Rensselaer Launches New Business Incubation Program
February 7, 2011
New Program Designed To Accelerate Growth of New Businesses Through an “Emerging Ventures Ecosystem” That Coherently Links Institute Resources and Alumni Expertise With Community Strengths
Building on decades of successful efforts to nurture new businesses and bring ideas from classrooms and labs to the marketplace, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is launching a distributed incubation program to help young businesses grow and succeed.
The new program, called the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE), will have a particular focus in areas of Rensselaer’s signature research strengths and will help start-up businesses take root in Troy and the Capital Region. The new incubation program was launched at a ceremony Feb. 7 in downtown Troy. Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, along with federal, state, and local government leaders and business officials, spoke at the launch.
“Rensselaer is a world-class research university where entrepreneurship is a core focus. Not only do we conduct ground-breaking research, but we also find ways to foster the movement of ideas, inventions, and research results from the nurturing environment of the classroom and laboratory into the real world, where businesses can transform them into products and services that stimulate the economy, generate jobs, create social impact, and build new industries,” said President Jackson. “This new model, which places business incubation within a supportive innovation ecosystem, takes on the unique challenges of the 21st century marketplace, and — we are confident — will play a critical role in the long-term national effort to build a revitalized, robust economy.”
The Emerging Ventures Ecosystem builds on more than 30 years of the Institute’s previous incubator program, the nation’s first such program wholly sponsored and operated by a university. Capital Region companies ranging from MapInfo to successful video game company Vicarious Visions grew out of the previous incubator. The new EVE program will utilize an innovative distributed incubation model, maintaining a central office in the Rice Building at 216 River St., Troy, and working with each company to find an ideal matchup of space to enterprise in Troy and the surrounding area. EVE will be overseen by Richard Frederick, an experienced entrepreneur and a faculty member in the Rensselaer Lally School of Management and Technology.
“In order to remain competitive in a global economy, I strongly believe that America must continue to invest in science, research, and technology — the building blocks of an innovation economy,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko. “I congratulate Dr. Jackson and RPI as they announce the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem and I applaud these efforts that will launch new technology companies and create jobs in the Capital Region and beyond.”
“RPI has once again proven that it is an outstanding academic institution dedicated to helping local small businesses grow, achieve, and succeed in the Capital Region. I commend RPI for this innovative program that will help our local community in a positive way,” said State Senator Roy McDonald.
“The EVE program is the latest example of RPI as a global leader in innovation,” said State Assemblyman and Majority Leader Ron Canestrari. “This new approach will harness the creativity of some of the best and brightest young minds in the world and build upon the university’s proud tradition of academic and entrepreneurial excellence.”
“Rensselaer’s Emerging Ventures Ecosystem program will take advantage of the ideas and science generated in the classrooms by supporting the entrepreneurs who seek to turn those ideas into new technology and eventually products and services that can be marketed globally. With the support of EVE we expect these products and services to come from businesses located right here in Rensselaer County and the Capital Region. And those local businesses mean more local jobs for our current residents and a boost in our local economy that benefits everyone,” said Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen M. Jimino. “I want to congratulate Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and especially its President, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, for creating this program that I am sure will not only continue their tradition of supporting technical and entrepreneurial excellence but will also be a boost to our local economy.”
“My administration has created more than 1,100 jobs over the last seven years because we’ve worked productively with companies of all types across all industries to open or expand in Troy. Many of these new businesses are direct descendents of RPI’s incubator program. We will continue this partnership with RPI and look forward to seeing future entrepreneurs from up on the hill, make their home right here in Troy,” said Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian.
Under EVE, businesses that are accepted into the program will receive a series of specific services that will help accelerate their growth. Once a new company completes the application process — through which Rensselaer will determine, in part, whether the entrepreneur is willing to put in the effort to make the company successful — the program will assign a status to the company: pre-seed, emerging, or early stage. Assigning these descriptions will help EVE mentors and administrators determine the specific services needed by each business. (A complete list of services is provided at the end of this news release or at the EVE website: www.rpi.edu/about/eve)
EVE’s mentors — including seasoned professionals drawn from the Institute, from the local business community, and from Rensselaer’s considerable pool of highly successful alumni/ae — will help these new start-ups sharpen their business plans, establish clear goals and milestones, access technical and legal support services as needed, identify receptive markets, and discover additional funding opportunities. This will be accomplished through business plan competitions, grants, loans, and venture funds. The EVE director will work closely with the Rensselaer Alumni Association to assist in the selection and assignment of alumni/ae and other mentors. The Institute also is exploring the creation of an alumni/ae supported angel investment fund to provide funding ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 to augment some of the alumni-sponsored grant programs already available.
“As we have worked to reshape our business incubation approach, we have heard from many enthusiastic and prominent Rensselaer alumni and alumnae who are interested in participating in and supporting emerging ventures in the early transformative process,” said Laban Coblentz, Rensselaer chief of staff and associate vice president for policy and planning. “Our graduates overwhelmingly share a vision of harnessing scientific and technological advances for social and economic growth. It is simply how they think. They are particularly eager to fuel the process of new business creation and growth.”
While EVE is designed to elevate the standard of business incubation at Rensselaer, the focus of the “ecosystem” goes well beyond incubation, Coblentz said.
“Our goal is to facilitate and ‘turbo-charge,’ if you like, every aspect of technology transfer, from idea generation to patenting and licensing to global growth,” Coblentz said. “To do that, we intend to tap the entire range of Rensselaer resources, and to create partnerships that take symbiotic advantage of strengths in the local community, for mutual benefit.”
