20 Columbia alumni who founded major New York tech companies

by Taylor Majewski
February 11, 2016

New York City universities are renowned for producing top-tier tech talent and entrepreneurs. Among the wide-selection of institutions in the city, Columbia University is a thriving hub for entrepreneurship, scoring a spot on Forbes’ list of Top 50 schools for entrepreneurs and clocking in as the fourth most popular school for female founders to graduate from.

The school has produced many graduates who have made early and sustaining contributions to NYC tech, proving that successful entrepreneurs actually do finish college. Here’s a list of 20 Columbia alumni who went on to set up some of the city’s biggest companies:


Jon Oringer: Shutterstock 

Oringer earned his M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia in 1998. In 2003, Oringer founded Shutterstock Images as a two-sided marketplace to connect creative professionals with the best photos, vectors, illustrations and video from thousands of contributors around the world.



Jared Hecht: Fundera

Hecht earned his Bachelor’s degree from Columbia in 2009. At 26, he sold his first company, GroupMe, for $80 million just over a year after it launched. Hecht then went on to create Fundera, to help small businesses get loans.





Robert Reffkin: Compass

In 1999, Reffkin earned his B.A. in economics, philosophy and history from Columbia in just over two years. He then earned his MBA from Columbia Business School while simultaneously working at McKinsey and then at Lazard. After a few stints at The White House and Goldman Sachs, Reffkin launched Urban Compass in 2012 with a mission to create a tech-driven real estate firm. The company, now rebranded as Compass, now has an $800 million valuation.




Cyrus Massoumi: Zocdoc 

Massoumi earned his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2003. After rupturing his eardrum in 2007 and spending four days searching for a doctor, he had the idea to create ZocDoc to solve patient problems and improve the modern healthcare experience.



Nick (Nikhil) Ganju: Zocdoc

Ganju earned his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2008. He first met fellow ZocDoc founder, Cyrus Massoumi, when the two shared a desk at Trilogy Software.





Jonathan Stein: Betterment

Stein earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard in 2001, but then went on to receive his MBA from Columbia in 2009. Stein then went on to create Betterment in the hopes of reinventing the investing industry.




Kara Swisher: Re/code

Swisher earned her MS in journalism from Columbia in 1985. She then went on to eventually create one of the most widely read tech blogs, Re/code. 





Zachary Sims: Codeacademy

Sims earned his B.A. in Political Science in 2008. Prior to founding Codecademy, Sims worked at various startups including GroupMe and drop.io. Codecademy has raised $12.5 million in venture capital financing from top tier investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, Yuri Milner, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, SV Angel, Richard Branson, Y Combinator, and more.


Federico Marchetti: Yoox Group

Marchetti earned his MBA from Columbia in 1999. In 2000, after working in the corporate sector as an advisor for several chief executives and designers in the fashion industry, both in the U.S. and in Italy, he founded YOOX, the perfect venture in which he could unite his business vision with his passion for fashion and design.


Ben Horowitz: Andreesen Horowitz

Horowitz earned his B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia in 1988 and has gone on to become a technology entrepreneur, cofounder and venture capitalist. He is now a general partner along with Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, one of the world’s leading VC firms.


Tze Chun: Uprise Art 

Chun earned her Bachelor’s in Dance and American Studies from Columbia in 2006. After graduation she launched Uprise Art, an online art gallery for the next generation of art collectors.




Philippe von Borries: Refinery29

Phillippe von Borries founded Refinery29 with the goal of building a destination to celebrate independent style and help people discover the world’s greatest independent designers and makers. Today, the company reaches over 65 million people monthly across the web, mobile, social and video, and is the largest digital lifestyle media company in the United States. Philippe earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia in 2003.




Kat Vorotova: TryTheWorld

Vorotova earned her B.A. in comparative literature from Columbia, which she followed with earning her MBA from Columbia Business School in 2014. She then launched Try The World in 2013 with David Foult. Try the World is a food subscription service that allows users to try gourmet dishes from around the world.

David Foult: TryTheWorld

Foult graduated with a Masters of Public Administration from Columbia in 2014, and launched Try The World is Kat Vorotova.






Benny Wong: Timehop

Wong earned his B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia in 2007. He then founded Timehop in 2010 as an aggregator for historical data. The company has raised over $14 million in funding.




Steve Cheney: Estimote

Cheney graduated from Columbia with an MBA in 2009. In 2012, he founded Estimote, a company that allows you to connect your smartphone to the real world. Last month, Estimote raised a $10.7 million Series A.





David Goldweitz: 

Goldweitz earned his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2006. In February 2013, GLAMSQUAD, an app-based beauty provider, was born. The company has since raised $24 million in funding.





Shane Snow: Contently

Snow earned his M.S. in digital media, social media and media business from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2010. He founded Contently the same year, which helps companies build their audiences through content creation. Today, the company has raised $12 million over four rounds. Snow has also written for Fast Company, WIRED, The New York and Advertising Age.




Joe Speiser: LittleThings

Speiser is an internet entrepreneur and angel investor. He earned his B.S. in International Relations from Columbia in 2001. In 2014, he founded LittleThings, which has become a leading lifestyle destination for inspiring, uplifting and engaging stories.




Frank Speiser: SocialFlow

While Speiser has attended more academic institutions than most, running the gamut between Harvard and the University of Louisiana at Monroe, he earned a degree in Philosophy from Columbia in 2008. In 2009, he founded SocialFlow, which helps publications maximize their social reach.



Honorable mentions to those who took their business elsewhere:

Louis Rossetto: Wired

Rossetto graduated with a B.A. in political science from Columbia in 1971, which he followed up with an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1973. Rossetto launched the technology magazine back in 1993 with his partner, Jane Metcalfe. Wired is headquartered in San Francisco. 

Jamie Wong: Vayable

Wong earned her Master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Columbia Journalism School in 2006. She then went on to found Vayable, a SF-based global marketplace for unique travel experiences. 

Know of any more Columbia graduates with local tech businesses? Send a note here


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