A new collaborative co-working space for budding entrepreneurs officially opened its doors Sept. 22, just eight months after the project was initially announced.
The incubator, which is called Rev Ithaca, is an effort between Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College to provide a resource for startups without adequate resources on their own — including those of several students and alumni from Ithaca College — to grow and mature in Tompkins County.
At a media event Sept. 22, Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources and safety services at Cornell University, introduced the new incubator, located on the second floor of the Carey building at 314 E. State St. Tom Rochon, president of Ithaca College; David Skorton, president of Cornell University; and Carl Haynes, president of TC3 each spoke about their involvement with the incubator from the beginning stages and their aspirations to encourage student participation.
The four companies selected from a formal application process to be the first wave of residents of Rev are GiveGab, a social network to connect volunteers with nonprofit organizations in their communities; Push Interactive, a software that uses Bluetooth signals to match businesses with customers based on location; ShipIndex, an online database working to streamline maritime vessel research; and Audiarchy, an audio-assisting technology geared for older generations.
Austin Shoecraft ’14, co-founder and CEO of Push Interactive, and his team came up with the idea for Push Interactive in March. The team, which also includes senior Andrew Sowers; Calvin Chestnut ’14,who will be working remotely from Massachusetts; and senior Stephen Briggs, has been working with mentors in the months leading up to Rev’s opening.
“Rev has provided us with a community to work out of where we can have mentors who we can communicate with and ask questions to.” Shoecraft said. “Other members that we can have what we call serendipitous connections has been really beneficial.”
He said he went through the entrepreneurial program at the college, which includes the Business Idea and Business Plan Competitions. At the college, Shoecraft said, he learned to think away from the idea that his ideas might be successful and to think more about what is necessary to sustain a viable business and what he can see himself doing in the future.
Rev is one of three co-working spaces, where multiple parties can work together, in the Southern Tier Hot Spot Innovation Zone, a regional economic development initiative. The program will offer affiliated mentors who will be available to assist startup companies. Those Hotspot mentors are Brian Bauer; Tom Schryver, executive director of regional economic advancement at Cornell; Ken Rother, presentation coordinator for Rev in Ithaca; and Brad Treat, instructor of management at the college.
Treat, who has already been working with students from the college who take his entrepreneurial class, said his main goals for Rev are job growth, job creation and financial success for the companies he mentors. As mentors, he said, the purpose is to provide resources for companies who might not have stayed in the region without the support of a co-working system.
“It’s not just Ithaca College,” Treat said. “It’s not just students. It’s really supposed to be a whole community connection.”
On average, he said, about six companies are established each year out of the college following the business competitions. Treat said he hopes to see that number increase with the additional resources of the incubator for these student groups.
Incubator Coordinator Alec Mitchell ’12 said the mentors will be coordinating workshops for members, which will also be available to the public, about topics that startups might not have the time and energy to learn themselves. Topics will include accounting and basic principles, legal framework, how to spend money, how to gain investors and how to properly give away equity in a company.
“We want them to be able to work with their mentors, tinker and come up with ideas for what their product should look like,” Mitchell said.
At the press conference, Rochon announced the U.S. Small Business Administration has granted the Southern Tier Hot Spot one of 50 grants available nationwide to develop a hardware accelerator for businesses to make product prototypes. The Southern Tier Hardware Accelerator, housed in Rev, is stocked with tools like three-dimensional printers, a band saw, a laser cutter, a drill press and basic hand and power tools for visualizing and affirming members’ ideas for physical products.
“Rev is going to be the place where a difference is made and where, in some ways, we return to a past in which Ithaca made valuable things that the world wanted,” Rochon said.
In terms of the economic effect Rev Ithaca will have on the community, Mayor Svante Myrick said the whole premise of creating the collaborative space is to foster a community for more startups beginning in the incubator and staying within Ithaca and Tompkins County.
“Five years from now, hopefully what we’ll see is that none of these businesses who are currently in the space will be here because they will have been so successful, added so many employees, that they move out, find space of their own, and new entrepreneurs are given the space to benefit not just from the physical location but from the expertise of the entrepreneurs,” Myrick said.
Myrick also said Rev has chosen to remain a taxable business, which is another way the new space is stimulating economic growth.
Mitchell said the plans for expansion include renovating the third floor of the Carey building to include the incubator. Layout and function will be based on the current use of the second floor and what resources some companies need more than others.
As a student and entrepreneur, Sowers said he will be spending about 10 hours at Rev each week. Before Push Interactive was accepted as a member of Rev, Treat, Schryver and Rother were the team’s mentors, so they’ll be continuing to work together as the product grows.
“Rev is full of good people, and we’re excited for them to be bringing this great opportunity for great entrepreneurs in the community,” Sowers said.