A group of business, economic development, education leaders and elected officials gathered today to open thINCubator (short for “the home for Innovative New Companies”), a new business incubator and student accelerator in downtown Utica. The kickoff event unveiled thINCubator’s space at 106 Genesee St. in the Bagg’s Square West district. Also announced were thINCubator’s inaugural teams of entrepreneurs, and a grant of $84,000 from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc.
“thINCubator provides people, programs, and a place to accelerate the ideas of entrepreneurs,” says John Liddy, Entrepreneur in Residence at Mohawk Valley Community College and Founding Director of thINCubator. Modeled after other successful accelerators, thINCubator has secured support from dozens of community mentors. Mentors will work with five student teams during a 14-week program, helping students refine and pitch their business ideas. A second cohort of teams will start this summer.
“ThINCubator is the kind of program that we foresee having significant affect on our future,” said Peggy O’Shea, CEO and President of The Community Foundation. “This partnership has the potential to have great impact on our community - specifically in the areas of economic development and education where our Indicators Study shows the most need.” The Community Foundation’s grant will support thINCubator’s startup year of operation.
Among the inaugural teams are a cyber-services firm led by two MVCC students, a husband-and-wife team of SUNY IT alumni with a device that promotes medication adherence, and an MVCC student-led team with a mobile app for local buyer loyalty. These entrepreneurs will work closely with thINCubator mentors led by Liddy. Liddy is a nationally recognized expert in using higher education as a catalyst for local economic development.
“The sandbox concept of thINCubator is meant to create a hotbed of new business ideas and a network of new connections across the local economy,” Liddy says. “The goal of thINCubator is to establish a stronger startup ecosystem of entrepreneurs who will help revitalize our economy and put more Mohawk Valley residents to work in rewarding careers.”
Participating entrepreneurs have access to business and entrepreneurship courses taught by MVCC, as well as mentorship from experts in business law, information technology, finance, and other relevant fields. They receive startup perks such as Rackspace Web and IT support, and work toward pitching their businesses to venture capitalists.
“The business climate is picking up steam, for both existing businesses and new ventures, and thINCubator will be a place where they can come together and maximize their connections,” says MVCC President Randall J. VanWagoner, Ph.D. “The sandbox concept is enjoying strong support from the business and non-profit sectors, as they recognize its potential to create even more economic momentum and good jobs for people in our region.”
“The thINCubator provides a truly transformational space which will ignite the collaboration of ideas, education, and action,” says Mary Jo Ferrare, Regional Director of the Workforce Development Institute. “Workforce Development Institute recognizes the capacity for innovation that exists here in the Mohawk Valley and we’re thrilled to support our student and community-based entrepreneurs.”
The program aligns with entrepreneurship-boosting goals of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and enjoys administrative support from MVCC and other local colleges and universities. Significant financial support is provided by the MVCC Foundation, Empire State Development Council, Workforce Development Institute, Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., and the Coleman Foundation.
thINCubator’s launch builds on recent successes such as MVCC’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, new entrepreneurship degree and certificate programs at MVCC, the establishment of the Quad C at SUNYIT’s campus, Mohawk Valley EDGE’s EDGEucation series, and significant efforts from the private sector to redevelop business-friendly corridors in and around Utica.