From The Editors
At Play in the Yard
for Kimbal
Our New Neighbor
Existential Objects
Non-beige Tech Spaces, Self-Realized City Places, and What Fancy Really Means

   At some point along the way, we all got used to tech living the Randian ideal in Silicon Valley: young, myopic, and mostly dudes. The Valley’s suburban setting seemed to represent a disregard for aesthetics, culture, and civic relativism.

   Conventional wisdom understood the diversity, density, and adversity of a city like ours to be frictions and impediments to innovation, rather than potential catalysts to transcend the world of social media values to the real technology of the next industrial revolution.

   Well, bullshit.

   Welcome to New York—Brooklyn, to be exact. We’ve been expecting you.

   New Lab is now a year old, and it’s time to start a dialogue. New Lab has been an experiment to see whether a public-private partnership between a city, a State, a Navy Yard, and entrepreneurs could be successful, transcend bureaucracy, and do something interesting.

   As we enter Year Two, we’re taking this experiment to the streets—literally (more on this in the article enclosed). We’re pairing industry leaders with tireless entrepreneurs to foster conversations that might otherwise be impossible. We’re using our own backyard as a test-bed for the work we’re doing (thank you BNY). We’re committed to enabling technology to transcend stagnant ideals about what it means for technology to be truly “smart.” And we’re watching as the future happens in real time.

   We’re aware that “fancy” isn’t a word often associated with tech, which fetishizes efficiency and problem-solving. To us, fancy means special, and we like it special—it’s what we fancy—in our members, our partners, and our city. Tech Fancy is where we’ll tell the New Lab story, make that stories, there’s much to talk about.

   Boots up, Tevas down. Welcome to issue one, and year two.

---The Editors (David, Molly & Mari)---

As we get older, we realize that “as a result of” and “in spite of” are exactly the same thing. We learn that there are no solutions without problems, no progress without friction, no innovation without breaking things. A good idea with a lot of hard work is not enough, great city support is not enough, and a community of willing entrepreneurs is not enough. But, together, interesting things can happen.

For better and for worse, there’s no place like New York. We’re the second largest tech economy in the US, but, despite this, we’re often thought of as difficult to maneuver and bureaucratic.

A group of public-private partners are working to change that perception. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is helping a number of New Lab’s Urban Tech Hub companies test their products in their own backyard, and transcend their size and scale to ultimately take their projects to the city streets, infrastructure, and waterways. The first round of companies—an expert robotics firm, a high-performance solar company, a sophisticated e-bike sharing company, and a company developing a revolutionary technology for urban 3D mapping—are leading the first round of such experiments this fall.

Voltaic Systems makes solar-ware robust enough to power remote UN initiatives, and durable enough for off-the-grid photographers capsizing kayaks in Patagonia. As a member of New Lab, Voltaic recently embarked on designing solar-powered sensors that can be used by local organizations like the Billion Oyster Project, a massive New York environmental restoration initiative. Jeff Crystal runs Voltaic’s operations and says with New York’s labyrinthine decision structures he wouldn’t have known where to start.

“I probably would have wondered whether I can bother them,” Crystal says of the city’s management bodies. “In terms of the scale of city projects, this is small potatoes. But for us, it’s extremely valuable.”

Voltaic is a member of New Lab’s Urban Tech Hub program, which is a partnership between New Lab and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “We create strong pathways and build critical bridges for companies to develop these important technologies as they’re preparing to go to market,” says New Lab’s Tech Hub director Shaina Horowitz. “And the city loves it because these companies are helping to improve the city itself.”

New Lab houses over 100 companies building advanced technologies. “We are thrilled to partner with the city and the Navy Yard to allow these companies to access real-world test cases,” David Belt, New Lab’s co-founder and CEO, says.

“The nature of innovation requires iteration; we all need to test and deploy before finalizing design.” Belt adds, “We’re sort of in the ‘medical marijuana phase’ of smart cities—legal, and somewhat accepted as the future, but not yet ready for prime time.”

New Lab opened its doors in Brooklyn Navy Yard Building 128 a year ago. There are millions of dollars in prototyping equipment on-site, which aid companies building meticulous robotic arms, synthetic bone implants, and new tech rooted in artificial intelligence, IoT, and nanotechnology, among other disciplines.

“New York is an ideal place to manufacture products right now,” says Clare Newman, the Navy Yard’s Chief of Staff.

“The combination of access to talent, market proximity, real-live test beds and the ability to collaborate with the other cutting-edge entrepreneurs that we have here – particularly at the Brooklyn Navy Yard – is unparalleled anywhere in the United States.”

Any time Social Bicycles, an upstart bikeshare company and New Lab member, wants to test a new design, they step outside. “That’s why we haven’t worked in other spaces,” says Nick Foley, who heads product. “The overall environment of the Navy Yard is perfect for transportation concepts.” This fall, Social Bicycles will bring 100 of their electric bikes to the Navy Yard to see how they perform in a city like New York.

The NYCEDC and the Navy Yard are uniquely positioned as partners for New Lab, as they’re capable of paving inroads to success in a notoriously challenging city. “Most startups like us are not very excited to figure out the machine of government,” Ro Gupta says. “Psychologically knowing New Lab, the NYCEDC, and the Navy Yard are there to help with that is liberating.”

Gupta cofounded Carmera with Justin Day, the former CTO of MakerBot. Carmera has developed a technology that allows for real-time, constantly updated 3D mapping of cities. The founders see potential for their technology to be crucial for urban developers, autonomous vehicles, public transportation and infrastructure. Gupta says the choice to keep Carmera here, and not moving to an area with more open space, was deliberate for their growth.

“New York is like a small country in itself. You test in a confined market and extend out,” Gupta says.

Honeybee Robotics has built robotic parts for Mars Rovers. John Abrashkin, who directs Honeybee’s business development, understates this eloquently: “We build things that work in dynamic environments.” The company works with NASA in California but leverages their New Lab offices to test mouse-sized pipe-crawling robots. Iterating in an environment like the Navy Yard ensures their product can perform in challenging settings.

“The whole building acts like an extended brain trust,” Abrashkin says of New Lab. “It’s nice to be around so many smart people doing important work.”

Read More
A Not Entirely Scientific Graph
A Not Entirely Scientific Graph
The New Lab Engineer Jacket
The New Lab Engineer Jacket
Q&A with Kimbal Musk

Co-founder of The Kitchen and Square Roots, an urban farming and entrepreneurship platform down the road from New Lab in Brooklyn.

1. We love that you’re in Brooklyn. What brought you and your business here?  In many ways NYC is a template for what the future world will look like. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet, and 70% will live in cities. These people will all want local, real food. So my co-founder Tobias Peggs and I thought: if we can figure out a solution in NYC, then it will be a solution for that rest of the world as it increasingly begins to look like NYC. 2. What’s next for Square Roots? We want to prove the Square Roots model with our first campus in Brooklyn. We want to replicate the campus and program model in every American city as fast as we can. 3. What about food is the most broken? Can it be fixed? Many people – especially in our biggest cities – are at the mercy of industrial food. The industrial food system ships in high-calorie, low-nutrient, processed food from thousands of miles away. It leaves us disconnected from our food and the people who grow it. The results are awful — from obesity and diabetes to a total loss of community in our food system. The American food system can be fixed but we need an army of real food entrepreneurs helping to move us away from industrial food. 4. If you could erase any technology from history, what would it be? Corn-based ethanol. It has co-opted millions of acres of land that could be used for real food without any environmental benefit. 5. If you were a vegetable, what would you be? 🍅😜

When the going
gets weird, the
weird turn pro.
Hunter S. Thompson, writer
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