‘There’s Huge Opportunity Here’: Cornell Tech’s Fernando Gomez-Baquero At Bisnow’s Long Island City & Queens Conference
How is Long Island City faring without the prospect of Amazon HQ2 looming over it any more? What industries now have room to grow? Will they drive enough demand to jump-start the residential and retail boom investors were hoping for? These questions and more will be on the docket at Bisnow’s Long Island City & Queens Annual Conference on Sept. 26. Register here for the event.
Fernando Gómez-Baquero started 64 companies in 2018. This year, he’s on track to start 80 more.
Gómez-Baquero oversees the Runway Startups Postdocs program at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, helping postdoctoral students move seamlessly from studying to founding their own companies. Spurring on a new generation of entrepreneurs, the program is on the leading edge of innovation for healthcare, biomedical research and numerous other tech fields.
The Institute is a joint academic venture between Cornell University and the Technion, Israel’s premier technical university. It forms the bulk of Cornell Tech, the new technology, business, law and design campus taking shape on the southern half of Roosevelt Island, which is turning into the beating heart of New York’s entrepreneurial sector.
Gómez-Baquero, for his part, is all in on Roosevelt Island. He and his Roosevelt Island home — the first ever high-rise to follow the energy-efficient Passive House model — were profiled by The New York Times in July. Bisnow sat down with Gómez-Baquero to learn more about his program and what he plans to discuss at our Long Island City & Queens Annual Conference on Sept. 26.
Bisnow: How would you describe your role?
Gómez-Baquero: We take early stage companies that have been built by postdoc students and invest in them to help them grow. I’m responsible for managing the companies’ relationship to Cornell Tech, and I provide mentorship, guidance and the resources they need to get going.
Bisnow: What’s the state of tech entrepreneurship in New York City?
Gómez-Baquero: Tech entrepreneurship, especially in the biomedical industry, is really one of the healthiest sectors in the city’s economy. We have great institutions here — Weill Cornell medical school, Langone, Mount Sinai, Sloan Kettering and hundreds of interesting clinics and hospitals.
In the last five years, the city has become a little more systematic about innovation. The number of incubators, accelerators, venture funds and angel investors has taken off. It’s become much simpler to go from an idea to a fully fledged company.
Bisnow: How does Long Island City fit into the mix?
Gómez-Baquero: Long Island City has the opportunity to play a huge role in the tech and biomedical industries. People want to be close to Midtown Manhattan, but also near some of the institutes further out on Long Island, so LIC is right at the crossroads. It’s also more affordable than many of the areas near existing health centers in Manhattan. Even though Amazon changed their mind, there’s a reason they thought Long Island City was a good idea.
Bisnow: How do you like living in a passive house?
Gómez-Baquero: I love it. I’m an energy geek, I think constantly about energy efficiency, saving energy, generating energy. I don’t look at it like “every house will be a passive house,” but buildings like this demonstrate the power of technologies coming together.
Bisnow: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Gómez-Baquero: I still wonder how I get paid to do what I do. It’s really a great job to have. I like to switch topics and find connections between areas that are seemingly unconnected. Working with so many startup companies, each one is different, but there are more connections than you think. There’s a serendipity between them.
Bisnow: What are you looking forward to at Bisnow’s Long Island City & Queens Annual Conference?
Gómez-Baquero: What we’re really here to talk about is economic development. If you think about Cornell Tech, the reason we’re on Roosevelt Island is economic development. We’ve been at the campus for two years and now that we understand better where we are, we want to become an active member of the island community, and really of the larger NYC community.