In NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Labs, MBAs Help Bring Science & Tech Startups To Market

In NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Labs, MBAs Help Bring Science & Tech Startups To Market

MBAs are first selected to the Endless Frontier Labs program not on technical or scientific backgrounds, but rather on their intellectual curiosity and comfort level with ambiguity. Stern photo

Describing his inspiration for NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Lab, professor Deepak Hegde often tells the story of the discovery of synthetic insulin.

Way back in 1953, two young scientists walked into an English pub and declared that they had found the secret of life. James Watson and Francis Crick had, in fact, discovered the double helix structure of DNA, but it would take another 20 years for scientists to figure out something to do with it.

In the 1970s, two professors – Herbert Boyer of University of California, San Francisco and Stanley Cohen of Stanford University – came up with a way to engineer DNA based on the double helix structure. But even then it took an unemployed MBA graduate to bring something useful to market.

As the story goes, Robert Swanson used the last of the money he had to buy a plane ticket to the West Coast to meet with the two scientists. By the end of the 30-minute meeting, Boyer agreed to give up his tenured job at UCSF to start a company to commercialize their DNA technology. They founded Genentech and used the tech to synthesize insulin in a lab, simultaneously improving the lives of diabetics around the world while saving millions of pigs in the process. (Previously, it took more than two tons of pig parts to extract just eight ounces of insulin.)

Genentech went on to seed the biotech revolution. It was acquired by Roche Holdings in 2009 for $46.8 billion.

“What we want to do at Endless Frontier Labs is help seed the creation of many other Genentechs by bringing in these brilliant scientists with great technical ideas, and giving them business advice and connections to smart MBAs that are so essential to develop the commercial side of these technical ideas,” Hegde says.


Hegde is founder and director of Endless Frontier Labs (EFL) at New York University’s Stern School of Business as well as a P&Q 40 under 40 Best MBA professor from 2015. He founded the early-stage startup accelerator five years ago, and it now receives about 1,500 startup applications from around the world each year. It has room for roughly 75, making it the most selective such accelerator of its kind.

Startups do not have to have an affiliation to New York University, and NYU requires no equity nor fees for participation. Instead, the program looks for massively scalable science and tech startups with “extraordinarily bold, new ideas” in Life Sciences, Digital Tech, and/or Deep Tech. Throughout the nine-month program startups get access to NYU’s, Stern’s, and the EFL’s extensive network of scientists, investors, and business leaders that advise and mentor them.

“We have an ambition of bringing in the best science, but also marrying it with the commercial urgency of New York City,” says Hegde, a professor of strategy and management as well as academic director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship.

Each startup is paired with an MBA from Hegde’s Endless Frontier Labs course that runs in conjunction with the accelerator. MBAs work alongside EFL staff and mentors to help startups commercialize their ideas. MBAs, in turn, get hands-on experience evaluating early stage startups, developing startup business models, resourcing startup financing, implementing business models and scaling, and more.

In NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Labs, MBAs Help Bring Science & Tech Startups To Market

Deepak Hegde is founder and director of NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Labs as well as academic director of the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship. Photo credit: ©Myaskovsky, ©Jolly: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau

That first year of EFL, Hegde had to beg and borrow students to get to 23 MBAs. Now, the course gets about 120 MBA applications each year for about 75 spots.

Over its five-year run, EFL has 183 alumni startups, 83% of which have successfully raised at least one funding round during or after the program, outpacing other accelerators like YCombinator (77% successful funding rounds) and Techstars (73%). Some 114 EFL startups have raised $1.76 billion in capital, and 85 of them have $4.9 billion in collective valuation. Notably, 45.9% of the startups have been led by women founders, magnitudes above comparable accelerators.

That’s in an environment that has already been particularly challenging for early-stage startups over the last several years. Not to mention science-based startups which carry out-sized risks that the technology might not work as hoped and which are founded by scientists and tech people with no business experience. EFL works because it helps translate the science into a language investors can understand, and vice versa.

This is where universities like NYU have a huge advantage, Hegde believes. The faculty scientists that work with EFL can understand and speak about the science, but they are also good teachers who can break it down and simplify it for others – including investors.

