We live in a challenging time with complex social issues on one hand and radical new tools for addressing them on the other. SVA graduates have the imagination, skills and resources to confront these challenges and create real change in the world. At SVA GI, we help them make a difference. 

 

PROGRAM

The SVA GroundFloor Incubator at the School of Visual Arts in New York City provides mentoring, lectures, and office space and prototyping facilities to small groups of SVA alumni to help them launch new products and businesses. Fellowships are granted to highly driven alumni with exceptional products that have a strong chance of making positive social impact with the right support. 

Additionally, the GroundFloor has a founder-in-residence program that provides an existing business full access to our alumni fellowship program in order to help it grow. The founder-in-residence brings a perspective on start-up culture that deeply supports our fellows.  

The GroundFloor offers two terms every year, from January to June and July to December. 

Each term consists of eight two-week long learning modules in distinct design and business disciplines, followed by one six-week period for refining products, pitches and helping our fellows plan the next stage of our their new ventures.


CURRICULUM

 

The GroundFloor curriculum consists of eight learning modules:

1.    Product Viability & Market Validation What is the product and is there an audience?

2.    IP and Branding What are the innovation and identity and can they be protected?

3.    User experience and design refinement How can the product be optimized?

4.    Manufacturing/Software How will it get made?

5.    Business Model & Management How will the business operate and scale?

6.    Experiential Marketing How will the consumer get hooked?

7.    Capitalization How will it be funded?

8.    Pitching Sell it!


MENTORS

Sinclair Smith - Director Product Viability & Design Refinement Sinclair is an industrial designer and a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design. His studio, Sinclair Smith & Co., has provided product and interior design services for clients including Disney, This American Life, DKNY, Staple Design, Amex, BMW and Samsung. He holds a BFA in film production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a masters of industrial design from Pratt Institute. Website: sinclairscottsmith.com Instagram: @sinclairscottsmith Twitter: @sinclairsmith

Sinclair Smith - Director
Product Viability & Design Refinement

Sinclair is an industrial designer and a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design. His studio, Sinclair Smith & Co., has provided product and interior design services for clients including Disney, This American Life, DKNY, Staple Design, Amex, BMW and Samsung. He holds a BFA in film production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a masters of industrial design from Pratt Institute.

Website: sinclairscottsmith.com
Instagram: @sinclairscottsmith
Twitter: @sinclairsmith

Robert Blinn Market Validation & Capitalization Robert studied mathematics at Brown University and economics at LSE. After several years in finance on Wall Street he pursued a masters in Industrial Design at Pratt. He has worked as a design consultant in markets ranging from food technology to 3D printed jewelry. He currently works at Pura Vida Investments focusing on patent analysis for private equity while spending his evenings helping entrepreneurs turn their napkin sketches into scalable businesses.   

Robert Blinn
Market Validation & Capitalization

Robert studied mathematics at Brown University and economics at LSE. After several years in finance on Wall Street he pursued a masters in Industrial Design at Pratt. He has worked as a design consultant in markets ranging from food technology to 3D printed jewelry. He currently works at Pura Vida Investments focusing on patent analysis for private equity while spending his evenings helping entrepreneurs turn their napkin sketches into scalable businesses. 

 

Jen van der Meer Business Model & Management Jen is the Founder and CEO of Reason Street, where she helps companies find the right business models to make the greatest impact. A former Wall Street analyst and economist, Jen has practiced an approach that is equal parts data-driven and creative to understand and apply the opportunities for technology to transform the economy, society, and culture. Website: reasonstreet.co Twitter: @jenvandermeer

Jen van der Meer
Business Model & Management

Jen is the Founder and CEO of Reason Street, where she helps companies find the right business models to make the greatest impact. A former Wall Street analyst and economist, Jen has practiced an approach that is equal parts data-driven and creative to understand and apply the opportunities for technology to transform the economy, society, and culture.

Website: reasonstreet.co
Twitter: @jenvandermeer

 
Emilie Baltz Experiential Marketing Emilie is an experiential artist and food technologist. Her work includes commissions from New Museum, Yale University, Museum of Art and Design, Museum of Sex and RedBull Studios. She is a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design program as well as the founder of the Food Design Studio at Pratt Institute. From 2014-2016 she was a founding member of NEW INC. Emilie is currently based out of NEW LAB.  Website: emiliebaltz.com Instagram: @emiliebaltz Twitter: @emilie_baltz

Emilie Baltz
Experiential Marketing

Emilie is an experiential artist and food technologist. Her work includes commissions from New Museum, Yale University, Museum of Art and Design, Museum of Sex and RedBull Studios. She is a founding faculty member of SVA's MFA in Products of Design program as well as the founder of the Food Design Studio at Pratt Institute. From 2014-2016 she was a founding member of NEW INC. Emilie is currently based out of NEW LAB. 

