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Posts Tagged ‘incubator’

At Public Radio International, Jason Margolis and Ari Daniel reported recently on a Massachusetts business incubator focused on helping green startups by providing them with inexpensive space and shared tools.

“A few years ago, when Sorin Grama had just finished graduate work at MIT and was looking for a place to build his new solar electricity startup, he came across an old abandoned warehouse.

“ ‘My partner and I were looking at it and said, ‘Well, it’s a lot of space here, maybe others can join, it’s kind of lonely,” Grama says. ‘We put out a call to the MIT community.’

“Within weeks, a handful of startups were sharing that cavernous space.

“ ‘And we bonded. All the companies created a nice community, and we started sharing tools, people and ideas, and reading each other’s proposals for funding, things like that,’ Grama says. ‘We had a great Christmas party one year.’ …

“Today, their home is a massive old mid-19th century pipe factory in Somerville, just outside of Boston. It’s called Greentown Labs, and it’s one of the most successful in a new wave of what are called green business incubators, clusters of startups looking to build a business by helping cut carbon emissions and fight climate change. …

“They’re saving money [by getting started] at Greentown. If you need a power saw or an industrial press, no need to buy your own — just sign up for a time slot in the machine shop. The incubator also brings shared intellectual resources, like software, human resources, even PR help. …

“Outgrowing the incubator is part of the point, showing there’s money to be made tackling the world’s climate and energy challenges.

“It’s a growth area that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is betting on, putting millions in grants and loans toward a network of green tech incubators. Steven Pike, interim CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, says it’s an efficient way to spend.

“ ‘We can try and go out and try to support individually 50 different companies,’ Pike says. Or, Massachusetts can invest in an incubator that supports 50 companies under one roof.

“He says Massachusetts has an audacious goal: ‘We want to be the Silicon Valley of clean energy, renewable energy.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Greentown Labs
Shared workspace at Greentown Labs.

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Looking through a pile of magazines recently, I found a 2011 newspaper article I had cut out about Hardwick, Vermont. It’s about reinventing the local culture around food and food-related businesses.

Dirk Van Susteren wrote at the Boston Globe, “If there were a ‘Locavore Capital of America’ one would expect it to be in sunny California or perhaps somewhere in the heartland … But, surprisingly, in rocky northern New England, just 45 miles from the Canadian border, is a place that could contend for that honor: Hardwick, a former quarrying town that until recently knew more pain than promise.

“In recent years Hardwick, population 3,200, located along a tumbling stretch of the Lamoille River, has seen a half-dozen innovative agricultural enterprises crop up, many with mission statements including such words as ‘community-based,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘organic.’

“The town, always a bit scruffy, and with a high jobless rate, might be on a green trajectory. And people are taking notice.

“Among the new operations here or in nearby towns: Jasper Hill Farm, which makes artisanal cheeses and provides aging, distribution, and marketing services to local cheesemakers; High Mowing Seed Co., an organic seed business, whose owner likes traveling around the country to tell the Hardwick farm and food story; Highfields Center for Composting, a soil-making business that collects its raw materials from restaurants, farms, and schools; Pete’s Greens, a CSA (community-support ed agriculture) farm that grows organic vegetables in gardens and greenhouses; and, finally, Vermont Soy, a tofu and soymilk producer.

“The area also has dozens of small-scale producers, from orchardists to maple sugarmakers. Their products sell at farm stands, at the summer farmers’ market, and at Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Cafe, a landmark in its 36th year. …

“Monty Fischer, the executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the nonprofit organization that helped spur these farm efforts, has kept count. ‘People from 40 states and 40 countries have come to ask about our agricultural cluster,’ he reports, from his downtown office.”

Read about the 2011 federal grant for the Vermont Food Venture Center, an incubator facility, the organic North Hardwick Dairy, where sunflowers are grown as a value-added crop, mead maker Caledonia Spirits, and more here.

And if anyone has been up there recently, I sure would love to know if the food culture is still going strong.

Photo: Wikipedia
North Main St., Hardwick, Vermont

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I came across a nonprofit organization called BUILD on the website of the accelerator incubator MassChallenge (where Erik is among 26 finalists who will be honored at Tuesday’s awards). BUILD helps inspire students to graduate from high school by getting them engaged in an entrepreneurship project.

“MassChallenge Partner BUILD Greater Boston is gathering a select group of entrepreneurs to mentor student business teams in some of the city’s lowest performing high schools.

“BUILD is an exciting 4-year college success program that uses entrepreneurship to motivate disengaged students to excel academically, graduate from high school, and succeed in college. …

“To help students become college-eligible, BUILD also provides tutoring, test prep, mentoring, and college planning advice. Entrepreneurship is the hook — but college is the goal. Over the past 13 years, 95% of BUILD seniors nationally have been accepted to college, with 88% accepted to 4 year colleges and universities.

A student team calling itself “the Dream Team and their mentors, including MassChallenge Alumni Shonak Patel, won 1st place at the Youth Business Plan Competition at Northeastern University on June 2, 2012, receiving $1,500 to start their business.”

