WESTBOROUGH – The Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative has awarded four $25,000 awards from the Strong Entrepreneur Ecosystems program, grants that will boost efforts to grow sustainable startup ecosystems across Massachusetts. The grants, awarded in August, are designed as ‘strategic planning’ awards, which have allowed the lead organizations to convene advisory groups of local entrepreneurs and key ecosystem stakeholders to understand the unique needs of entrepreneurs in their regions, map existing entrepreneurial resources, and develop a strategic plan to address ecosystem gaps and increase access to startup resources.
The goal of the planning grant recipients is to draft a strategic plan that will serve as an application for potential follow-on implementation funds, up to $200,000, to be awarded in January 2023.
The Strong Entrepreneur Ecosystems program is an entrepreneur-led approach to economic development that strengthens connectivity and collaboration within entrepreneurial ecosystems, by:
- Enhancing connectivity within the supporting infrastructure;
- Addressing the unique needs of local entrepreneurs;
- Fostering a culture of inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship;
- Increasing employment opportunities; and
- Attracting private capital to regions across the Commonwealth.
The four $25,000 grants will fund projects led by the following organizations (described in more detail below): Downtown Northampton Association, Lever of North Adams; the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation; and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Full project summaries for the initial planning grants:
“The Resilient Project for Female and Female-Identifying Entrepreneurs”
|Downtown Northampton Association
In the winter of 2021, a team of three female Northampon-based entrepreneurs launched The Resilient Project to bring attention and voice to the business owners in Florence, a village in Northampton, who had been heavily impacted by the economic ramifications of the pandemic. The success of the project launched a broader effort, spearheaded by the Downtown Northampton Association (a non-profit subsidiary of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce), to build a network of female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support services dedicated to helping members overcome issues specific to female founders. The vision for the ecosystem is a hyper-local model for inclusive and sustainable entrepreneurial growth that specifically focuses on the needs of female and female-identifying entrepreneurs. It is the goal of the organizers to develop a scalable model that can be replicated by other regions to support female entrepreneurs.
Over the course of six months the Downtown Northampton Association, in close partnership with The Community Classroom in Florence and their advisory committee, will undergo a design thinking process to address challenges faced by female entrepreneurs.
“Massachusetts Founders’ Network”
|North Adams, Mass.
Lever will lead the development and roll-out of a statewide founder-guided hybrid platform (digital, remote, and in-person) for fellowship and collaboration among founders of startup companies. Lever aims to build a founder-centric community through curated online resources, peer-to-peer mentor and networking relationships, ecosystem storytelling, and an investor network. The goal of the Massachusetts Founder’s Network is to create connections between entrepreneurs and ecosystems throughout the state with focus on helping more startups become investable and scale operations in Massachusetts.
“Strengthening the North Central MA Entrepreneurial Ecosystem”
|North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation
|27 cities and towns of North Central Massachusetts
The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation aims to build upon a finding from its 2021 One North Central Regional Economic Development Plan that recommended strengthening the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and enhancing supports for priority sectors, including manufacturing. The North Central MA Development Corp will use this planning grant to better understand the needs of start-ups and early-stage companies in the region. The vision for the North Central MA entrepreneurial ecosystem is a robust network of support, particularly for start-up manufacturers and LatinX communities.
The municipalities covered by the project include: Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner, Royalston, Athol, Petersham, Winchendon, Phillipston, Barre, Templeton, Ashburnham, Hubbardston, Westminster, Princeton, Ashby, Sterling, Townsend, Lunenburg, Lancaster, Clinton, Pepperell, Groton, Shirley, Ayer, Devens, Lancaster, Clinton, Harvard, and Bolton.
“South Worcester County Startup Support Coalition”
|Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce d.b.a. Worcester Regional Strategic Opportunities Foundation, Inc
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Venture Forum, will build upon Worcester’s momentum and culture of innovation to align existing entrepreneurial resources around collaborative initiatives that address the unmet needs of tech and innovation entrepreneurs in the region. The vision for the ecosystem is to develop, attract, and retain high-tech startups through new investments in programming and capital equipment to support founders from underserved populations and within the region’s growing innovation sectors of advanced manufacturing, biotech and biomanufacturing, software design, cybersecurity, robotics, and IoT. Over the course of six months Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Venture Forum, and their project advisory committee will:
- Identify and collaborate with innovation assets in the region;
- Discover and engage established and nascent tech companies operating in the region;
- Identify gaps or opportunities in regional resources for tech startups; and
- Craft a strategic plan that meets the unique needs of entrepreneurs in the region.
To learn more about the Strong Entrepreneur Ecosystems funding program, visit the procurement page at https://masstech.org/rfp-strong-entrepreneur-ecosystems.
About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts. The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:
- Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
- Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
- Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
- Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.
For more information, visit https://innovation.masstech.org/.