school student meets an undergrad programmer and begins a lasting entrepreneurial relationship. On Thursday night, the Lubin School of Business at Pace held a reception launching the school’s new entrepreneurship lab, an open-floor-plan space decked in computers and Idea Paint tucked into a corridor of Lubin School. The secret sauce: any student from any school within Pace may apply. The lab’s director, Bruce Bachenheimer, who also organizes the Pace Business Plan Competition and Pitch Contest, said he’d gotten a call from a nursing students asking if she could apply for the lab, hopefully to find a collaborator for a piece of health-care software or an app.

“Entrepreneurship is interdisciplinary problem solving and no one can be expert at everything; therefore well-coordinated collaboration is at the heart of what we strive to instill in our students,” says Neil Braun, dean of Pace’s Lubin School of Business and former president of NBC and chairman of Viacom Entertainment. “The lab is a conducive space for students, faculty, entrepreneurs and city officials to identify opportunities and needs and build a plan to make something good happen.”

Thursday night attracted other bold-faced New York start-up names, including Harold Levy, managing director of Palm Ventures and former NYC Schools chancellor, and Robert Walsh, New York City Small Business Services commissioner.

“New York is a thriving hub of entrepreneurship, but we’re still in the second and third inning,” compared with Silicon Valley’s thriving technology industry and start-up scene, said Somak Chattopadhyay, a partner in Tribeca Venture Partners, who spoke at the Entrepreneurship Lab launch. “We’ve been missing a critical mass of incubators and accelerators.” —Christine Lagorio

Pictured: Robert Walsh, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services

U.S.News & World Report: “CEOs Teach in M.B.A. Classrooms”

Most CEOs spend the latter years of their professional lives giving presentations in high-pressure board rooms for select groups of middle-aged power brokers, not in lecture halls filled with green but eager business students. However, a few such as Neil Braun, Dean of Pace’s Lubin School of Business and former President of NBC Television Network, have opted to venture into the world of higher education … using their corporate experience to mold a new generation of top executives.

Neil Braun, dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and former CEO of Viacom Entertainment: Having worked as the top executive at numerous firms—including entertainment giant Viacom—during his 33-year career, and no longer satisfied with the rewards of his day job, Braun told U.S. News & World Report that he yearned to impart the knowledge he’d gleaned to a younger generation. After searching for vacant administrative positions at business schools in the New York metropolitan area, he landed at Pace in 2010, where, in addition to serving as dean, he routinely meets with student leaders and gave guest lectures in eight classes during the past year on topics ranging from leadership to competitive strategy. 

Beyond the detailed advice he offers in those lectures, he advises all business students to learn to write well, to hone one very difficult analytical skill, and to familiarize themselves with areas of business outside of their specialty. Data analysts, for instance, should be able to freely converse with marketers about their duties, and vice versa, he says. 

“I wish somebody had clued me in to some of this stuff when I was young, and contextualized all the trauma I had to go through—like we all do—in trying to figure this out,” he says. “I’m not being naïve in thinking that just by telling them I’m going to save them from anything, but I do get E-mails and feedback from people that they took one or two really important things that have made a difference in their lives.”

Neil Braun, Former NBC Television Network President and Viacom Entertainment CEO, Named Dean of Pace’s Lubin School of Business

Highly respected in the media industry, Braun has been involved in multiple new business startups as both entrepreneur and investor. With his significant knowledge in the area of corporate environmental sustainability and the issues challenging public companies today, Braun will lead the more than century-old business school known for innovative programs and blending theory with practice.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts/Pace Public Information: Samuella Becker, 212-346-1637 or 917-734-5172, Sbecker2@pace.edu and Bill Caldwell, 212-346-1597, wcaldwell@pace.edu

Neil Braun, Former NBC Television Network President and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, Named New Dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business

Highly respected in the media industry, Braun has been involved in multiple new business startups as both entrepreneur and investor.  With his significant knowledge in the area of corporate environmental sustainability and the issues challenging public companies today, Braun will lead the more than century-old business school known for innovative programs and blending theory with practice.

NEW YORK, NY, June 24, 2010 – Neil S. Braun, who has more than 30 years of experience in senior management including positions as president of the NBC Television Network and CEO of Viacom Entertainment, has been appointed dean of Pace University’s Lubin School of Business, effective July 1, announced Stephen J. Friedman, president of Pace University.

