Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chatting with Mayor Bloomberg's Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Haot

New York City is one of the most digitally connected cities in the world. With so many tech entrepreneurs, online brands, social media enthusiasts, and even residents with something they'd like to say, it's no surprise that NYC is the only city in the country with its own chief digital officer.
Rachel Haot (formerly Rachel Sterne), who graduated from CAS in 2005 with a history degree, became the face of NYC's digital tech scene when she was named by Michael Bloomberg as Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York in January, 2011. Her team, dubbed "NYC Digital," works to promote digital engagement in New York City and support the aspirations of NYC's tech community.

In addition to working with the Bloomberg Administration, Rachel is the founder of GroundReport, a professor of Social Media and Entrepreneurship at Columbia University, and was recently profiled by Vogue as the city's "head nerd."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Recent Alumna Co-Founds Social Media Agency

In the spirit of Social Media Week 2013 in NYC, this week we are featuring Courtney Spritzer (CAS '09) who is a Co-Founder of SocialFly, a full-service digital marketing and PR agency. We first met her last December at the CAS Alumni Happy Hour at Linen Hall. Since then, we had the opportunity to talk with Courtney about her new venture, which capitalizes on the increasing importance of social media as a PR and marketing tool. 

Arts & Science Alumni Relations: Socialfly already has an impressive list of clients and testimonials. How do you find new clients?

Courtney Spritzer: Networking, word of mouth, and of course, social media marketing has been key to our business. When Stephanie and I decided to leave our jobs, we had our operations in place, but only two clients. We immediately attended every networking event that we could and met as many people as possible. We would then connect with people on LinkedIn and keep a dialogue going. These people over time became our clients or introduced us to our clients.

There is still a lot of skepticism about using social media for business. How do you convince wary clients that social media will help to grow their companies?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Alumnae Create an App for Fitness... and Offer a Special Promotion to NYU Alumni

According to the Huffington Post, 2012 health trends were partly defined by the use of boutique spinning classes and CrossFit, and 2013 will bring a much bigger rise in "boutique fitness studios for every discipline."

FitMapped is a fitness tool that adapts to this latest trend in how city dwellers are working out. As small fitness boutiques (like yoga, Pilates, spin, martial arts, etc.) become more popular, alumnae Anita Mirchandani (CAS '04) and Michelle Velasquez (CAS '03) realized the need for an "aggregated and easy to search database where anyone could search for their next workout... Users can search for any studio, gym, or recreation center by neighborhood, type and price."

We had the chance to talk with Anita about FitMapped and what it's like to spearhead an online start-up as a self-proclaimed "non-techie." 

***Also, for the next 24 hours, FitMapped will be offering a promotion to NYU Alumni: If you download their free mobile app and use the code "NYUALUM" you will be entered to win a 1 month supply of Pop Chips + 1 VIP voucher to Exhale Spa + 2 30-min sessions with Anita, FiTMAPPED's in-house R.D. Promotion will expire at 11:59PM on 2/13/13.***

NYU Arts & Science Alumni Relations: What was the biggest challenge you faced in launching FitMapped?

Anita Mirchandani: Our biggest challenge, as non-techies and 1st time entrepreneurs, was learning the ropes of starting a tech based company – from understanding SEO to balancing a company budget. It has been a steep learning curve, but we have grown so much as a team from all of the bumps along the way.  We know that it is all about the journey, and we are enjoying the challenges that we face along the way to success.

FitMapped is currently available for NYC and LA. In “mapping” these two cities, did you notice any differences between their attitudes towards fitness?

Not really, there are fitness fanatics everywhere!  We have found that boutique fitness has exploded in both cities, but perhaps for different reasons. New Yorkers (especially type-A young professionals) see trying tough classes as a challenge and a “sweat”-working opportunity.  In LA, likely because of the weather, fitness seekers tend to seek out boutique workouts to supplement an active outdoor lifestyle – particularly those who live closer to the Pacific.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurial alumni who have a great idea for an online start-up?

Talk to as many people who will listen to you and offer advice.  Our list of people who have been instrumental in both shaping our idea and teaching us the ins and outs of starting a company is pages long - if we had to write a thank you speech it would last longer than the Oscars.  If you do not know who to talk to, we recommend getting involved with the many organizations (i.e General Assembly) out there that help entrepreneurs and attend seminars, networking events, etc.  You would be surprised at how many people there are out there who are not only willing to offer advice, but are truly excited to help you succeed.  At NYU, there are many resources including the bi-annual Entrepreneur Festival and the annual Women's Entrepreneur Festival through the ITP program. 

If an alum has a fitness location they would like to submit to FitMapped, who should they contact?

Please contact inquiry@fitmapped.com.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Amanda Cohen (CAS '95) Makes You Want To Eat Your Vegetables

You may have seen the recent New York Times review by Pete Wells of Amanda Cohen's (CAS '95) quaint East Village hot spot, Dirt Candy. Just the thought of Amanda's rosemary cotton candy intrigues the taste buds, and when we started reading her graphic novel/cookbook Dirt Candy, we couldn't put it down.

Arts and Science Alumni Relations: Did you know what career path you wanted to take while you were at student at NYU?

Amanda Cohen: Not really. When I went to NYU I wasn’t interested in cooking as a career or anything like that. I was taking anthropology classes and keeping my head down.

What career path did you take after graduating from NYU and at what point did you know that you wanted to go into the restaurant industry?

It wasn’t until I’d lived in Hong Kong for a while and then LA that I realized I needed to stop drifting around and find something to do that I felt passionate about and that turned out to be food.