Runway Startup Postdoc Program - Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute

Recently completed your PhD and want to harness your deep tech expertise to start a company? Want to do it in New York City and get funding from day one? If so, consider the Runway Startup Postdoc Program.

The Runway Startup Postdoc Program is part business school, part research institution, and part startup incubator. Based at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, Runway ushers recent PhDs in digital technology fields through a paradigm shift — from an academic mindset to an entrepreneurial outlook.

Startup Postdocs arrive with ideas for unproven products and markets that require time and specialized guidance to develop. These startups demand more than a few months to launch. They need a bit of a “runway.” That’s why our program lasts 12–36 months and incorporates academic and business mentorship.

Runway provides an impressive package valued at $175,000 that includes a salary, research budget, housing allowance, space and more in the first year. In addition, the Startup Postdoc receives significant benefits and perks and corporate support valued at $400,000.

Have you recently received a PhD in the digital technologies? Do you dream of launching a business, but don’t know how to get it off the ground? Would you like funding for your company from the get go? If you’re nodding vigorously to all these questions keep reading.

We start accepting applications for fall 2017 on October 15 and will continue to through February 15. Decisions will be announced April 15. If space opens up after that date, additional applications may be considered. The program officially starts in August 2017 and runs for one year with a possible extension for another year or two. Decisions on second-year extensions will be made in May 2018.

Benefits and Perks

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute provides an impressive package valued at $175,000 that includes a salary and housing allowance, a research budget, mentorship, workspace and office equipment on campus, IP registration and use, as well as classes and workshops on entrepreneurship and business management.

Core Benefits

Runway award: We provide a package valued at $175,000 that includes a salary and housing allowance for the Startup Postdoc, a research budget, IP registration and use, free access to all CBInsight publications, and numerous other benefits. Your research budget can be used as you see fit: To pay employees or consultants or to purchase equipment — it's up to you.

Business education: We kick off the program with “Startup MBA,” a four week intensive education program teaching entrepreneurship and business concepts. We’ll discuss how to identify and evaluate product/market opportunities; develop customers; create a startup strategy and face uncertainty — the list goes on and on. After these initial weeks, you’ll attend entrepreneurship classes including Business for Engineers, Product Management and Startup Studio sessions where you will interact with Cornell Tech MBA, Engineering Master's and LLM candidates. You’ll also have access to our Studio, the open space where guest practitioners, experts and serial entrepreneurs lead sessions on a variety of aspects of starting a tech company: company culture, pitching and public speaking, fundraising and more.

Mentorship: We’ve assembled an amazing team of academic and business mentors who are uniquely suited to help you succeed. In addition, our In Residence practitioners — investors, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs — are available for consultation.

Emotional support: Don’t underestimate this benefit. Starting a company can be a lonely business. You’ll come to deeply value the camaraderie and relationships that you’ll develop with your fellow Startup Postdocs. Runway includes weekly cohort meetings called Scrums, and monthly social events with inspiring people. There is no place for free riders: you’ll share advice, feedback and resources — and you’ll receive them.

Office space and support: Runway will provide a workspace at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, which is part of the Cornell Tech campus. You will also have access to meeting rooms, office equipment and administrative support.

Equipment: You'll be able to use standard office equipment (computer, printer, etc.) as well as 3-D manufacturing tools including a 3-D printer and laser cutter. Specialized software programs including Sprout by HP will be available.


Application Procedures

Curriculum Vitae and References
In addition to the usual academic CV and three relevant references, your CV should also list:

  • Titles and dates of disclosure of inventions for which you are an inventor or co-inventor
  • The names of the institutions where you disclosed the inventions
  • Disclosures for patents that have been filed and on which patents you are an inventor or co-inventor
  • A chronology of work experiences including the organization’s activities, your job title and responsibilities
  • Any non-disclosure or non-compete agreements you have signed

Opportunity Statement
In three pages or less, please describe as specifically as possible:

  • The problem you would like to solve
  • The company or product you will create that addresses this problem
  • Why this problem is important and the possible challenges that may arise
  • Can you estimate the size of the market for the product you plan to develop?
  • Are you aware of companies working on same or similar problems?
  • How a working prototype could be developed within Runway’s timeframe of one to two years
  • Which faculty experts and Cornell Tech resources would help you address the problem
  • Why you’re pursuing this opportunity, as opposed to other applications of your research

In three pages, please describe your background. 

  • Share your passion, values, and vision in applying your research in an entrepreneurial setting. 
  • A description of at least one problem or situation that you have approached in an entrepreneurial way in the past
  • An explanation of why you choose to apply for Runway instead of looking for a job in industry or applying to a traditional postdoc program
  • How you learned about Runway and why you are applying to Runway instead of to an accelerator or incubator, or starting on your own.

Still have more questions?
Check out the Applying to Runway section of our FAQ, or contact us.

Eligibility Summary

We accept top PhDs who have graduated within the last five years, and occasionally, PhD candidates nearing the end of their programs. Startup Postdocs are interested in the application of digital technologies in a broad sense. The faculty at the  Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and Cornell Tech includes experts in connective media, health technology, security and privacy, computer vision and a number of other fields. We tend to select Startup Postdocs with related backgrounds so they can take advantage of the excellent resources and mentors already here. Check out our faculty and the Runway companies that have already launched. If you think you qualify, please apply. Also, feel free to reach out with questions. 

Evaluation Criteria

How do we choose who gets in? We’re looking for people who possess a passion for applying research to real-world needs, an innate entrepreneurial drive and spirit, and the willingness to be flexible and embrace uncertainty. We’re also evaluating candidates based on their ability to work well on a team and communicate effectively.

Our faculty play an important role in the admissions process. They’re searching for Startup Postdocs with expertise similar to their own, who they can successfully mentor. If there’s a potential match, Runway program directors, faculty and current Startup Postdocs will interview the candidate and hear their startup pitch. These conversations may take place over Skype or in person.