Crain's NYB
January 6, 2003
CUNY hatching incubator for design firms in Queens
East River Studios first of 7 industry-specific centers to nurture businesses

Business owners Kenny Greenberg and Dino Valaoritis aren't your average neonatal candidates for an incubator. Mr. Greenberg has owned architectural and theatrical lighting design firm Krypton Neon Inc. in Long Island City, Queens, for 22 years. Mr. Valaoritis started to manufacture high-end furniture in 1997, and also runs a firm that helps designers manufacture and market their products.

But then, East River Studios at LaGuardia Community College in Queens-the first of as many as seven incubators that the City University of New York is planning-is no more typical than its first two members, Messrs. Greenberg and Valaoritis.

"We're not going to be a venture capital hotel," says Mr. Valaoritis. "We're about getting things done."

The two men have been chosen as guinea pigs for a $7.5 million state-funded effort that formally does not begin at LaGuardia until February and opens elsewhere months later. Along with offering the usual ingredients so vital to startups-everything from space to business planning and budgeting advice-East River Studios aims to do more.

Like the other planned CUNY incubators, LaGuardia's will focus on one industry, design businesses. What it will do is gather a cluster of mostly Long Island City-based designers of everything from lighting and furniture to Web sites and encourage them to collaborate on product development, sourcing, manufacturing and marketing with help from CUNY professors.

East River Studios will have equipment to build prototypes, and shared space to allow some manufacturing. Nonmanufacturing members will be expected to help in marketing efforts. The firms could all be customers of one another.

East River is also in negotiations with some of the city's design schools to have one join the incubator to provide student labor and professorial insights on marketing