At the Institute, Coblentz cited a range of resources: the multitude of leading-edge research centers; Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship Rob Chernow; selected classes and courses of study designed around innovation and entrepreneurship; the Office of Technology Commercialization; the Rensselaer Technology Park; and the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. The Severino Center’s mission, for example, is to expose Rensselaer students to the practices and principles of entrepreneurship, and to extend Rensselaer’s leadership and national prominence in technological entrepreneurship.
“After more than a year of effort,” Coblentz said, “what we are seeing is an unprecedented degree of coherence and cooperation among all of these Rensselaer entities. EVE will extend this same ‘ecosystem’ philosophy and approach into our partnerships in Troy and the Capital Region — because economic growth is not a zero-sum game.”
In announcing EVE today, Rensselaer provided a list of initial participants:
Microrganic Technologies — A student company focused on using microbiotic technology to reduce the volume of solid food wastes. Their process reduces the volume of solid waste by 80 percent, creates heat that can be converted to electricity, and produces commercial-grade compost.
WindMec — A student company working on a new design for a wind turbine that is can be used for light industrial and commercial applications.
L.I.M.B. — A student company working on an artificial hand that is designed to have all the functionality of the human hand.
Paper Battery — Rensselaer technology that is an advanced energy storage device utilizing nanotechnology on a paper-like substance to develop a device that is six times more effective than current supercapacitors.
Ithos — This company licenses a software product from Atrion International used to track regulatory changes and publishes hazardous material content lists to monitor product safety.
Ethermetrics — Manufacturers the DataCube®, a data management system that is used to monitor the consumption of energy and water usage.
HeliOptix — Rensselaer technology used to develop a solar building product known as the Integrated Concentrated Solar Facade System ( ICSF System). This is an architectural daylighting system, designed to reduce the mechanical cooling system costs while simultaneously capitalizing on high-efficiency concentrating photovoltaic cells with active heat capture and transfer, resulting in a highly integrated and powerful system for both energy savings and production.
Bluestone Telecommunications — A software company that has developed a cloud-based telephony product that mirrors all the features of big box phone systems without the complexity, reducing operating costs and the carbon footprint through more efficient use of server technology.
Voice Flight — A software company that has developed the only FAA-certified voice-activated GPS flight control system for light aircraft. They are currently working on a version of the product for commercial airline applications.
Early stage companies:
Prospect Genius — A software company that utilizes Rensselaer-licensed technology to deliver qualified sales leads to small to mid-sized companies in specific geographic locations.
1st Playable Productions — Started by a Rensselaer graduate, this is a software company that seeks to make games specifically aimed at children that stimulate, entertain, and leave lasting, positive impressions.
Ecovative Design — This company produces 100 percent biodegradable products that are used for insulation and packing utilizing Rensselaer licensed technology. The company has been recognized throughout the world as a leader in the development of sustainable, green products.
Services to be provided by the new incubation program include:
- A board of advisers will be established from community resources or alumni/ae as may be appropriate. If a company already has a board of advisers or directors, EVE will assign an additional person to the board to act as a liaison to mobilize resources within the Institute.
- Quarterly goals and objectives: With the belief that new businesses need a concrete plan to succeed, each company will develop with its advisory board three or four key objectives, with milestones they need to accomplish each quarter. These goals will be tracked and measured each quarter with new goals developed for succeeding quarters. Companies must continue to show steady progress in order to remain in the program.
- Access to Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) and other RPI resources: The Institute representative will identify resources within the Institute that can be utilized to assist the company as needed. As a member of EVE, a company will have access to the Entrepreneur(s) in Residence at the Lally School as well as other resources including labs, patenting and licensing services, faculty, and students for work study assignments, internships (REIP), and student projects.
- Help Desk with access to professional resources: Alumni/ae and community volunteers (e.g., attorneys, accountants) will be available on a rotating schedule to answer questions, provide advice, and offer one-time assistance for basic questions. If an EVE company requires regular ongoing assistance, it will be encouraged to select a professional service company from a list provided through the EVE program. Such services may be offered at a discount to seed and early stage companies.
- Monthly CEO Roundtable discussions (may be more frequent): EVE will host monthly peer review meetings where the CEOs of the incubated companies get together to talk about topics and issues of importance to them. Participants will sign a non-disclosure agreement allowing a platform for confidential open discussions. The mix of pre-seed, early stage, and emerging companies provides a framework for peer-to-peer coaching.
- Funding: EVE will promote and introduce its companies to investors, assist them in identifying and seeking grant opportunities (NYSERDA, SBIR, etc), and help them prepare for business plan competitions. The companies will be given assistance in preparing applications, presentations, and pitches. Additionally, members will be provided access to professional grant writers to assist them as needed.
- Networking: The companies will be invited to networking opportunities within the local business and academic community to expand professional networks and increase exposure to decision makers.
- Rensselaer Community: The companies and their employees will be part of the Rensselaer community. In that regard, the companies will be invited to participate in campus events and workshops as they occur.
- Speakers Bureau: The companies will be invited to a monthly meeting featuring a speaker or a lecturer based upon a topic selected by the EVE company CEOs.
- Quarterly Meet-Ups: EVE will host a quarterly meet-up for all employees of the incubated companies. This meeting will allow the employees to build relationships and exchange ideas.
- Technology Showcases: Periodic presentations of all EVE participating companies will be used to showcase the companies to the Rensselaer community, venture organizations, news media, and the community at large.
Contact: Mark Marchand
Phone: (518) 276-6098