2024 #CoachingColumbia Award – Houtan Fanisalek

Houtan Fanisalek, this year’s Coaching Columbia awardee, is a pivotal figure within Columbia University’s entrepreneurship program, providing invaluable support and guidance to students as CTO in Residence at the Columbia Startup Lab and particularly enjoying the opportunity to address technical queries.

“It’s nice to see other people succeeding,” he said. “Gives me some kind of energy.”

His entrepreneurial journey commenced at CSL, with his first startup, at the same place where he now helps students with their own ventures.

Fanisalek advocates for perseverance and risk-taking among students. He himself took his learnings from his first company – an SDK project for smartwatches – and is now the CTO of his third startup, OneRange, that he co-founded with fellow CSL Cohort two alum Steve Gilman. The recognition bestowed upon him through the Coaching Columbia Award serves as a testament to how generously Fanisalek shared his time and insights into technology and startup life with the Columbia Startup community.

With extensive experience spanning across cohorts and his involvement in judging engineering competitions, Fanisalek’s impact is undeniable. This award, he said, was a pleasant surprise.

“I was really shocked,” he said. “It means that what I have done has at least added some sort of impact and significance to the community.”

AJ Taylor, Director of CSL, said Fanisalek “has been a great mentor and coach over the years here at the Columbia Startup Lab.”

“As our CTO in Residence, he has been readily available for our teams and often checks in to offer even more time if they are in a crunch. Houtan brings a great blend of technical skill and unbridled vision that inspires creativity and quality,” Taylor said.

“We’re so proud to count him as an alumni of CSL. Houtan truly embodies the spirit of ‘giving back.”


Inspired by the incredible example of mentorship and generosity provided by our friend and former Columbia Trustee, Bill “Coach” Campbell ’62CC, ’64TC, we honor and recognize members of our startup community who give their personal time to Columbia founders in the throes of their journey.

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