Calling all entrepreneurs: Innogen business incubator near campus can help U connect with startups

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By Jill Radwin

Union’s U-Start Business Incubator is now the Innogen Business Accelerator.

The incubator, started in 1999 by former president Roger Hull and former General Electric executive Walter Robb, is managed by DHA Holdings.

The U-Start incubator was founded to encourage and assist local entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground. The transformation from U-Start to Innogen means major changes for the Schenectady incubator.

This past November, when the incubator began to see less interest and success, the company hired Michael Visk to do market research in the field of incubation. Visk, now the Director of Commercial Development, found a niche to be filled in the commercialization of technology-driven products and services. Innogen will specifically target colleges, other incubators and the general public.

Visk notes that any student can apply to the Business Accelerator, but his or her product must be technology-driven.Students in the engineering department, as well as those who have taken entrepreneurship courses with business ethics professor Hal Fried, are especially encouraged to consider applying to Innogen’s program. According to Fried, Innogen-based companies will be a source for student internships in the future, and the incubator will be discussed in classes such as Mind of the Entrepreneur and the Engineering-Liberal Arts Entrepreneurship Seminar.

“Innogen is a channel for Union College students to connect to business startups that will contribute to a vivant and innovative Schenectady community. As Innogen succeeds, so will Schenectady, with spillover benefits to Union. Innogen is entrepreneurship in action,” said Fried.

The Innogen program is a four-stage process. In the Innovate stage, entrepreneurs offer their business plan to the association. Through a selection process, Innogen decides whether or not the candidate’s plan can be effective.If denied in this first stage, a candidate will have the opportunity to attend a two-day business workshop to address any questions or problems regarding his or her plan.

Once selected, an entrepreneur moves on to the Generate stage to participate in a two-week boot camp at a cost of $1,500.

The first week consists of basic business education at Union Graduate College and in the second week entrepreneurs are placed with a mentor to help complete a business plan that will successfully appeal to a potential investor.

In the Accelerate stage, entrepreneurs receive a seed investment of up to $10,000 to move forward with branding and other aspects of their business.

Finally, in the Sustain stage, the entrepreneurs receive a second round of funding to ensure the sustainability of their business venture.

Innogen is now directly affiliated with Union Graduate College, rather than Union’s undergraduate college. Regardless, its services will be available to all students and members of the community.

Those who are interested can visit http://ustartincubator.org/, or stop by for more information.

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