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Brooklyn Law School hosts fifth annual CUBE Innovators Competition

April 13, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The winners of Brooklyn Law School's Legal Tech Innovators Competition: Joseph Santiago (left) and Christopher Aranguren. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

Brooklyn Law School’s Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) hosted its fifth annual Innovators Competition in conjunction with the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) at Stony Brooklyn University in Downtown Brooklyn on Thursday.

The event was kicked off with the CUBE Innovators Competition and was followed by a CUBE networking reception and panel discussion.

The Innovators Competition is similar to Brooklyn Law School’s (BLS) own version of the TV show “Shark Tank,” where five teams of students present entrepreneurial projects to a panel of judges to address the legal aspects of various social and business issues.

“This year we changed the theme a little bit. We historically have allowed students to argue that their venture has a legal component to it,” said BLS professor Jonathan Askin, founder and director of the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic. “This year we required them to focus on legal technology so it was a bit more narrow, but in all the years we’ve done this competition, this year’s entries were my favorite.”

The top three winners split a $4,500 prize that was made possible through a contribution to CUBE by the Nancy and Stanley M. Grossman CUBE Fellowship Fund.

This year’s winners were Joseph Santiago and Christopher Aranguren. They created a program called “Taurus,” a machine-learning tool that is meant to help litigants test copyright infringement in music.

“There is a problem with how juries find songs similar — it is kind of random, and often, cases have to go all the way to trial because it’s hard for litigants to figure out if they have a winning case,” Santiago said. “This is a machine learning [artificial intelligence] project that learns user input and tries to predict what jurors are likely to determine.”

After the event, the panel was convened to discuss innovations and new businesses working in the renewable energy sector and the legal challenges that arise. Part of the focus was on how startups can navigate legacy rules and regulations and how major utilities can play a role.

The panel was moderated by professor John Rudikoff, who is the CEO and managing director of CUBE. The panelists included Philip DeCicco, an attorney from National Grid; Jerritt Fluck, founder and CEO of Bonded Energy Solutions; Lissa So, a founding partner at Marvel Architects; and Harrison Perl, co-founder and CEO of C4Coin.

During the discussion, panelists continually asked So about Marvel Architect’s experiences in Puerto Rico, where it has been working since Hurricane Maria to help restore the electric grid.

“The permitting process before the storm was extensive and expensive,” So said. “The trick was that after the storm happened, they put an emergency waiver in place and said, ‘We’re removing the permitting process, go do what you need to do.’ That really opened the window to allow these microgrids to be created.”

The microgrids, So explained, are not currently connected to each other, but she explained that they have installed gateways so that once everything is put into place, the microgrids and their batteries will be able to connect to the main grid.

“To be able to cut the red tape, we could react and be able to make something happen immediately,” said So. “If people are doing things in an intelligent way there is so much that can be learned from the situation.”

Another focus on the discussion was on DeCicco, and what role that National Grid could and is playing in upgrading local grids to renewable energy. DeCicco admitted that in the past energy utilities have not always embraced new technologies, but said that things have changed in the past five to 10 years.

“Utilities have traditionally been viewed as slow to adopt change and it’s a reputation that is well deserved, candidly,” DeCicco said. “The paradigm has shifted. We live in a state where regulators are trying to make us a conduit to implement smart grids and distribute resources.”

CUBE is a program that provides clinical courses at the school and hosts public programs that highlight the startup industry and attorneys roles within it. CUBE’s goal is to ready law school students for a legal environment that has changed and now includes many jobs in alternative fields. It also provides small business startups with pro bono legal services.