In celebration of the one year anniversary of the opening of the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, startup companies, investors and Binghamton University students gathered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a startup summit that showcased demos, pitch events and speeches.
Dan Mori, director of business incubation for the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator and moderator of the event, said the startup summit was designed to provide pitch opportunities for the incubator’s current companies looking for investors. According to Mori, an important aspect of the incubator is to guide people who are looking to pursue careers in entrepreneurship.
“Everything that we’re about is helping people realize that there’s a different path in life,” Mori said. “You don’t necessarily have to get a job. If you have a passion or an idea, you can pursue it as a startup. We wanted to celebrate that, and let people know that [entrepreneurship] is a possibility for them.”
Since the incubator first opened one year ago, the building has reached nearly 90 percent occupancy, meaning 90 percent of the workspaces within the incubator are actively being used by people with startups. In addition, the incubator has helped startup companies raise around $10 million in funding and is currently assisting 35 startup companies.
The incubator now has six programs — the Accelerator Program, the Business Incubation Program, the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator, I-Corps, START-UP NY and the B-Innovative Incubator.
“For every company that has touched our program in the past year, we [were] trying to highlight them in a way that was most appropriate for them,” Mori said. “The purpose of the event was to inspire entrepreneurship, and also showcase the successes we’ve had and highlight the companies within our program.”
The event included workshops by Enhance VR, a company based on virtual reality simulators that was founded by Matt Gill, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, and Muckles’ Ink, a commercial screen-printing company co-founded by Casey Coolbaugh, ’13.
According to Emma Baudendistel, administrative assistant at the incubator, throughout the dinner, students and entrepreneurs alike could talk to company representatives and investors in a more casual setting.
“Everyone who paid to come to the event [got] free food from the trucks, and [could] walk around and meet with company representatives as well as the investors,” Baudendistel said. “The purpose of the dinner [was] to celebrate the event itself, OutNow’s official launch and to let aspiring entrepreneurs to network with professionals.”
After the workshops, a “Fundamentals of Funding” panel allowed professional investors to explain what they are looking for in the companies and startups they fund.
“All the student companies who pitched [at the event] are looking for investors and for real equity,” Mori said. “They come saying, ‘Hey, I want this amount of money, and in exchange, I’ll give you a piece of my company,’ just like ‘Shark Tank.’ All these people are looking to raise money and grow and scale their companies.”
During the second round of pitch events, startup companies My Lil’ Healthbot, Enduraphin, BRASH, OutNow and Parlor City Vegan were given ten minutes to present their company and their pitch, followed by five minutes of Q&A led by the panel of investors.
Bar Stern, co-founder of Pressure Ulcer Prevention Pad and a first-year graduate student studying biomedical engineering, said his company decided to attend to gain experience with pitching.
“It was very exciting getting to talk to the investors and present our pitch to them,” Stern said. “After some people came up to us and showed real interest in what we are doing, [it] felt very good and validating.”
For $10 general admission and $5 for students, those who attended the event later had the option to attend a dinner and networking event outside. The dinner was a part of OutNow’s launch party, where a DJ played music and food trucks provided refreshments for guests. The food trucks came from local businesses including Binghamton Hots, The Colonial, Smokey Legend BBQ and Lupo’s S&S Char Pit and Kool Treats Ice Cream.
Illan Weiner, a freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience, heard about the incubator at the beginning of the fall semester and learned about the startup summit via email.
“I [went] for the whole day, so I got to see the workshops, speeches and pitch events,” Weiner said. “I’m not an entrepreneur, but I think all of this has been really cool and interesting.”