What differentiates Runway?
What is the difference between Runway and the typical accelerator or incubator?
The Runway Postdoc Program accepts PhDs with deep technological expertise. It transitions them from academia to the business world by providing classes and workshops on entrepreneurship; academic and business mentors; tools for product and market development; significant financial support and time. While other programs immediately groom their startups for investment and often conclude after several months, Runway lasts a year, with a possible one- or two-year extension. We don’t expect our Startup Postdocs to arrive with already-incorporated companies or employees, although that’s certainly not a problem.
Housed within the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, the program is a one-of-a-kind nexus of three university campuses: Cornell Tech, Cornell University, and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, a global leader in startup innovation. The program taps resources from all three campuses and professors from each serve as academic mentors.
Runway capitalizes on Cornell’s longstanding roots in New York City: a 50,000 person alumni network, the Weill Cornell Medical College and numerous other universities are located here.
And thanks to our location in the business capital of the world, Startup Postdocs team up with top-notch business mentors.
What are the program's benefits and perks?
All Startup Postdocs receive a salary, research grant, housing allowance, workspace on campus, IP registration use and many other benefits.
Is housing provided?
In addition to your salary, you’ll receive a housing allowance to use as you like.
What happens at Runway? What’s a typical day like?
There are no “typical” days. You’ll have some scheduled classes and events, but for the most part, you’ll be building your startup. Some days, you’ll work on campus, doing consumer and market research or developing your product. Other days, you’ll meet your mentors, consultants, or potential customers to assess your product market fit. Or you’ll sort through resumes and interview potential employees.
How can I ensure my startup is progressing at a decent pace?
No worries — we’ve established a schedule of goals to keep you organized. Within six months, we expect you to incorporate your company and complete the first draft of your business plan. Within nine months, you’ll be wowing investors with a succinct, well-honed pitch.
Your cohort will regularly unite for “Scrum,” a time when Startup Postdocs relay their progress, troubleshoot problems, and share their upcoming plans. In addition, you’ll submit a weekly progress report and have three reviews with the Runway leadership team and industry experts throughout the year.
What if I’m still “taxiing” down the “Runway” after a year? If I need more time to launch my business, can I apply for an extension at Runway?
Yes, we grant one-year extensions to Startup Postdocs who have proven their entrepreneurial prowess. In some cases a third year may be granted. We consider extensions for those who have started to form a team, gathered initial investor traction and identified a strong market for their businesses, but perhaps require more time for product development, discovering clients, or strengthening a team. The Runway leadership team and external advisors ultimately decide who gets to stay.
Applying to Runway
What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
Check out our Apply Now page to learn about application criteria.
My idea is not directly related to my PhD thesis. Is that OK?
Yes, as long as you apply the knowledge of deep technology you mastered in graduate school.
Can I apply for Runway if I’ve established my startup and it is already getting some traction?
It’s not a deal breaker. If you need the educational and institutional support that Runway provides, you should definitely still consider applying.
Am I allowed to bring in co-founders or employees?
You are allowed to bring in team members — but the program’s benefits flow to you solely, the co-founder with the PhD.
Do I need to move to New York City to join the program?
Yes, you can only reap the benefits of Runway, the Cornell Tech campus, and the rich local startup ecosystem if you’re living in New York City. Of course, we expect you’ll travel during the program to attend conferences and meet with customers, investors, vendors, etc.
Do I need to submit a business plan with my application?
No, we evaluate our applications based on other criteria.
When is the application deadline, and when are acceptances announced?
The most current information is always on our Apply Now page.
I'm visiting New York City. Can I come check out Runway?
Absolutely! We’re happy to host you and introduce you to some of our entrepreneurs. Just let us know about your upcoming visit. We’ll make sure you get a taste of the Runway experience.
Business Education, Mentorship and Networking
What’s the educational component of Runway?
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 those initial weeks, you’ll attend entrepreneurship classes including Business for Engineers, Product Management and our special Startup Studio sessions where you will interact with Cornell Tech MBA, Engineering Master’s and LLM candidates. You’ll also come 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.
What is the role of the academic mentor?
Academic mentorship is essential. At Runway, a professor who is an expert in your field will advise you. This person will be faculty based at Cornell Tech, Cornell University or Technion. This guidance truly distinguishes and elevates Runway from other startup programs. In addition, our In Residence practitioners — investors, designers, developers, and entrepreneurs — are available for consultation.
Are there business mentors as well?
We’ve assembled an amazing team of business mentors who are uniquely suited to help you succeed. We are always growing this group of mentors, so we can provide Startup Postdocs with the guidance they need.
Any tips for finding co-founders and other employees?
Through the program, you’ll meet PhDs and students across our master’s six programs — Computer Science, Operations Research and Information Engineering, Connective Media, Health Tech, MBA, and LLM — who are all itching to start companies. Step outside and you’ll be in the nation’s second largest tech hub, New York City. There are plenty of meetups and networking opportunities where you can confab with potential employees. We’ll make sure you hear about them.
Investment, Equity and Intellectual Property Rights
Can I retain my right to my intellectual property if I join Runway?
Yes, you will get a royalty free, exclusive and perpetual license from the Jacobs Institute, essentially under the condition that you will put your IP to use.
How much funding do Runway companies receive?
Runway provides a package valued at $175,000 that includes a salary and housing allowance for Startup Postdocs, a research budget, a workspace on campus, IP registration and use and numerous other benefits.
What is the financial model of Runway?
Unlike many accelerators and incubators, Runway exists within a not-for-profit organization. Part of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute’s mission is to devise new approaches to commercializing university technology and strategies for collaboration between companies and universities. That’s the role of Runway at the Jacobs Institute, and our Startup Postdocs are helping us fulfill it. At the moment, donations from generous supporters are funding the program. Eventually a mix of donations and returns on equity will support our budget.
What control am I giving up by granting equity to the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute?
None. It is your business. We’re here to help you and your company succeed. Moreover, the equity share is not high — it’s less than six percent.
How can my business get funded after Runway ends?
Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute and Cornell Tech faculty and staff will introduce you to angel investors, venture capitalists and other investors in New York City and beyond. We’ll also invite investors to the Cornell Tech campus several times during the program, including for Open Studio — our version of a demo day — to celebrate and present the current crop of startups across the Cornell Tech campus.
Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to apply?
No. If you join Runway, expect a mini United Nations of PhD startups. We already have entrepreneurs from France, Israel, Brazil, Singapore, and of course, the United States.
Can Runway get me a visa?
The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute will provide you with the forms to apply for a J-1 visa for the duration that you are in the Runway program. The J-1 will allow your spouse to apply for a work permit.
Do I need to incorporate my company in the U.S. to participate in Runway?
Yes, your company must be incorporated in the U.S. to be a credible partner for investors, customers, and employees, as well as to protect your rights.
Can you help my co-founder obtain a visa as well?
Only the Startup Postdoc is entitled to a J-1 visa. Your non-citizen founders or employees must be legally present in the U.S. to work for your company.