“So, when you bring those scientific mentors, in combination with investors and other business executives, the exchange that happens among them is so powerful,” Hegde says.


Pairing the right MBAs to the right startups is essential to the program’s success. MBAs are first selected to the program not on technical or scientific backgrounds, but rather on their intellectual curiosity and comfort level with ambiguity. Then the program goes through a process that works a bit like a “reverse career fair,” says Alexander (Alex) Jonsson, a Class of 2022 MBA in Stern’s Langone part-time program.

MBAs review all 75 startups in the program and rank their top five. The startups, then, get the chance to evaluate all the MBAs who hope to work with them and give their preferences. The matches come after this deliberate cross evaluation.

In NYU Stern’s Endless Frontier Labs, MBAs Help Bring Science & Tech Startups To Market

Alexander Jonsson, MBA ’22

“This environment, reminiscent of a cocktail hour, encouraged deep, nerdy conversations about technology, business models, and the future trajectory of each industry track the startups were clustered into,” Jonsson tells P&Q. “It was a refreshing take on recruitment and networking, highlighting the mutual respect and shared goals among the participants.”

Jonsson’s career before his MBA spanned oil and gas to renewable energy to healthcare fundraising at Memorial Sloan Kettering. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he founded a digital health app to store and share health information that led to a beta rollout. Though his startup didn’t pan out, it lit an entrepreneurial fire. He applied to the EFL course his last year of business school. “My goal was clear: to meld my engineering background with my business acumen to innovate in medical devices, a field where I saw immense potential for meaningful societal contribution.”

Jonsson was paired with Cordance Medical, a company developing a non-invasive medical device to precisely open the blood-brain barrier, allowing drugs and diagnostic biomarkers to get to where they’re needed. The company believes this will improve treatments and diagnosis of a myriad of brain diseases, including cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more. It has received grants from the National Science Foundation totaling more than $1 million to date, and in December, announced a partnership with Stanford Medicine.

During EFL, Jonsson conducted literature reviews on both brain diseases and focused ultrasound technology. He completed financial modeling and built investor pitch decks. “It was a period of intense learning and practical application,” he says.

Cordance asked him to join the startup full time while he was still an MBA student. Jonsson is now the company’s Business Operations Manager.

“I find my work at Cordance immensely fulfilling. It’s a rare privilege to be part of a team that’s directly contributing to advancements in medical technology, potentially saving lives and improving the quality of healthcare. The challenges we face are complex, but the impact of our work is profound and deeply rewarding,” he says.

“While I am deeply committed to my current role, the entrepreneurial spirit instilled in me by the EFL course and my prior experiences keeps the flame of building my own venture alive. Whatever the future holds, my aim is to remain at the forefront of technological innovation, contributing to a healthier and better society.”


When you consider the biggest advancements in human progress, nearly all link back to science-led inventions and innovations. It’s true of James Watt’s steam engine that heralded the industrial revolution. It’s true of the discovery of penicillin that led to the life-saving antibiotics we rely on to this day. And it’s true of the development of the powerful computing technology driving the current AI and productivity revolution.

This is essentially the basis of Hegde’s founding vision for the Endless Frontier Lab. “The irony is that the more promising the invention, the harder it is for them to make that initial breakthrough into the markets,” he tells P&Q.

Looking back at five years of EFL, that is what makes Hegde most proud: Startups with potential to greatly improve human lives that are forging a path to do so.

Take Immunai, a 2021 startup graduate. Co-founder Noam Solomon, who has a double PhD in math and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had an innovative machine learning algorithm but didn’t have a clear vision for the market applications. EFL connected him with one of NYU’s top immuno oncologists, and today the company is mapping the human immune system to better diagnose and treat a variety of human diseases. They have a valuation of roughly $1 billion, Hegde says.

“EFL worked with them before COVID really highlighted the importance of a deeper knowledge of the human immune system,” he says. “This is a company that was accelerated by what we are doing and that foreshadowed and already had a solution to what would become a big problem. That is super powerful.”


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