Website: emiliebaltz.com
Instagram: @emiliebaltz
Twitter: @emilie_baltz

Frank Martinez Intellectual Property Frank has a BFA from Pratt and a JD from Hofstra University. He has worked in the arts and in graphic and package design. Frank was a design patent examiner at the Patent Office. His law practice is devoted to design and software issues at the nexus of design, technology and the law. Frank teaches Intellectual Property at SVA’s MFA Designer as Author & Entrepreneur program. Website: martinezgroup.com

Frank Martinez
Intellectual Property

Frank has a BFA from Pratt and a JD from Hofstra University. He has worked in the arts and in graphic and package design. Frank was a design patent examiner at the Patent Office. His law practice is devoted to design and software issues at the nexus of design, technology and the law. Frank teaches Intellectual Property at SVA’s MFA Designer as Author & Entrepreneur program.

Website: martinezgroup.com

Elan Cole Branding Elan has been a professional designer for over 20 years and has helped re-imagine global brands for Jet Blue, Johnson & Johnson and Infiniti Motors. He has designed Santeria candles for a Botanica in the South Bronx, collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art and PS1, and designed comic books for Marvel. He presently leads a packaging and brand design group for Comcast, and is building a leather goods and cast silver jewelry line. Website: thefutureisforever.net Twitter: @elancole

Elan Cole
Branding

Elan has been a professional designer for over 20 years and has helped re-imagine global brands for Jet Blue, Johnson & Johnson and Infiniti Motors. He has designed Santeria candles for a Botanica in the South Bronx, collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art and PS1, and designed comic books for Marvel. He presently leads a packaging and brand design group for Comcast, and is building a leather goods and cast silver jewelry line.

Website: thefutureisforever.net
Twitter: @elancole

 
Ted Ullrich & Pepin Gelardi Manufacturing & Software Ted and Pepin are Partners at Tomorrow Lab®, an internationally recognized product design and engineering studio based in NYC. Tomorrow Lab develops smart hardware products for their clients, and was recognized on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014 as a Top Tech Innovator. Website: tomorrow-lab.com Twitter: @tomorrowlabnyc

Ted Ullrich & Pepin Gelardi
Manufacturing & Software

Ted and Pepin are Partners at Tomorrow Lab®, an internationally recognized product design and engineering studio based in NYC. Tomorrow Lab develops smart hardware products for their clients, and was recognized on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014 as a Top Tech Innovator.

Website: tomorrow-lab.com
Twitter: @tomorrowlabnyc

Elizabeth Galbut Pitching Elizabeth is the Founding Partner of two start-up venture capital firms, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital, which have collectively invested and advised over 25 startups in their first year. Elizabeth’s favorite investment area is the intersection of smart design and machine learning/AI fueling major health tech innovation. Standouts in her portfolio include digital pathology analytics pioneer Proscia, global health network MORE Health, and mental health app Docz. Website: sogalventures.com Twitter: @design4innov8

Elizabeth Galbut
Pitching

Elizabeth is the Founding Partner of two start-up venture capital firms, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital, which have collectively invested and advised over 25 startups in their first year. Elizabeth’s favorite investment area is the intersection of smart design and machine learning/AI fueling major health tech innovation. Standouts in her portfolio include digital pathology analytics pioneer Proscia, global health network MORE Health, and mental health app Docz.

Website: sogalventures.com
Twitter: @design4innov8

 

Lecturers

Colin Miles Campbell Colin Miles Campbell is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. He co-founded Wikiburg, a digital platform that facilitates civic engagement. Previously, he organized Save Domino, the grassroots campaign that tried to save Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s iconic pre-war sugar refinery from luxury development. Colin has worked with brands like Chanel, David Copperfield, Jacobo Borges, Peter Brandt, TED, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Washington Ballet. Website: wikiburg.com

Colin Miles Campbell

Colin Miles Campbell is an artist, activist and entrepreneur. He co-founded Wikiburg, a digital platform that facilitates civic engagement. Previously, he organized Save Domino, the grassroots campaign that tried to save Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s iconic pre-war sugar refinery from luxury development. Colin has worked with brands like Chanel, David Copperfield, Jacobo Borges, Peter Brandt, TED, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Washington Ballet.

