Northeastern University’s Roux Institute is launching an accelerator program to bring startup companies to Portland, Maine, and help them build their businesses in the region. Together with Techstars, a leading accelerator provider and global network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, they are creating The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, an immersive entrepreneurship program to help startups grow their businesses, attract investors, build partnerships, and strengthen the regional economy.
The program will select 10 startup companies from around the world for an intensive 13-week experience at the Roux Institute during which they will take advantage of the networks and expertise of the Roux Institute and Techstars to build their businesses and talent pipeline. The accelerator will work with companies addressing solutions in artificial intelligence, advanced life sciences and health, and data science and analytics—cornerstones of the Roux Institute’s educational and research mission.
Applications to the program are open from February 22 through May 12, at the end of which 10 startup companies will be selected by a team that includes Techstars and Roux Institute faculty, researchers, and corporate partners. The companies will relocate in September to Portland, where they will engage in 13 weeks of intensive training and hands-on mentorship from institute mentors, researchers, investors, and academic and industry mentors from the global networks of both organizations.
In addition to receiving funding, the companies will learn how to take their businesses to the next level by acquiring and serving new customers, polishing their team dynamics, and preparing themselves to attract additional resources. In December, at the conclusion of the accelerator program, each company will participate in a concluding Demo Day, to be attended by potential investors and stakeholders.
“These are the companies of the future—10 companies that have exciting prospects,” says Chris Mallett, chief administrative officer of the Roux Institute. “Through The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, we aim to help these companies grow and explode into the market—and to do so in Maine.”
The program is designed to help the companies establish connections and roots in Maine, which will drive business growth throughout the state and northern New England. The multi-year partnership with Techstars has the potential to spur 30 or more startups through the Roux Institute.
“One of our goals is to show the startups how incredible Maine is for their businesses—to connect them with our corporate partners, mentors, and researchers, and students,” says Chris Wolfel, director of entrepreneurship for the Roux Institute. “We have a talent pipeline coming out of the institute that can feed those companies and give them a reason to stay here.”
The university launched the Roux Institute last year with a $100 million investment made by technology entrepreneur and Maine native David Roux and his wife, Barbara, who joined with Northeastern to ignite their vision of a Portland-based hub to educate generations of talent for the digital and life sciences sectors, and create new ideas through research. In 13 months, the institute has taken on 31 corporate partners that are contributing to a variety of growth opportunities including educational solutions for employees, talent recruiting through the institute’s co-op program, innovation and research collaborations, and, in some cases, vetting of startups for possible acquisitions. In October, the institute received a $100 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, an investment that provides financial aid for graduate-level students, funding for post-doctoral research, and support for co-ops with Maine employers.
The institute’s goal of transforming Portland into an innovation hub has been accelerated by the recent trend of remote working, says Wolfel.
“We are seeing a spike in startup talent, founders, and tech employees moving to cities like Portland because they want to live and work here,” Wolfel says. “The pandemic has accelerated the transition of what was already starting to happen, with people accepting that their headquarters don’t need to be in San Francisco or New York anymore.”
This is the first northern New England accelerator partnership for Techstars, a platform for investment and innovation that operates accelerators around the world. Some Northeastern graduates who have benefited from Techstars in the past decade include Mitch Wainer, who co-founded Digital Ocean, an international cloud provider; Ben Anderson, co-founder of Amino, a platform of apps that help build online communities; and Wolfel, who joined with fellow alumni Lyle Stevens and Sean Naegeli to launch Mavrck, an influencer marketing platform, in 2014.
“It’s an exciting time to be joining the Northern New England entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Nancy Wolff, general manager at Techstars, in the company’s announcement. “Techstars was founded on the three simple principles that entrepreneurs create a better future, collaboration drives innovation and great ideas can come from anywhere. Bringing the engine that is Techstars to the larger Maine community, in partnership with The Roux Institute, will show startups why Portland can be one of the best environments for growing a business.”
In a related move, founders throughout the Techstars network are being provided with academic credit to Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business to help them pursue advanced degrees.
“We have a rich history rooted in experiential education, and the robust Techstars community equally values the lessons learned from experimentation, lifelong learning, and innovation,” says Raj Echambadi, Dunton Family Dean of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “It’s an exciting partnership, and we look forward to both educating and learning from Techstars alumni.”
The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator is part of a larger focus on entrepreneurship in Portland. Another initiative is the Roux Institute Startup Residency, which provides six new companies with full access to the institute’s resources and expertise to help grow the Maine economy.
The institute is developing additional programs to support small businesses and underrepresented founders throughout Maine.
“We need the entire ecosystem to work,” Wolfel says. “Tech companies and small businesses need to work together to transform the economy. They’re going to support the restaurants, the smaller businesses, the boutiques, the artisans—and those quality of life pieces will attract more companies and talent to the region.”
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