StartUp Worcester Awards Twelve Area Startups with the First-ever Memberships in Program Designed to Incubate New Businesses

Entrepreneurs will begin work on their startups with the support of Running Start, The Venture Forum and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and partners, The Venture Forum and Running Start, announced the twelve winners of the first class of StartUp Worcester entrepreneurs at a reception on Thurs., May 7, 2015 spotlighting their startup businesses. The Chamber’s Higher Education – Business Partnership coordinated the effort to encourage innovative startups to locate their businesses in Worcester by providing support to these talented graduates.

In its first year, StartUp Worcester is a partnership between the Chamber, The Venture Form, and Running Start with support from sponsors Commerce Bank and DarrowEverett, LLP. Participation in the program was determined through a competitive application process and review by a committee. The one-year StartUp Worcester membership includes space at Running Start and membership in the Chamber and The Venture Forum affording them access to a variety of tools and resources to help them succeed.

Becker College president Robert Johnson and president of Commerce Bank Brian Thompson at the StartUp Worcester awards event, May 7, 2015.

Becker College president Robert Johnson and president of Commerce Bank Brian Thompson at the StartUp Worcester awards event, May 7, 2015.

The twelve winners were selected from 23 applicants representing seven local institutions of higher education. Those awarded the StartUp Worcester slots come from five campuses and include three digital game developers, a real estate developer, a hydroponics company, and technology companies focusing on city engagement, fitness and transportation and a fashion blog/consultant, among other innovative ideas.

One of the winners, Agraponics LLC, a biotechnology company, will integrate technology into food production. Founder, Christopher J. Dibble, a Clark University biology student graduating in 2016 remarked, “Being a StartUp Worcester member will give our company access to the resources we need to be fully operational. As a startup we have limited resources, and a co-working space will allow us to streamline the product development process by making available tools and general expertise to create high quality products. Becoming a StartUp Worcester member will take Agraponics, to the next level, and enable us to teach more people how to grow their own food from a sustainable source.”

According to Chamber president and CEO, Tim Murray, “As part of our recruit, retain, incubate approach to organizing our work, we thought it was important to support these budding companies. We want to retain these bright, entrepreneurial graduates and help them to incubate their ideas in Worcester. By providing them access to the resources afforded by our partnerships, the Chamber, The Venture Forum, and Running Start will help to secure Worcester’s future as a great place to do business.”

WPI biomedical and robotics engineering graduate Chris Molica founded Sensae in 2014. A lean technology startup, the company is focused on providing sensors and systems that together, create a fitness feedback platform for adaptive instructive exercise and physical therapy. “Becoming a StartUp Worcester member will provide Sensae with a competitive edge – giving our team the necessary space and resources with which we can continue our research and growth,” stated Mr. Molica.

Starting a business involves much more than technical know-how in a specific field. Hurdles include funding, creating a business plan, seeking out expert advice, and so on. The Venture Form is an important resource for these entrepreneurs as they tackle these challenges. Joe Vignaly, chair of The Venture believes that, “By providing workshops, counseling, and other forms of support, a lot of great ideas and companies coming from graduates of Worcester colleges and universities will have a chance to grow here. StartUp Worcester is one positive step to keep those people and companies in Worcester.”

StartUp Worcester helps to incubate new businesses and retain the bright young graduates of the area’s college and universities. This initiative encourages them to grow their business here – where they have access to everything they need to succeed – including physical space. Running Start, a co-working space on Prescott Street in Worcester, will provide space and other amenities to get these businesses up and running. Collaboration with other startups experiencing their own growing pains and celebrating their successes provides inspiration and encouragement.

“We’re excited to have the StartUp Worcester participants joining the Running Start community. These new ventures play a critical role in expanding Worcester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and it’s important that they have the opportunity to connect and work with other innovators in a collaborative environment,” stated Ryan Leary, co-founder and president of Running Start.

The value of membership in the three organizations is valued between $2,900 and $5,300, depending on the number of employees in the startup. But according to Karen Pelletier, director of the Chamber’s Higher Education – Business Partnership, “The true value of StartUp Worcester lies in the connections, opportunities, and support inherent in being involved with these three business organizations. Another partner, SCORE (funded by the U.S. Small Business Association) will provide one on one counseling and mentorship to participants. I am thrilled to see this program have such a robust start – it’s a win-win-win – for the startups, the community, and someday soon, the consumers of these new products and services.”

Worcester is home to 12 colleges and universities, with a combined 38,000 students and more than 10,000 faculty and staff making higher education Worcester’s second largest industry. The impact on the city and region includes advantages such as intellectual capital and a hub of expertise in many sectors; an economic impact of more than $2.5 billion; a well-educated workforce; and a large consumer market. The Chamber’s HEBP strives to capitalize on these assets and retain our graduates through a variety of programs and initiatives including internships, career bridges, soft skills development, business recruitment in areas requiring specialized education, and through connections with local business leaders and entrepreneurs, among other efforts.