Website: wikiburg.com

Jeff Staple

Jeffrey NG, aka jeffstaple, is the Founder and Creative Director of Staple Design and Reed Space. A leader in sneaker culture and streetwear, he serves as the CCO of Intertrend & Imprint Lab, is a member of The #Hypebeast100, Anthos Capital Group, The AIGA, SneakerCon Legends Series, Remy Martin Circle of Centaurs and Google Explorer Team, and has lectured widely to audiences public and private including Apple, Facebook, Bose, Columbia Business School and The White House Summit.

Website: stapledesign.com
Twitter: @jeffstaple
Instagram: @jeffstaple

Dino Sanchez Dino Sanchez is an artist and industrial designer, and is the Creative Director of Brand Bureau. His expertise is in furniture, branding, customer experience, graphic, interior and industrial design. Dino’s design thinking has been executed by brands such as Herman Miller, HP, Renault, Toyota, Comcast, ABInBev, Verizon, GE, FEMA and Equinox. His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA. Website: dinosanchez.com Twitter: @dino_sanchez Instagram: @thisisdino

Dino Sanchez

Dino Sanchez is an artist and industrial designer, and is the Creative Director of Brand Bureau. His expertise is in furniture, branding, customer experience, graphic, interior and industrial design. Dino’s design thinking has been executed by brands such as Herman Miller, HP, Renault, Toyota, Comcast, ABInBev, Verizon, GE, FEMA and Equinox. His eponymous product and furniture line is designed and made in the USA.

Website: dinosanchez.com
Twitter: @dino_sanchez
Instagram: @thisisdino

 
Deborah Adler Deborah Adler is an SVA alumnus who specializes in packaging, labeling, identity and information systems. For her SVA MFAD thesis, she redesigned the prescription pill bottle. A creative director at Target saw her work, secured the patent, and rolled out the product. “ClearRx” has since garnered great customer loyalty and been exhibited at MoMA. Her firm, Adler Designs, has worked with clients such as Dignity Health, First Aid Beauty, Lauren Merkin, Medline and Stony Brook University. Website: adlerdesign.com Twitter: @da_studio Instagram: @adlerdeb

Deborah Adler

Deborah Adler is an SVA alumnus who specializes in packaging, labeling, identity and information systems. For her SVA MFAD thesis, she redesigned the prescription pill bottle. A creative director at Target saw her work, secured the patent, and rolled out the product. “ClearRx” has since garnered great customer loyalty and been exhibited at MoMA. Her firm, Adler Designs, has worked with clients such as Dignity Health, First Aid Beauty, Lauren Merkin, Medline and Stony Brook University.

Website: adlerdesign.com
Twitter: @da_studio
Instagram: @adlerdeb

Noel Wiggins Noel Wiggins is a painter, designer and entrepreneur who created, founded and is President of Areaware. Areaware is a design brand that promotes emerging artists’ work that is beautiful, functional and useful. Areaware frequently collaborates with design schools and Noel has worked in diverse capacities to foster education generally. Website: areaware.com Twitter: @noelwiggins 

Noel Wiggins

Noel Wiggins is a painter, designer and entrepreneur who created, founded and is President of Areaware. Areaware is a design brand that promotes emerging artists’ work that is beautiful, functional and useful. Areaware frequently collaborates with design schools and Noel has worked in diverse capacities to foster education generally.

Website: areaware.com
Twitter: @noelwiggins 

Alicia Hallett-Chan Alicia is an Emmy Award winning Creative Director. She heads up the design team at T Brand Studio at The New York Times telling brand stories that connect readers to advertisers natively on nytimes.com. She has worked with clients like IBM, Netflix, Tiffany & Co., Ford, Pfizer and Guinness. Prior to the NYT Alicia worked digitally at Sports Illustrated, The Foundry, Team USA, The Daily and with Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser at WBMG. Website: hallettdesign.com Twitter: @aliciakate11 Instagram: @aliciakate11  

Alicia Hallett-Chan

Alicia is an Emmy Award winning Creative Director. She heads up the design team at T Brand Studio at The New York Times telling brand stories that connect readers to advertisers natively on nytimes.com. She has worked with clients like IBM, Netflix, Tiffany & Co., Ford, Pfizer and Guinness. Prior to the NYT Alicia worked digitally at Sports Illustrated, The Foundry, Team USA, The Daily and with Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser at WBMG.

