2018 Entrepreneur Mentorship Awards

VVM and Spark with Jay Ash

Award Winners

The Innovation Institute supports entrepreneur mentoring as means to build regional start-up ecosystems and communities of innovation across Massachusetts. With funding provided by the 2018 State Budget, the Innovation Institute opened a public procurement in March 2018 which offered grants to “fund multi-year projects to strengthen entrepreneur and startup mentoring activities in regions and communities across the Commonwealth.”

Through this initiative the Innovation Institute at MassTech and the Baker-Polito Administration sought to support community-based entrepreneurship by developing and sustaining support for a broad range of innovative businesses. That includes supporting entrepreneurship at each phase of business from idea, to proof of concept, to thriving businesses growing to scale.

The entrepreneurship and mentoring ecosystem is maturing and evolving. MassTech is seeking to advance the maturing ecosystem by supporting those efforts that identify ways to address the unmet needs of local entrepreneurs and to encourage community building and networking amongst efforts within regions, across multiple regions or have the potential to significantly impact the statewide economy.

The Innovation Institute is pleased to be able to support select organizations in expanding and enhancing their programs and activities to reach more people, target diverse communities, and increase their impact.  Below are the grant recipient selections for 2018.

Pioneer Valley


Two $80,000 Grants Awarded to Boost Entrepreneurship in Western Massachusetts

In late August 2018, the Innovation Institute joined Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash to announce two awards to support entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts:

  • An $80,000 award to Springfield’s Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) to support their ‘VVM 2.0’ mentorship project, which will continue the organization’s support for Western Mass entrepreneurs. VVM will develop ‘next level’ mentorship efforts including the creation of new online resources for local startups, recruiting prospective mentors, and new program offerings to engage both experienced mentors and high-growth startups. Over the past three years VVM’s startup programs have graduated over 210 alumni, startups that have generated over $28 million in revenue and attracted over $23 million in investment. This is the second major award to VVM, which also received a Mentorship grant from the Innovation Institute’s 2014 mentoring program.
  • The second award was an $80,000 grant to SPARK Holyoke which will expand programming and collaborative projects at SPARK’s new co-working space, while also increasing the organization’s capacity to launch an active campaign to recruit and train new mentors. The project aims to increase overall engagement by recruiting 45 new mentors from the Holyoke business community and the Pioneer Valley, to accept 15 entrepreneurs into the summer 2019 cohort, and to recruit 45 volunteers to work with the summer entrepreneurship cohort.

Read more about the Pioneer Valley grants.

Central Massachusetts/Worcester


$80,000 Grant awarded to Worcester Roots to Boost Co-Op Development, Job Growth

Founded in 2001 and incorporated in 2003, Worcester Roots is a “collective of youth and adult organizers on a mission to create opportunities for economic, social, and environmental justice.” The organization focuses on growing cooperative (co-op) organizations that are building “neighborhoods that are safe for living, working, and playing.” MassTech’s $80,000 grant, announced during a roundtable held at Becker College in October 2018, will help Worcester Roots expand its operations in four key areas:

  • Launch improved mentoring and individualized support through their Worcester Co-op Business Academies;
  • Create new peer-to-peer mentor program within ‘Cooperation Worcester,’ a group of Worcester Roots grads;
  • Develop resources for citizens looking to start cooperatives and for businesses seeking to convert to a co-op model; and 
  • Create stable markets through anchor mission purchasing agreements, assisting co-ops to develop tools they need to ensure sufficient capacity & growth plans to engage larger institutional contracts.

Read more about the award to Worcester Roots.

Cape Cod


$100,000 Grant Awarded to Cape Cod Young Professionals and EforAll

In October 2018, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash announced a $100,000 grant to a new partnership formed by Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP), a Barnstable-based non-profit, and the Cape Cod branch of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll). Over the next year, the grant will fund the launch of a new accelerator for the Cape region, a multi-week program designed to nurture the development of new businesses, and pitch events aimed at providing seed funding to founders with ideas for new businesses or social impact organizations. Both organizations have received previous Entrepreneur Mentoring grants from the Innovation Institute at MassTech.

Read more about the Cape Cod entrepreneurship award.