Searching for the Next Facebook or Google: Bloomberg Helps Launch Tech Incubator

By Larry Greenemeier
Sep 20, 2017 11:55 AM ET

Originally posted on

Michael Bloomberg likes to say that being fired from his high perch at Salomon Brothers in the summer of 1981 was one of the best things that happened to him. Freed from the golden shackles of one of Wall Street’s most iconic investment firms, the future mayor of New York City wasted little time. He used his newfound freedom—and a $10-million payout—to quickly hire three computer programmers and launch the tech and media powerhouse that would eventually make him one of the wealthiest people on the planet.

One of Bloomberg’s efforts to spread that wealth comes to fruition Wednesday, when Cornell University officially opens its Cornell Tech engineering campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Islanda sliver of land in the middle of the East River. Native Americans used Roosevelt Island as a hunting ground and fishing spot before 17th-century Dutch settlers bought the island to raise hogs. Over the past 180 years it has been home to a mental hospital, penitentiary, smallpox hospital, almshouse, nursing school and government rent-subsidized apartment buildings. The island’s newest resident—Cornell Tech—was the result of a campaign that then-Mayor Bloomberg began nearly a decade ago to create an incubator for tech start-ups akin to Stanford University in Silicon Valley, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Boston area. His foundation has also contributed at least $100 million toward the new Cornell project.

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