Testimonials from the 2010 class of hackNY Fellows

We’ve been blown away by the quality of the applications we received for the class of 2011 hackNY Fellows, with over 100 applications from over 30 schools, from Palo Alto to Portugal! We’ll be informing admitted students soon, but wanted to share some of the experiences of the 2010 class. The following are testimonials the students provided at the end of last summer, uploaded with their permission. Stay tuned!

hackNY is responsibly for ridding the intimidation I once experienced when considering startups. I am grateful to hackNY for accommodating me with a fantastic group of people at Comixology — very young and high-spirited — who never once were reluctant to answer my questions and look over my work. During my tenure there, it was demanded of me that I produce very different work every week, affording me new skills that I suspect will be sought by many future employers. Additionally, the hackNY fellows were a group of very bright kids. Many evenings were spent discussing projects and sharing ideas and techniques. These sessions provided me with at least as much knowledge as the daylight hours spent at work. To top it all, Hilary, Evan, and Chris coordinated weekly to bring us very accomplished men and women in startups, investment, and social media; their insight, once again, is a rare gift, and it’s wonderful that the hackNY moderators had the ability and contacts to bring us close to these speakers. The moral of the story: hackNY facilitated the process of finding a compatible startup, and provided the perks of a small community of hackers and the lectures of very wise people.

– Andres Campanella, NYU

As the hackNY program draws to a close, I would like to reflect on the past 10 weeks I’ve spent working at Aprizi. I have really enjoyed my time here for a number of reasons. I appreciate the atmosphere that Giff and Liz have created here. I feel comfortable asking questions about both the business and technical sides of things and really about any other topic as well. I feel like I have joined the programming community. I don’t get stuck at the small bugs in my code- I know how to research errors online and I’ve even posted specific questions on different troubleshooting forums. Coding for Aprizi is more exciting than the projects I have worked on at school in that my changes will actually be used on the website to provide a better user experience. I wondered how I would do it, but I am happy to report that I have successfully configured a search feature onto the website! I have also had my fair share of bigger, more frustrating bugs that I have spent a lot more time on. In a more general vein, sitting in the same office as Giff and Liz, I see how exciting it is when steps are made in the right direction, but also how frustrating the process of getting there can be. I see that during the rougher times it is important to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and think about the best way to fix a problem or where leave off and look for the next step. I have had some good times out of the office as well. Liz and I went together to visit Google where she introduced me to some of her friends and they showed us around the (very funky) office. We also went to the Girl Geek Dinner, an Internet week event. At the dinner, I was introduced to the world of networking and we met some cool women involved in different kinds of startups. Liz also came with me to one of the hackNY events, a hackathon at bit.ly, where we started a project that would take advantage of some of the bit.ly features listed in their API.

I have learned a lot about the way startups work from the weekly hackNY events which featured knowledgeable speakers who were related to the startup world in various ways.

Overall, I am really happy I was able to join the Aprizi team this summer as a hackNY fellow. I have discovered some great products, learned a lot and met some great people.

– Julie Dinerman, Columbia

I found hackNY to be a valuable experience because it provided me an entrance into the New York startup community. Before this summer, I didn’t realize how many startups existed in the city and how closely their founders were knit; I feel that hackNY created and will help foster a community of computer science students to join, and eventually take over, the ecosystem of startups. I learned a lot about the intricacies of founding and funding a startup from the guest lecturers, and also about the benefits of working in a small company instead of a large one. I also got experience working in a startup. My mentors at Business Insider helped me learn the basics of maintaining and upgrading a successful website, skills necessary for work at any startup. Being a fellow in the hackNY program has given me valuable connections to the New York startup community and computer science students as well as a new programming skill-set to enhance my resume.

– Nolan Filter, NYU

I cannot say enough good things about this program. The least of all of it is the technical aspect. Everything else that comes with being a hackNY fellow provides insight that cannot be gained passively and experience which cannot be had without the careful planning and structure of the summer as designed by the organizers. Spending the summer as part of hackNY has been a pivotal event in my life; it has instilled in me direction, motivation, and focus, all of which my generation seems to so frequently complain about lacking. The experience is invaluable.

– Jacob Hickey, NYU

I met my current employer through hackNY! That is how valuable hackNY’s summer program was to me. I currently work full time at Buzzfeed.com which was the startup with which Hilary, Chris and Evan paired me for the summer. But that’s not all. On top of finding a job, I met inspiring entrepreneurs and key figures of the industry, from whom I gained an incredible, priceless insight on how to create, manage and fund an Internet startup in New York City. Besides being employed at one of New York’s most vibrant (viral) startups, I have been introduced to the many aspects that will one day allow me to start and successfully manage my own company.

