Binghamton University students toured the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator (KSTI) on Tuesday to explore start-up business opportunities.

KSTI was opened in April of 2017 under the direction of BU President Harvey Stenger, who made the Incubator one of his first missions after assuming his position. The Incubator is a nonprofit supported by BU staff that strives to provide start-up businesses — particularly those initiated by student entrepreneurs — with resources such as funding, a workspace and mentorship. The tour was organized by Ashley Misuraca, the employer relations coordinator at the Watson Career and Alumni Connections office, and Emma Smith, the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator (SCI) clean energy program and event manager.

According to Shannon Gerlach, the communications specialist at KSTI, the Incubator is dedicated to supporting students in launching startup businesses.

“The [KSTI] programming and mentorship provides students with entrepreneurial aspirations the tools to take a business idea from conception all the way to a fully formed startup,” Gerlach said. “The [KTSI] offers courses and programming to assist entrepreneurs through every stage of the startup business cycle, and to act as a guide through the sometimes challenging world of entrepreneurship.”

Jacob Kumpon, ‘22, chief operating officer of KLAW Industries, utilized the resources at KSTI to kick off his small business. KLAW Industries produces a more eco-friendly form of concrete called Pantheon, which is made out of waste glass and can cut carbon emissions from cement in half.

Kumpon said the KSTI’s many resources make it a substantial place for students to begin a business, and credited these resources for making KLAW Industries a possibility.

“The best time to start a company is when you’re a student because there are resources available to students here and across the country,” Kumpon said. “Business competitions are locked in only for students, so you only compete against students. The Incubator was how we were able to get all of our seed funding. We saved a ton of equity in the company. There are huge things that this company offers that are available to every BU student.”

Matt Gill, ‘18, CEO and founder of Enhance-VR, or virtual reality, said KSTI’s programs have supported the growth of his business and allowed Enhance-VR to expand and develop VR training content.

“All the mentorship, entrepreneurs and residence, the programs that they offer continuously helped us develop our business into what it is today,” Gill said. “Originally, we were motion simulators for virtual reality, and, through BU and the entrepreneur programs here in the building, we have progressively changed our business model into something much more successful — and it gained us a lot more traction focusing more on virtual reality for workforce development.”

KSTI also offers entrepreneurship programs worldwide and is currently working with 11 international companies.

Tatiana Balasenowich, vice president and head of marketing at BU’s Entrepreneur Connect Club and a senior studying business administration, wrote that the Incubator has supported her club by hosting a pitch competition every semester. At the event, students can win funding by presenting their business ideas to a panel.

“The pitch competition gives students the opportunity to follow their ambitions and career goals early in their undergraduate career,” Balasenowich wrote in an email. “Innovative ideas have won a total of $3,500 in past semesters to support their ventures and students have presented their ideas to members of the Koffman community as well as alumni.”

Kyle Gregor, a senior double-majoring in mathematics and business administration, attended the tour to learn about KSTI’s opportunities. Gregor expressed a belief that the KSTI has aided the community by providing resources for student entrepreneurs.

“[KSTI] is a great opportunity for new venture companies to come and grow their ideas and business ventures,” Gregor said. “It’s important for the vast majority of our community to come together and band around these new technologies. [KSTI] is creating a lot of opportunities for the Binghamton community to grow and add new jobs.”