Website: hallettdesign.com
Twitter: @aliciakate11
Instagram: @aliciakate11

 

 
Dmitri Siegel Dmitri Siegel is Vice President of Global Brand for Sonos, where he oversees global marketing, advertising, strategy, brand design & experience, and partnership marketing. He is an author whose writing on the topics of design, technology and digital culture has been published by Design Observer, Dot Dot Dot, Émigré, and Creative Review, among others. Dmitri has held senior branding and marketing positions at Patagonia and Urban Outfitters. Website: http://www.dmitrisiegel.com/ Twitter: @dddmitri Instagram: @dddmitri  

Dmitri Siegel

Dmitri Siegel is Vice President of Global Brand for Sonos, where he oversees global marketing, advertising, strategy, brand design & experience, and partnership marketing. He is an author whose writing on the topics of design, technology and digital culture has been published by Design Observer, Dot Dot Dot, Émigré, and Creative Review, among others. Dmitri has held senior branding and marketing positions at Patagonia and Urban Outfitters.

Website: http://www.dmitrisiegel.com/
Twitter: @dddmitri
Instagram: @dddmitri

 

 

FELLOWS

Judy Chi Judy is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Products of Design and holds a BA in Architecture from Columbia University. Between degrees she worked in commercial architecture for 18 years. Judy's work has taken her around the world but life as an urban nomad led her to question the excesses of modern consumption. Her thesis work at SVA explored how design can create socio-cultural change through a more innovative use of materials.  Website: judy-chi Instagram: @judyjudynyc

Judy Chi

Judy is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Products of Design and holds a BA in Architecture from Columbia University. Between degrees she worked in commercial architecture for 18 years. Judy's work has taken her around the world but life as an urban nomad led her to question the excesses of modern consumption. Her thesis work at SVA explored how design can create socio-cultural change through a more innovative use of materials. 

Website: judy-chi
Instagram: @judyjudynyc

Steve Hamilton Steve graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2015 and received the Paula Rhodes medal recognizing the program’s outstanding thesis project. He is an award-winning artist, film editor and sound designer who founded two successful post-production companies in New York City. He is an avid commuter cyclist and is working toward safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians. Website: Twelvetonrose.com Instagram: @Twelvetonrose Twitter: @Twelvetonrose

Steve Hamilton

Steve graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2015 and received the Paula Rhodes medal recognizing the program’s outstanding thesis project. He is an award-winning artist, film editor and sound designer who founded two successful post-production companies in New York City. He is an avid commuter cyclist and is working toward safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.

Website: Twelvetonrose.com
Instagram: @Twelvetonrose
Twitter: @Twelvetonrose

Amer Jandali Amer is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a BA in International Business from New Mexico State University. He is a lover of stars, nature, and everything in between. He believes in the future of humanity, and is designing sustainable solutions for reducing consumer waste, beginning with plastic bags. Website: amerjandali.com  

Amer Jandali

Amer is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a BA in International Business from New Mexico State University. He is a lover of stars, nature, and everything in between. He believes in the future of humanity, and is designing sustainable solutions for reducing consumer waste, beginning with plastic bags.

Website: amerjandali.com

 

 
Maia Kaufmann Maia Kaufman is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a BA in Media Studies from Emerson College.. She is a skillful facilitator, problem-solver, and researcher, whose passion for women's rights has propelled her into a new career.  She aims to bring clarity and agency to reproductive options for people all over the world. Website: maiakaufman.com

Maia Kaufmann

Maia Kaufman is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Design for Social Innovation and holds a BA in Media Studies from Emerson College.. She is a skillful facilitator, problem-solver, and researcher, whose passion for women's rights has propelled her into a new career.  She aims to bring clarity and agency to reproductive options for people all over the world.

Website: maiakaufman.com

Souvik Paul Souvik is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Products of Design and holds a BA Cum Laude in Social Studies from Harvard University. He spent three years between degrees working on Wall Street. At SVA, Souvik explored how design might intervene in the lives of people with spinal cord injury. He is currently employed at Johnson & Johnson's Global Strategic Design Office as a Healthcare Solutions Senior Analyst. He stays active by cycling and running.  Website: souvikpaul Instagram: @souvikpaul89

Souvik Paul

Souvik is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Products of Design and holds a BA Cum Laude in Social Studies from Harvard University. He spent three years between degrees working on Wall Street. At SVA, Souvik explored how design might intervene in the lives of people with spinal cord injury. He is currently employed at Johnson & Johnson's Global Strategic Design Office as a Healthcare Solutions Senior Analyst. He stays active by cycling and running. 

Website: souvikpaul
Instagram: @souvikpaul89

Heath Wagoner Heath graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2015 and holds a BFA in Metalsmithing from East Carolina University. He has worked extensively in the fashion and jewellry industries, specializing in new materials and wearable tech. His thesis work at SVA focused on HIV advocacy and he continues that passion with the development of a system to make HIV testing more accessible and personal.  Website: heathwagoner.com Instagram: @heathbones

Heath Wagoner

Heath graduated from SVA's MFA in Products of Design in 2015 and holds a BFA in Metalsmithing from East Carolina University. He has worked extensively in the fashion and jewellry industries, specializing in new materials and wearable tech. His thesis work at SVA focused on HIV advocacy and he continues that passion with the development of a system to make HIV testing more accessible and personal. 

