At this year’s Grinspoon, Garvey & Young [Collegiate] Entrepreneurship Conference hundreds of students participated in an “Idea Madness” event to motivate them to Get Started. Imagine a room with row upon row of circular tables, each one has a student pitching their table-mates as a giant countdown clock ticked down. When the time was up the next person at the table pitched. The air in the room was charged with excitement and nervousness as everyone at every table had pitched. Prizes were handed out, but most importantly, everyone got some public speaking experience, learned that coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part, and maybe got a jolt to check out this entrepreneurship thing :).
The whole event was made possible because of the leadership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the incredible help of the faculty at all 14 colleges in the Pioneer Valley. The region is incredibly fortunate to have so many people passionate about helping the entrepreneurs of tomorrow!
Some more photos are below. You can see all the photos the foundation kindly paid for here.
This summer I had the pleasure of facilitating the 2019 Energy (CleanTech) cohort for the AccelVT accelerator in Burlington, VT. At last week’s graduation they showed one of the critical differentiators between their accelerator and most others: funded pilots with utilities.
Most CleanTech companies need to interface with local utilities in order to deliver their innovations to the world. Utilities are usually extremely cautious, deliberate, and methodical – great things for organizations dealing with high voltage safely! However, that same culture is usually far too slow for startup-paced innovation.
AccelVT built a network of utilities and similar entities that didn’t only write checks and show up to share advice… no, they did the hard work to figure out how to run real pilots to put the startup’s innovations to work making VT’s climate greener and safer. The graduates had tried working with utilities (elsewhere) before and left frustrated. But in this program they were “blown away at how ready AccelVT’s sponsors were to find ways to Make It Work.”
The Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power provided four funded pilots at graduation. My conversations with the graduating startups showed that by the end of graduation night almost all of them had serious prospects at getting their own funded pilots with one or more of the many sponsors who attended the event.
I’ve never seen anything like it. AccelVT and their sponsors are making Vermont one of the best places in the country for CleanTech innovation. If you have a CleanTech startup, keep an eye on AccelVT and consider making a pilgrimage to beautiful Burlington to see if you can do business there. I’d be happy to introduce you.
Here are details on the fantastic startups I had the delight of teaching these past three months.
DCC is a hardware company supporting residential electric vehicle charging installations that are otherwise unattainable because of a limited power supply. With our device, EV owners now have a reliable solution if their panels are at full capacity or if they reside in a multi-unit dwelling. dccelectric.comQuebec
EVmatch is a mobile platform that allows EV drivers to find and reserve charging stations anywhere they go by enabling increased access to private charging stations. EVmatch reduces the stress in locating an available charger and immediately grows EV charging options by making private charging stations available to the public. www.evmatch.com/California
Go Together is a SaaS platform for people to get where they need to go through their trusted networks using apps to do end to end trip planning to meet, collaborate and schedule carpools, biking, walking, transit, and more. Go Together leverages technology and the power of trusted communities to innovate the way people get where they need and want to go whether it’s to and from school, to practice, a game or to vote. gotogether.today/home/ Washington, D.C.
iSun Energy develops robust, esthetic, smart and easy to install solar carport and canopy systems with proprietary hardware and software systems. iSun offers an attractive structure delivering shading and protection, while also feeding the local grid with renewable solar energy, and the ability to mate with smart energy management systems, such as EV charging. isunenergy.com/en/Quebec
Onboard Data is in the business of helping people make buildings better. We provide analytics software to service providers and facility managers that maintain our most frequented spaces: such as our offices, hospitals, and schools. Instead of chasing energy, maintenance and comfort problems, our customers can turn to our software to uncover issues before they turn into emergencies. Maintenance personnel can now save time and money while delighting their building owners and tenants. www.onboarddata.io/ Massachusetts
SomEV provides charging solutions for micro-mobility applications (e-scooters, e-bicyles, e-mopeds) by providing a network of Battery Swap Kiosks, that charge, store, and monitor battery packs. Using our proprietary kiosks, riders of micro-mobility have access to a swap-&-go battery system, thus providing a convenient and reliable way www.som-ev.com/Massachusetts
UAT developed a robust clamp for electrical wire management that reduces weight, improves safety, and simplifies maintenance through the use of Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. This patent pending ICC is unique because it avoids metallic installation hardware while greatly simplifying installation complexity, reducing installer fatigue, and minimizing associated repetitive strain injury. www.uairtek.com/ New York
So much food goes to waste in our country every year.
So many people are hungry.
It is literally cheaper to throw food away than to give it away… until now.
A few years ago I had the honor of mentoring Maria Rose Belding when she and her partners at Means Database were in the Valley Venture Mentors startup Accelerator. Her social venture is organized and dreams like a high tech silicon valley startup – but all of that energy is directed to doing good, at scale. Her venture diverted more than a million pounds of food to food pantries around the country, is financially sustainable, and has only just begun.
Oh… and she did all of this while being an undergraduate.
Last night I had the honor to speak an serve as MC for the 15th Annual Grinspoon Foundation Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards banquet. Many do not know just how pivotal this organization has been, so I’d like to share some of my speech from last night.
We are gathered for the entrepreneurial spirit awards. I emphasize spirit because of the insight of our founder, Harold Grinspoon. When he, like almost all entrepreneurs in this room, started his ventures he experienced so many challenges. The intellectual challenges of finding a model that will work. The emotional challenge of failing over, and over, and over again before finding the answer.
As if that isn’t hard enough, imagine if after every failure all the respectable people around him asked “Why don’t you stop this childish dream-chasing and go get a real job?“
What a punch in the gut.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Real Jobs. Most of us have them. They’re great! But some of us don’t want a Real Job. We want to make our own way. And aren’t we glad that Harold and all the other great entrepreneurs did! Harold created thousands of Real Jobs. Real Jobs that provided for thousands of families to put their kids through school, pay their mortgages, and donate to their favorite charities. That’s a vision I think we all can get behind.
To all the entrepreneurs in the room tonight. Harold wanted to make sure that you could count on there being at least one room, a really big room [motion to indicate the hundreds of people in the banquet hall] full of respectable people who will not look down on you. No! We will shake your hand, put you on stage and celebrate you! In fact, help us celebrate you right now. Please stand up and be recognized!
When this Entrepreneurship Initiative launched 15 years ago, Western Massachusetts was a barren wasteland for entrepreneurs. There were a few of us lonely voices in the wilderness, helping our students, mostly alone. We were too few and too dispersed to get traction.
Then Harold and his team, first Linda Peters, then Brenda Wishart, and now the great Cari Carpenter, deployed an elegantly simple solution. Bring all of us lone voices together. Give us a little bit of resources, a network of our peers, and see what can happen. They gave us our tribe
For the first time we critical mass. That network of faculty advisors at each of the college campuses slowly but surely built up a foundation. Today our region has dozens of beautiful entrepreneurship support organizations, and almost every one of them has been made possible or been accelerated because of the foundation of support the Grinspoon EI created for us.
Today the 15th largest employer in the Pioneer Valley are the alumni of our region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, many of whom are alum of the very program we are celebrating tonight! Most of those companies are only a few years old. What will happen in the next 5 years? The next 15? How much prosperity will they unleash?
I, for one, have a great deal to be thankful to Harold and his team for. Please help me in thanking them.