– Clement Huyghebaert, Columbia

Spending my summer working with startups in New York City has proven to be an extremely rewarding experience. New Jersey leaves little opportunity to be involved in the rising startup scene of New York. Housing and work arrangements provided by the hackNY program allowed me to become a part a very exciting field in a very exciting time. My startup, bit.ly, put me to work designing and prototyping new web applications for their company. By the end of the ten weeks I completed my prototype and now bit.ly is preparing to push the product to a production level. I did not ever expect to work on a product for such a large audience. The program provided me with great work experience and incredibly valuable connections. In addition to the web celebrities and insightful professors, I met 11 other like minded hackers of whom I still keep in touch with. I spend most of the summer trading business cards and was offered numerous opportunities for work in the future.

– Ian Jennings, Rutgers

The hackNY program was an incredible opportunity. Chris, Evan, and Hilary were all talented organizers. I had not received much exposure to the startup scene beforehand, so it was very eye opening to learn how both startups and venture capitalists operate from the major players themselves. Working for Knewton was a great experience, both in learning real world skills in current technology and teamwork, and in getting a first-hand view of startup culture. After this summer, I would love to continue being a part of the startup scene.

– Stuart Partin, Columbia

The hackNY fellowship was a very different and awesome learning experience for me. The visits to startup companies and chats with entrepreneurs were eye-opening (given I knew very little about the startup industry), especially the talks by Chris Dixon and by Jonah Perreti. The most exciting part, however, was working as part of the data team at OKCupid. On my first day, my mentor discussed with me the problem I had to solve and the overall goal of my project. After this, I was free to research and develop the best solution to the problem with minimum interference and maximum access to any help I needed — I was very impressed by this. I also thoroughly enjoyed the spontaneous and rapid exchange of ideas on data visualization and site improvements that could been brought about by inferences made from the vast amounts of data they have. The opportunities offered by the hackNY fellowship definitely introduced me to new career choices and exciting possibilities for me to explore.

– Anil Raj, Columbia

What can I say about HackNY that hasn’t already been said (in the Wall Street Journal)?

Before the program, I had vague dreams of graduating college, moving to Silicon Valley, and starting a web company, but had little real-world knowledge of how any of that actually worked. The HackNY program taught me not only what the necessary tools were, it gave me the opportunity to meet leading people in the field and ask them anything I wanted. HackNY placed me in a “hot” NYC startup, where everyone was eager to give me real programming tasks (I prototyped a new product) and real responsibilities I would never find in my undergraduate curriculum.

HackNY also gave me pizza. Lots of it.

But most important of all — it taught me to value my talent as a “hacker” and realize that hackers, not MBA grads or investment bankers, are the true innovators and should realize their value.

– Tal Safran, NYU

I think of hackNY as an incubator for talent. An investment in hackNY is an investment in the future generation of technology entrepreneurs. The hackNY fellows will fuel the next generation of startups. The value of that should not be understated. The proliferation of startups is invaluable to the city and to innovation at large. I’m truly proud to have been a part of the inaugural class of hackNY. I’m more excited than ever to graduate to the real world — not as a code monkey, but as a business savvy hacker.

– Max Stoller, NYU

hackNY has opened my eyes to the startup and tech community in New York. We had talks by many different startups and entrepreneurs who all taught us a little something different about being a tech entrepreneur and managing both small and growing companies. We also were educated on the financial side of tech startups by hearing from investors who each invest at a different stage in a startup’s life. I gained invaluable knowledge about tech entrepreneurship from the speakers. Actually working for a NY tech startup was also a very big learning experience. I received first hand knowledge on how a tech startup functions, and during my time there also learning a bunch of programming practices and a bunch of computer science. I also really enjoyed interacting with all the other hackNY fellows as well. We were able to discuss the talks and what we were doing at our respective startups. Like I stated before, I am now aware of a completely new option for my career, and it is one that is looking increasingly more appealing the more I learn about it. I am very grateful for the hackNY Fellows Program.

– Chris Triolo, Princeton

Enrolling in the hackNY program and working with a startup in NYC helped me make sense of my studies in both the Stern Business School and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science. I appreciate hackNY program because it brought me into silicon alley, under the influence of which, I have started to think about working with or establishing a startup in NYC or in any place around the world.

– Tengchao Zhou, NYU