Mark Lesko, the newly minted leader of an effort to cultivate young tech companies on Long Island, stood before several dozen aspiring entrepreneurs Wednesday at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and posed a question.
"How can I help you?" asked Lesko, who last week started as executive director of the nonprofit organization Accelerate Long Island.
Lesko, who comes to Accelerate after stepping down as Brookhaven Town supervisor, came to Cold Spring Harbor as he begins the process of trying to nurture scientists and programmers with dreams of starting technology companies.
The hope is that with the right guidance and connections, Long Island's culture of research can give birth to an entrepreneurial ecosystem that transforms the economy.
Founded last year as a project of the Long Island Association, Accelerate is the latest step in the long-running effort to cultivate high-tech start-ups here. It pulls together local venture capital firms, corporations and the region's five largest research institutions, including Cold Spring Harbor and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The 35 or so young scientists who met with Lesko Wednesday were part of Cold Spring Harbor's Bioscience Enterprise Club, founded last year by researchers interested in starting their own companies.
Dawid Nowak, who is in his fourth year of a postdoctoral fellowship at the lab, said a few business lessons would be tremendously valuable for him and his academic-minded peers at Cold Spring Harbor.
"We have great scientists here, but we are not exposed to business people," said Nowak, who is researching better ways to diagnose early-stage prostate cancer.