Established in 2014, the Berthiaume Center supports innovation and entrepreneurship on the UMass Amherst campus by inspiring and connecting student and faculty entrepreneurs with the skills and resources needed to transform creative ideas into realized ventures. At the culmination of its third year on campus, the center will host a pilot summer accelerator program. The UMass Accelerator program is conceived as the capstone of the center’s new venture services offerings.
The accelerator is an intensive 8-week summer program designed to accelerate investment, licensing, and launching of the campus’ most promising new technologies and ventures. The center has selected four student ventures from campus to participate in the pilot program beginning June 5. These four teams will have access to Berthiaume’s new incubator space, mentorship daily through the growing Berthiaume Venture Mentoring Service (BVMS), content experts on topics such as marketing and entrepreneurial law, as well as stipends contingent upon their progress. Each week will have a different theme where a subject matter expert will be brought in. “The goal of the accelerator is to surround these ventures with experts that will help them with specifics for their company,” said Director of New Ventures, Birton Cowden. “Each venture will receive a dedicated mentor that will be with them throughout the entire process.”
Ventures were invited to apply and were ultimately selected based on multiple criteria. Ventures had to have been participants of the Innovation Challenge, submit business model canvases and executive summaries, and had to thoroughly describe their goals for the 8 weeks should they be selected for the accelerator. Berthiaume leadership then selected the ventures that seemed most viable and that had the most promising ability to achieve sales or outside funding after the 8 week process.
When asked about goals for the pilot accelerator, Cowden replied, “The summer accelerator is an extension of what we have been able to build to date through all of our programming and the Innovation Challenge. The accelerator is an opportunity to not only provide these ventures with funding, but also with the programming and mentorship to make that funding mean something.” The center aims to gather key metrics during this pilot year to help double the amount of ventures they can admit next year through the help of sponsors.
The ventures participating in the pilot program include:
Ignite Mind and Body LLC – A venture that describes themselves as a company that researches and develops high quality supplements to empower their customers in reaching their full potential and enjoying their lives to the fullest. This venture is made up of undergraduates Jake Bernstein and Cameron Russell from Computer Science and Entrepreneurial Studies and Project Management, respectively. Ignite is already selling their product.
Aclarity LLC - This venture was this year’s Innovation Challenge winner. The venture took home $26,000 that they plan to use to make more prototypes, test them in homes, and continue customer discovery. The founders are Julie Bliss Mullen and Barrett Mully are graduate students from Civil and Environmental Engineering and Management, respectively. Their company has developed a water treatment device for homes and small community systems (e.g. schools) to combat diverse water quality issues at a competitive price.
App Outreach LLC – This venture provides all-inclusive mobile marketing services to help app companies consistently reach high quality users at scale and on-demand. App Outreach LLC has been active in the Innovation Challenge since the fall of last year. The team consists of Isenberg School of Management undergraduates Aleric Heck, Davis McVay, and Lauren Tse-Wall.
Phytos Therapeutics - A startup with a vision to provide the world with safe, effective, and resistant-free products to address the world-wide danger of antibiotic resistance. Sygentic was a $3,000 winner of the 2016 Innovation Challenge Seed Pitch and is headed by graduate student Ryan Landis.