Braun, 57, will take the helm from Joseph R. Baczko, former president and CEO of Blockbuster Entertainment and founder of Toys “R” Us International, who is returning to private industry after five years in the position.

“As the new dean, Neil will add industry dimension and vision to Lubin’s expertise and innovative programs,” said Aniello A. Bianco, chairman of Pace’s Board of Trustees. “The hire of Braun is a bold, confident move infusing a 100-year institution founded as a business school with a 21st century pedigree. Consensus building and collaborative, he’ll be a very positive force for faculty, staff, students, and alumni.”

“Pace has hit a home run with the appointment of Neil Braun,” said Frank Biondi, former CEO of Universal Studios, Viacom, and HBO, who hired Braun both at HBO and Viacom. “He’s a world-class guy with impeccable credentials who leads by collaboration and clarity of thought.”

Braun is currently CEO of The CarbonNeutral Company, which assists companies in analyzing and reducing their carbon footprints (greenhouse gas emissions). CarbonNeutral has invested in more than 200 projects on six continents for more than 300 major corporate clients and 1,000 small business clients. The company combined with Braun’s start-up, The GreenLife Organization, in late 2008 in order to achieve a more significant global presence.

Braun’s experience with CarbonNeutral and The GreenLife Organization will serve him well when he joins Pace, which has a strong commitment to teaching and practicing sustainability and boasts one of the top environmental law programs in the country.

“I am excited to build upon the history of success at Pace,” said Braun. “Providing students with strong fundamentals in the business disciplines and the ability to nimbly apply them has never been more important.  The emergence of the developing world, the proliferation of interactive and mobile media, and the scarcity of natural resources will continue to shape markets and competition. Preparing our students to be effective in a rapidly changing world is a tremendous responsibility and opportunity.”

Additional career highlights. Braun began his career as a corporate attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York (1977-1978).

As senior vice president and general counsel for International Film Investors (1978-1982), he structured and negotiated financing and distribution for feature films including Ghandi, The Killing Fields, Hopscotch, Escape from New York, and The Howling. He headed HBO’s film financing and home-video activities (1982-1986) and was part of the negotiating team for the licensing of pay-television rights from the studios. He also created Silver Screen Partners and HBO Video.  As president and COO of Imagine Films Entertainment (1986-1988), he took the Ron Howard/Brian Grazer production company public while structuring financing and distribution for 30 feature films through Showtime and Universal Pictures.

In addition to serving as a senior executive in major public corporations such as NBC (1994-1998) and Viacom (1988-1994), Braun has been involved in venture stage companies.

With the producer of the Shrek computer-animated franchise, Braun formed Vanguard Animation (2002). He was named president, Feature Films and Television for IDT Entertainment, a division of the long-distance phone company, which was Vanguard’s primary funding partner (2005). When Liberty Media acquired IDT Entertainment the following year and merged it into its Starz Entertainment Group, Braun assumed the role of president, Distribution and Marketing of Starz Media, which included in its stable Film Roman, the longtime animator of Fox’s The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

Frank Biondi praised the work Braun did at HBO, “Neil restructured how we licensed films from independent producers by creating Silver Screen Partners and HBO Video, which significantly lowered our program acquisition cost. At Viacom, he had a wide scope of responsibility from real estate and human resources to the production and distribution of programming for broadcast networks and stations. Neil’s intellect, experience, and people skills are a great match for the challenges and opportunities facing business schools today.”

Braun serves on the board of directors, audit committee and compensation committee of IMAX Corporation, a NASDAQ company. He also serves on the board of directors and compensation committee of Share Our Strength, and the board of directors and executive committee of the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. He has been a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors since 2008.

Since 2000 Braun has been a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Overseers for the School of Arts and Sciences and, since 2008, the Trustee’s Social Responsibility Advisory Committee.  He has also been a faculty lecturer at the Wharton School of Business on the topic “Economic Models of Media and Entertainment” (2001).  Braun holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania (1974) and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School (1977) where he was a member of the Law Review.

Pace’s Lubin School of Business enrolls nearly 4,000 students. Lubin boasts a number of graduates who have gone on to become major industry leaders.

About Pace University: For more than 100 years, Pace University has been preparing students to become leaders in their fields. A private university, Pace provides an education that combines exceptional academics with professional experience and the New York advantage. Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, and enrolls almost 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lienhard School of Nursing, Lubin School of Business, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. www.pace.edu

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