According to the Bay State Banner, the Dream Team’s product is an “inspirational iPhone case, made of bamboo and customizable to have the purchaser’s own dream etched into it.” More here.

See video highlights of the competition from the Boston Business Journal.

Being a BUILD mentor gave me the opportunity to use my passion for entrepreneurship to inspire greatness in others.— Shonak Patel, Charlestown Mentor and MassChallenge Alumni. 

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Fun time at Mass Challenge!​

Mass Challenge is an incubator “accelerator” for entrepreneurial companies, perhaps the biggest worldwide. I’ve blogged about it before.

Of the 125 finalists in this year’s challenge, 48 gave one-minute pitches last night to an audience of about 200 friends, family, and investors at 1 Marina Park on the Boston waterfront.

Besides being entertaining, it was inspiring. So many people working hard on so many great ideas!

A couple noteworthy presentations were from MIT people. Helmet_Hub tapped the skills of MIT materials science students to create a helmet-vending machine. They have already partnered with the City of Boston’s Hubway, which lends bikes point to point. Another MIT-based organization, Global Research Innovation & Technology (GRIT), uses bicycle parts to make inexpensive wheelchairs for Third World patients. Very impressive. (More on GRIT here.)

I also wrote down that soundfest has a better kind of hearing aid. Prime Student Loan screens students so banks can make a safe loan even if graduates have no FICO score.

Wanderu was one of the few female-run companies. It does for ground travel what kayak and others do for air. Zoomtilt creates ads that are said to be so funny and entertaining, people actually want to watch them. Guided Surgery Solutions helps oral surgeons drill into the right place.

Roameo helps you find out what’s going on near where you are right now. Newartlove helps artists sell their work. Social Made Simple helps small businesses with social networking. (Check it out, Luna & Stella.) CellanyxDiagnostics has a more precise test for prostate cancer than the PSA.

I will likely follow up on a worthy-cause business called Bootstrap Compost. They teach you to compost, give you the bucket, pick it up, deliver it to farms, and give leftover compost to schools. You can have some, too. Bootstrap is very low-tech, doing most travel on bikes. It is proud of keeping tons of food scraps out of landfills.

I was also impressed at the Mass Challenge diversity — men, women (OK, not many women), old, young, scientists, artists, business types, different races, different nationalities, humorous, solemn.

No need to worry about the economy long term. Not with the joy of invention alive and well.

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John pointed me to an article on the kinds of work environments that encourage innovation.

Aimee Groth at Business Insider writes, “In his article, Groupthink, the New Yorker‘s Jonah Lehrer says there are two types of brainstorming — a free-for-all exchange of ideas in a structured environment, and a random, unplanned debate. Only the second type really works.

“He says M.I.T.’s famous Building 20 … became one of the most innovative spaces in the country because it fostered the best kind of brainstorming.

“The building was created to provide extra room for scientists during WW II, reports Lehrer, and ‘violated the Cambridge fire code, but it was granted an exemption because of its temporary status. … The walls were thin, the roof leaked, and the building was broiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. Nevertheless Building 20 quickly became a center of groundbreaking research, the Los Alamos of the East Coast.’

“It wasn’t demolished after the war because there were too many students and too little space on campus. So the building became a hodgepodge of offices, with professors and students from all different departments squeezed in small spaces and long corridors. …

” ‘Walls were torn down without permission; equipment was stored in the courtyards and bolted to the roof. … The space also forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle.’ ”

More.

Makes me think of the layout at Mass Challenge, the accelerator incubator for entrepreneurs that I blogged about here. (Did I mention that a family member read that post, sent in an application under the wire, powered through layers of screening, and is now working away as part of the class of 2012?)

The Mass Challenge space is not dangerous like Building 20, but the founders probably heard about the benefits of Building 20’s layout through their connection to MIT. The Mass Challenge work space is an unfinished floor in an upscale office building on the waterfront, 1 Marina Park. Everything is open and interactive.

The harbor views are a bonus unknown at Building 20.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Suzanne and Erik went to grad school with David O’Halloran, whose consulting company was recently cited in The Irish Times for its focus on sustainable business ventures in Africa.

“For Irish entrepreneur David O’Halloran, adhering to a sustainable business model that helps develop and protect local communities and their environment is the key to enjoying long-term success in Africa’s emerging markets. In late 2006, the Galway man, along with three former colleagues, rejuvenated a business development consultancy called BusinessMinds by turning it into an incubator company that develops, finances and operates sustainable commercial ventures in Africa.

“The idea behind the enterprise is to offer investors a socially responsible approach to doing business on the continent, while also making a profit. ‘Historically, many investors in Africa have used a more short-term, exploitative business model, one which has existed since the days of colonialism,’ O’Halloran says. ‘Unfortunately, for some investors this remains the modus operandi even today. As in, they take what resources they can and then get out without giving much back to the local economies.’

“However, O’Halloran says he believes people are starting to realise that such an approach is inherently unstable and increases risk.” His organization is called BusinessMinds, Africa.

Bill Corcoran wrote the Irish Times article. Read more here.

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