Out of the Alley and Over the Bridge
Brooklyn Law School Helps Lure Tech Start-Ups To Borough With Fusion of Law and Technology
By Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce
Special to the Eagle
JORALEMON STREET — “Silicon Alley” generally refers to Lower Manhattan’s gritty, underground technology industry, the East Coast version of Palo Alto’s more genteel “Silicon Valley.” But all this might be changing as affordable living and office space, combined with a burgeoning start-up culture, is beginning to lure tech start-ups out of the alley and over the bridge to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Law School’s Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP) recently hosted an Entrepreneurs Roundtable, where hungry New York “tech-trepreneurs” pitched their start-up ideas to venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.
BLIP Director and Brooklyn Law School Professor Jonathan Askin explained the inspiration for bringing this event to Downtown Brooklyn, saying, “Until recently, my students and I spent four nights each week going to tech entrepreneurial events in Manhattan. We are committed to shifting thought-leadership to Brooklyn, the home of so many of the city’s, the country’s and the world’s great tech innovators.”
Last month’s event began with O’Donnell addressing the crowd of students, techies and entrepreneurs and encouraging everyone to get involved in something that they are passionate about.
“I’m looking for awesomeness,” O’Donnell said when asked what he was looking for in a start-up business.
The innovative businesses vying for the affection (and dollars) of O’Donnell included a social media life-coaching program, an online journalism hub and a virtual boutique fashion marketplace.
While many of the sales pitches were intriguing, it was Rob Caucci’s business that garnered the most attention. Caucci is the co-founder of SpaceSplitter.com, a website that helps college students and young professionals deal with the social and economic challenges of having a roommate. SpaceSplitter helps customers draft roommate agreements, divide household chores and keep track of utility bills and other finances.
O’Donnell was intrigued by Caucci’s energetic presentation and advised Caucci to write a book about roommate relationships and go on tour to every college in the nation to spread the word about SpaceSplitter.
“You should be the roommate guy,” O’Donnell added, lauding the young entrepreneur’s vision and passion for his idea.
Brooklyn Law School’s BLIP Clinic frequently hosts events seeking to unite entrepreneurially inclined members of the legal community with technology start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Last week, BLIP hosted a panel discussion featuring Josh Warnum, the COO of ADstruc.com, and Mario Kranjac, the managing partner of Kranjac Manuali & Viskovic LLP, a law firm that specializes in working with tech start-ups.
Professor Askin pointed out that lawyers and law students are commonly risk adverse, “wallflowers and naysayers at technological and social revolutions.”
This is why he and the student practitioners at BLIP are convinced that their clinic incorporates a potentially groundbreaking fusion of law and technology that will “enable the next generation of lawyers to play a productive, leadership role in the 21st century.”
Askin further hopes that these tech-themed roundtables, panel discussions and networking events will strengthen Brooklyn’s foothold in the New York City technology ecosystem. The idea: why go across the river to Manhattan, when it is all happening right here in Brooklyn?
The next such event is BLIP’s Legal Hackathon, where participants will explore the issues arising from the intersection of law and technology, with a focus on how government policy can keep pace with technological advances.
The Legal Hackathon takes place Sunday, April 15, at Brooklyn Law School, 250 Joralemon St., in Downtown Brooklyn. For more information regarding BLIP’s Legal Hackathon, go to legalhackathon.blipclinic.org or email [email protected].
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