Website: heathwagoner.com
Instagram: @heathbones

 
Sarah Wilson - Austensen Sarah is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Designer as Author & Entrepreneur and holds a BFA in Communication Design from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, BC. Growing up with family in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry she was raised with the understanding of cannabis not as an illicit gateway drug but as a much needed medicine. Sarah aims to lessen the stigma of cannabis by streamlining the process of cannabis consumption. Website: sarahaustensen.com Instagram: @sarahaustensen

Sarah Wilson - Austensen

Sarah is a recent graduate of SVA's MFA in Designer as Author & Entrepreneur and holds a BFA in Communication Design from Emily Carr University in Vancouver, BC. Growing up with family in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry she was raised with the understanding of cannabis not as an illicit gateway drug but as a much needed medicine. Sarah aims to lessen the stigma of cannabis by streamlining the process of cannabis consumption.

Website: sarahaustensen.com
Instagram: @sarahaustensen

 

FAQ

Can anyone apply?

Fellowships at the SVA GroundFloor Incubator are available only to alumni of the School of Visual Arts. Graduates of any SVA program, grad or undergrad, may apply. 


How do I apply?

Scroll down to the GET INVOLVED section of this site and click BECOME A FELLOW. Fill out the email form and we will send you a preliminary application.


How much does SVA GI cost?

There is no tuition or service charge for a fellowship at the GroundFloor. However, participation comes at the cost of time and dedication. Interested alumni should be prepared to invest everything they can into their success. 

 


Can I receive benefits or a stipend so I don’t have to work? 

At this time, there is no stipend to be offered. Financial aid packages cannot be extended to cover living expenses during fellowships.


Can I receive the same health insurance coverage I received as a student?

No. Student health insurance cannot be extended to fellowships.


Does SVA own a Percentage of my venture? 

No. SVA takes no stake in the intellectual property or business transactions that occur during or after a fellow's participation at the GroundFloor.


Can I use the SVA shops?

Yes. Fellows will have all the access to SVA shops and facilities that they did as students.


Will my SVA ID card still get me into the library and museums?

Yes. Fellows will be issued new ID cards that offer the same benefits as their previous student ID cards.


How do I get involved if I am not an SVA alumnus?

Fellowships at the GroundFloor are only available to SVA alumni. However, non-alumni partner with our fellows as project and business collaborators, and many of our mentors and lecturers are graduates of other institutions. If you are not an SVA alumni, but think there's a role for you here, get in touch and let's find one for you!

FELLOW

Fellowships at the SVA GroundFloor Incubator are available to recent graduates and alumni of the School of Visual Arts from any department in the school, graduate or undergraduate. If you believe that a project you created during or as a result of your studies at SVA has the potential to become a marketable product with positive social impact, we want to hear about it!


MENTOR

Each of the modules in the GroundFloor curriculum is lead by a mentor with expertise in the area of study. Some modules require more than one mentor. The GroundFloor is always exploring opportunities to grow and improve the curriculum. If you are interested in conducting master classes, workshops, providing one-on-one consultation to founders and playing a central role in the culture and output of the GroundFloor, let us know! 


LECTURER

Our fellows succeed with the widest access to voices in design and business possible. The lecture series at the GroundFloor adds critical variety and counterpoint to the perspectives provided by our mentors. If you want to contribute your expertise and influence but have limited time, consider contributing an evening as a lecturer.


CORPORATE PARTNER

The GroundFloor depends upon generous support and partnerships across all operations. From the practical furniture and tool needs of our office to the prototyping, legal and financing needs of our Fellows, we grow through our partnerships and in turn provide clear evidence of the power of our partners' products and services. Additionally, our partners get a first look at the innovative products and investment opportunities coming from our Fellows. If your company would like to join the ecosystem of strategic partners contributing to new ventures in New York City, we are always open to explore new relationships.


CHARITABLE DONOR

The SVA GroundFloor Incubator is an internally funded fellowship program at the School of Visual Arts. Your donation to SVA's Visual Arts Foundation can be ear marked for the GroundFloor and will contribute to mentor compensation, facilities, prototyping and could even endow fellows with stipends that significantly offset the cost of living, allowing them to maximize their time and dedication to their ventures and to create positive social change. Please consider a donation— any amount will make a difference.