Cornell Tech campus

Exploring Personal Data With Cornell Tech

The best ideas are brought to life when people from different backgrounds come together to support and inspire each other.
Cornell Tech

The Studio Program, which was created by Cornell Tech in 2012 for their Master's and graduate-level students, follows this exact principle. Studio pursues the goal of establishing a second creative hub at the US East coast and shifting innovation from California and the ‘Silicon Valley’ to New York City. The program was split into two fundamental parts; the Product Studio and the Startup Studio.

Throughout the three months of Product Studio, which started in early fall, students learn how to design and market products, following a user-centered approach as well as design thinking methodologies. Just like with our internal process at wattx, the students conduct user research, ideate on promising solutions, and create as well as test prototypes of the product or service that responds to the challenge.

This year, 200 companies and organizations submitted business challenges in the form of “How might we… ?” questions for the Product Studio. wattx (along with 52 other companies) was selected with the following challenge:

How might we help individual internet users know more about the data they are sharing with or potentially selling to third parties, and how to better control to whom it goes so that their privacy is less of a black box?

We sat together with Khoa Ma, the Assistant Studio Director, to dig a bit deeper into how the program works.

What would you say are the most important skills that students learn?

How we measure success is that we want the students to come out of Cornell Tech and embrace thinking differently in order to have an impact on the company they’ll be working for after graduating: They don’t necessarily have to start or launch a company, which a lot of students end up doing, but we want them to go into an organization with an entrepreneurship spirit, being able to explore, and see the changes that can be made, and also understanding of how to go about making those changes.

We want our students to go into an organization with an entrepreneurship spirit, being able to explore, and see the changes that can be made.

What do students themselves value with the program?

It depends on where the students are going in their career; but it always comes back to working in cross-functional teams, understanding different skillsets, and also going through the product development process and being able to be nimble, and have an eye for something that’s different and not be afraid of that.

Companies benefit from insights and the possible validation of topics they’ve been working on.

What kind of impact can students have on the companies or organizations that they work with?

Companies benefit from insights and the possible validation of topics they’ve been working on. Sometimes, companies also take the learnings from the studio curriculum and apply them to their own organizations.

And why did we at wattx submit our particular challenge? We asked Ange, our Chief of Staff: For one, I think we at wattx are working on privacy and security in different ways; it is also an area of interest specifically here in Germany where people notoriously demand higher levels of privacy on the internet. Especially with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming into effect, there will be more focus on how to preserve the privacy of users.

So, being from the US, why do you think privacy is an interesting topic for students in the US to tackle?

The US has probably been a little bit more relaxed about privacy generally, as compared to Europe. I think these breaches that keep bubbling up and will continue to be more and more frequent are really starting to penetrate the psyche of Americans. So, though they’ve been kind of reluctant to care as much about privacy, as compared to here in Germany, I think there are increasing awareness and increasing fear of what any sort of data breach might mean for them.

What excites you about this cooperation with Cornell Tech?

I am excited to have a really bright team of students taking on a concept we’ve discussed and researched before, but taking it to the next level of development - while taking advantage of some of our own user research!

Looking for VC funding? The process outlined

In his career, Martin Mittermeier, wattx' managing director, has gained insight into the VC world from different perspectives: Before founding Kyto, he worked on various initiatives at Project A, and shared this knowledge on the mechanisms of VC financing and startup funding with us.
Read the article 10 min read