Tech Start-Ups Sought by Startup Rutland

Source: Rutland Herald

Start-Up Rutland, a VTTA member, is looking for a few good ideas.

As more money becomes available in Vermont to launch technology companies, the business accelerator program run by Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region out of The Hub co-works is wading through ideas it can help shepherd to market.

“Right now, our job is to attract them to apply for the accelerator program,” said Mose Cassaro, The Hub’s director of venture capital.

At the same time, the Center on Rural Innovation has been preliminarily awarded $260,000 in federal money to invest up to $50,000 at a time in companies coming out of accelerator programs. The program requires a one-to-one local match.

“We will have a fund,” said CORI Executive Director Matt Dunne. “We will be taking pitches from early-stage tech companies that are based in Vermont, but not in Chittenden County. … There is a fair bit of venture capital now available in Vermont …. but there isn’t as strong an angel network outside of Chittenden County. … That’s a role that doesn’t exist as much in rural America and rural Vermont. We’re hoping to fill that gap.”

Dunne said CORI’s program, dubbed the Green Mountain Launchpad, is expected to start taking pitches in April.

Start-Up Rutland has tapped into one investor network – in October it announced a partnership with gener8tor, a global venture firm. Cassaro said he is anticipating some of the start-ups passing through The Hub would go on to work with Green Mountain Launchpad, which will require start-ups to have secured investment funding.

Cassaro said he could not say much about the types of pitches he’s getting.

“There’s a lot of (non-disclosure agreements) involved,” he said. “I don’t want to give anybody’s product away.”

Cassaro would say they do tend to be getting pitches for products with local applications, such as health care and “gig economy” services. That’s good, he said, because those are the companies most likely to grow and create local jobs.

“One of the things we are very carefully evaluating is regional sustainability,” he said. “If there’s a start-up that’s offering a great product but it wouldn’t do well in Vermont, we wouldn’t back them.”

CEDRR Executive Director Lyle Jepson said tech start-ups figure prominently in local economic development strategies.

“Our goal is to grow wealth in Rutland City and Rutland County,” he said. “To do that, we need high-paying, high-skilled jobs. That’s the tech economy.”

gordon.dritschilo @rutlandherald.com

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