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About The W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs

The entrepreneurship team at the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs helps students launch and lead high-growth companies.

We are a creative hub for the design of twenty-first century businesses and learning environments.

Our entrepreneurship team helps students to launch and lead high-growth companies. We’re not talking about little tweaks here and there. We’re talking about a way of thinking that surprises the market again and again with exciting, unexpected solutions. A way of thinking that produces an unconventional strategy that leaves competitors scrambling to catch up. A way of thinking that turns consumer expectations upside down and takes an industry into its next generation. It’s what we call disruptive thinking.

Learn. Launch. Lead.

If you're thinking now's the time to finally get that idea you've been kicking around in your head off the ground, we can help. Through an array of co-curricular activities, the W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs equip students, alumni, and researchers from across NYU's campus with the skills, know-how and ability to launch and grow sustainable ventures. For every emerging entrepreneur we see each year (and there's more than 800 of them), we strive to ensure that they: 1) Develop the skills and acquire the information critical to creating a successful venture; 2) Get the support and resources needed to make their vision actually happen; and 3) Build bold, exceptional entrepreneurial enterprises that bring innovation to the marketplace, create jobs, improve lives and build wealth.

Entrepreneurship Team | W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs

A headshot of Academic Director, Deepak Hegde, smiling at the camera.
Deepak Hegde, PhD., Academic Director

Professor Hedge leads the W.R. Berkley Innovation Labs and oversees the Lab's direction, programs and initiatives. He is also Associate Professor of Management and Founding Director of the Endless Frontier Labs. Professor Hedge is an academic expert on entrepreneurship and innovation and teaches graduate level courses on innovative entrepreneurship and strategy. He started his career as an engineer and earned his Ph.D. in Business Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. 

A photo of Cynthia Franklin, Director, smiling in a headshot
Cynthia Franklin, Director

Cynthia oversees the development, execution, and growth of all initiatives within the NYU Stern W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs. As an adjunct professor at Stern, she teaches Getting to Launch, a popular startup class. Cynthia also instructs the nationally-acclaimed Strategic Steps for Growth capacity building program targeting women- and minority-owned firms. She brings 16 years of experience starting, growing, and advising new ventures. Cynthia holds an MBA from Stern and is chairwoman of the NYU Federal Credit Union’s board of directors.

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Phoebe Punzalan, Associate Director

Phoebe manages the daily operations of the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge, one of the largest venture competitions of its type in the country. Each year the Challenge attracts more than 500 students, alumni and faculty from across NYU’s global campus. Phoebe coordinates the competition’s extensive educational component, which includes boot camps, workshops, and clinics; manages more than 100 startup coaches and judges; and directs cross-campus outreach. Phoebe is an NYU alumna with an MPA from the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School and a BA from the College of Arts & Science.

An image of Assistant Director, Danny Lafuente, smiling in a headshot
Danny Lafuente, Assistant Director

Danny focuses on the delivery of 1:1 startup advising for founders seeking assistance with launching and growing their ventures. He also oversees our summer startup accelerator, the Stern Venture Fellows program, and coordinates the annual NYU Mobile App Contest, which in just three years has grown to 185+ teams. Danny cofounded The LAB Miami, an incubator space in Miami, FL. He is also co-founder and board member of Mano Americas (a STEM-focused education and events company). He holds a BA in from the University of Pennsylvania.

A upper body photo of Shay gaskins, smiling for the camera
Shay Gaskins, Assistant Director

Shay develops and manages the marketing and communications efforts for the Labs’ initiatives. She also assists with operational support for various programming and events. Shay is an alumna of Ithaca College where she earned a B.S. in Sports Media and NYU where she earned an M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from the School of Professional Studies. 

A headshot of Administrative Assistant, Patricia Miller
Patricia Miller, Administrative Assistant

Patricia provides the team with administrative, program coordination, and event logistics support. She is a graduate of LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York.

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Student and Graduate Assistants

The W. R. Berkley Innovation Labs employs several Student Assistants and Graduate Assistants who help support our team's various events, services, and programs throughout the year. If you're interested in joining our team as a Student Assistant or Graduate Assistant, please reach out!