New businesses learn, mature and grow at RIT’s Venture Creations

Incubator’s full house of 23 young businesses hold promising futures for many

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Bill Jones, director of RIT's Venture Creations

Last year was a good year for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Venture Creations business incubator, but 2014 is already shaping up to be even better. That was the message Venture Creations Director Bill Jones gave to board members last week. Among the highlights:

• New York State renewed their Clean Energy Incubator status for additional four years with a pledge of $1.2 million.

• An additional $250,000 will be split with the High Tech Rochester incubator over three years as a designated “Hot Spot” to encourage new businesses.

• Venture Creations won a NEXUS-NY clean energy grant in partnership with RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the Center of Integrated Manufacturing Studies.

Venture Creations, located off John Street near the RIT campus, was created to offer students, alumni, faculty or outsiders using RIT technology a place to grow their young business that is past the “proof of concept” stage.

Since opening in 2003, it has housed 57 companies, created 340 jobs and brought in more than $30 million in private capital raised.

Jones says Venture Creations is currently full with 23 companies in residence, 10 of them designated in their Clean Energy Incubator, one of six such incubators in the state. Five of the companies are expected to graduate and move to their own locations this year.

“We’re going to be seeing more companies graduating this year than ever before,” Jones said. And it won’t take long before new companies move in.

Jones says he typically accepts only 20 percent of people who want to move into Venture Creations. Leads for prospective businesses could come from a concept accelerator being contemplated, even referrals from others including RIT’s Office of Development and board members.

“We see a variety of companies, at various stages of early growth,” Jones said. “Some only have basic concepts and prototypes. Others have millions of dollars in investment with sound business plans and just need some help with networking or using RIT technology or students. We tell companies what they need to be accepted, and they let us know what they need.”

Jones cited recent graduated companies, including OptiCool Technologies (data center cooling); FluxData (multi-spectral imaging; SweetWater Energy (cellulosic sugars); Vnomics (telemetrics); Digsby (social media); and Jorsek (business content management).

And companies he called “hot” and still residing in Venture Creations include BlackBox Biometrics (blast meter); Darkwind Media (3-D imaging); Strong Arm (load responsive lifting); IMSWorkX (telecommunications software); Cedar Creek (products used from polymers in plant cells); RWP Energy (wind turbines); and ClearCove Systems (wastewater treatment). These companies are expanding rapidly and may graduate soon.

Jones said he hopes 2014 will see the possible creation of a concept accelerator to prepare even newer companies to become successful, and expand mentoring services to these companies.

“We’re looking forward to another successful year at Venture Creations, and hope more of our companies will benefit the most from that success,” Jones said.

About Venture Creations

RIT’s Venture Creations incubator is where young companies can advance their concepts to become profitable, viable businesses and use resources such as coaching, networking and connections to potential investors. It also is home to RIT’s NYSERDA-sponsored Clean Energy Incubator, a joint industry outreach effort by Venture Creations and the Golisano Institute for Sustainability to assist early-stage clean energy companies in product development, business and marketing planning and technology commercialization. The incubator is one of six statewide and part of New York State’s clean energy initiative.