Michael Ligier: A Future Entrepreneur With a Knack for Design

There’s only so much a freshman can do in his first year, but Michael Ligier seems to have his time management down pat. Since the beginning of the school year, he has already participated in multiple Hackathons, landed a paid internship at a startup, managed his own website and portfolio, and won various contests and awards in his industry. Needless to say, our Campus Cutie this week is a crazy smart guy who's extremely passionate about his interests.

The DL

  • Name: Michael Ligier
  • Hometown: Cupertino, California
  • School: Stern ‘19
  • Major: Finance/Computer Science double major and a Math minor

HC NYU: What originally sparked your interest in business and computer science?

ML: I just decided my freshman year [of high school] to join a ton of different clubs, just so I could see what I liked, and the things that stuck with me were the business clubs because I really liked the people that were part of it. They really mentored me, made me a good public speaker, and gave me a lot of knowledge in business. In terms of computer science, it was actually during my second semester senior year of high school that someone introduced it to me. My friend introduced it to me in a way that was like “It’s solving a puzzle,” and I really like solving puzzles so I decided to give it a try. I started really enjoying computer science, so when I came to NYU, I decided to make it my second major.

HC NYU: You co-founded a nonprofit called “The Bridge Initiative.” Can you tell me about it and what the process of starting that was like?

ML: The Bridge Initiative is basically a way for individuals with disabilities to get back into the workforce by connecting them with internship opportunities. There’s a stigma around people with disabilities, however, they’re very high-functioning members of society so we really wanted to be able to get them back into the workforce. In terms of how we started it, I was accepted into an MIT startup incubator during high school, and over the course of 4 weeks we were basically tasked with starting a business, and our team collectively decided that we wanted to create this nonprofit because it was pretty easy to implement a pilot program to get a lot of good feedback from customers. By the end of the program, we wound up getting second place overall and also won the most innovative idea award.

HC NYU: In addition to business and technology, you seem to be really interested in design. Can you tell me more about where that stems from and how design is connected to your other interests?

ML: My interest in design started in high school as well. One of my teammates [in a business club] was really obsessive over powerpoints, and he decided that he wanted to make one of our powerpoints look absolutely beautiful. When I watched him do that, I thought it was amazing and that it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! He taught me a lot about design, so I just started designing things. I started making powerpoints, and then as I progressed, I was making things like a lot of promotional materials, like flyers and posters and what not. Then coming into college, I started doing things like app design and website design, so it just kind of escalated from there.

HC NYU: You’ve gone to a lot of Hackathons lately. Can you explain what exactly a “Hackathon” is, which ones you’ve been to so far, and what you’ve been doing there?

ML: Hackathons are essentially where college students come together, they sit in a huge room, and they just code for 24 or 36 hours. By the end of it, they’re supposed to have created a project that they demo to judges. The Hackathons that I’ve been to so far include a financial tech Hackathon at Google’s Headquarters, Rutgers, Boston University, and Yale. At YHack (Hackathon at Yale), [my team] did a data visualization thing where we were able to predict the countries that would be in most need of aid over the next 5 years using some predictive modeling. It would show a map of the world and show which countries would need the most aid, and then you could click on a country and donate to projects in that country through Kiva. I really enjoyed doing that one because we actually created a big project in the 36 hours we were there.

HC NYU: It’s only your first semester in college, and you already have a paid internship. Can you tell me about how you got that opportunity and what that experience has been like so far?

ML: First, I planned my schedule so that I wouldn’t have classes on Tuesday, Thursday, or the second half of Friday, so I left that time open for an internship. Then I basically just looked online on listings for a variety of different internships. I found this startup called RapidSOS, and when I was interviewing with them it was originally for a business development internship, but by the end of it the CEO talked to me and he said that because of my tech skills, they could maybe use me as a product management intern. Product management is actually something that I really like -  it’s like the intersection of business, technology, and design.

HC NYU: You have over 250 connections on LinkedIn, which is pretty impressive, especially for a freshman. Can you share some tips on the best ways to network and how you personally were able to get so many?

ML: I go to a lot of professional events, such as UnCubed NYC - an event with over 80 startups - because I wanted to be able to meet people and maybe get internships as well. So when I go to these events, I always talk to the recruiters, employees, and representatives, and anytime I talk to them I just ask for their business card and I keep in touch. Basically after we’ve exchanged a few emails, I go ahead and add them on LinkedIn or sometimes they add me on LinkedIn, and that’s generally how it works. It’s really just about keeping in contact with people, and over time once you build a relationship with them you can add them on LinkedIn and build your network.

HC NYU: Have you discovered that working and studying in New York City has any advantages that other cities don’t have (especially regarding technology and business)?

ML: I think the main advantage is that I wouldn’t be able to do this in other places - to be able to work at a tech startup and be in school at the same time. Because you’re in New York City, it’s so easy to get around to places - it takes me 15 minutes on the subway to get to work. In other places, they don’t have that proximity to the city - they’re not in the city like we are.

HC NYU: Who are your role models that work in the industries that you’re interested in, and why?

ML: For sure Elon Musk. He’s the founder of SpaceX, co-founder of Tesla, PayPal, and SolarCity, and the inventor of the Hyperloop, which is a vacuum-powered train that can take you from LA to Northern California in 30 minutes - which is crazy! There are two reason he’s my role model: 1) I can relate to him a lot in terms of his way of thinking in that he doesn’t particularly empathize with individuals, but he empathizes with society as a whole, so he’s always trying to figure out what his next invention can be that will absolutely change the world. And on top of that, 2) he’s just a machine. He works 100 hour work weeks, every single week and I really admire that because most founders and CEOs of companies will just sit back and let everyone else do the work, but Elon Musk really leads by example.

HC NYU: How do you find so many opportunities to participate in competitions, or go to events, or apply for internships, and just generally get involved in the fields that you’re interested in?

ML: Going into college, I made it my goal push myself to the limit, so whenever I saw an opportunity, I was kind of like a “Yes man.” I would just say “Yes, let’s do it,” and I’d do it. And even now, I still don’t feel overworked, so I continue to do these things through NYU Stern, through competitions I’ve found online, and more. But I think that if you really just say “yes” to things, you’ll find it to be very rewarding.

HC NYU: Do you have any specific goals that you want to accomplish during the rest of college? What are some of your long-term future plans?

ML: During college, I really want to learn how to ballroom dance - that’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I [also] really want to have an internship over the summer abroad, because I think that’s a very different environment than school abroad. I want to learn more physics. I am not a physics major - I’m not even good at physics - but I just want to learn more physics. As for long term stuff, like in the future, I really want to go into design consulting, which actually has very little to do with graphic design. It’s more about design thinking and the design process and applying that to businesses, like a consulting companies - and they’re very cool companies - so I’d like to work doing that for a few years. I’d also like to try out software engineering or product management at a tech startup because I find that very interesting as well. And sometime in my life I’d like to start my own business and go through that entrepreneurial stage again because I find that very rewarding. And later in life, this is kind of like a dream, but I’d really like to go into politics, and the end goal there would be the President of the United States. But I’m far too short to be President.

And just for fun...

  1. Favorite Movie: The Artist
  2. Favorite TV Show: Suits or Silicon Valley
  3. Favorite Food: Salmon Teriyaki
  4. Favorite Song: Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise
  5. Favorite Book: Quiet by Susan Cain
  6. Favorite Study Spot: The Stern UC classrooms
  7. Other Interests/Hobbies: Playing pop songs on the violin, playing soccer, solving Rubik’s cubes, using Post-It notes

Check out Michael’s work and experiences online: