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  • Monday, April 02, 2018 10:00 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    WORCESTER, Massachusetts (April 2, 2018) –– Educational platform LearnLux, which offers online tools for financial literacy, received $400,000 in investments at the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) PerfectPitch competition. Rebecca Liebman, CEO and co-founder of LearnLux, is a member of The Venture Forum Board of Advisors and an alumna of Clark University. She was the founder of the Clark University campaign, Take Back the Tap, to support eliminating bottled water on campus and has raised over $20,000 for environmental water projects in New England.

    Ashton Kutcher, a longtime veteran of SXSW, and his company Sound Ventures hosted the pitch competition for early-stage entrepreneurs. More than 200 companies applied, but only five companies were selected as finalists.

    "When you see a company on paper, it can look really good. But we have a founder first principle for the things we invest in. For us it's really about investing in people we want to stand by, go to war with, battle with and build something great that's really impactful," said Kutcher, speaking about LearnLux CEO and co-founder Rebecca Liebman.

    Kutcher and his Sound Ventures team invested $200,000, twice the initial amount, while Marc Benioff, the chairman and CEO of Salesforce, invested an additional $200,000 after recognizing the potential of the financial education platform.

    "We’re going to see financial services change a lot in the next 30 years and we can be at the forefront of that,” said Rebecca Liebman, CEO and co-founder of LearnLux.

    About LearnLux

    LearnLux is a company built by Millennials for Millennials. LearnLux’s online learning tools teach personal finance skills from basic banking, to retirement planning, to insurance, and building credit. The online education hub was designed to put the power in your hands, in a comfortable, engaging way, so you can make your next financial decision with confidence—no matter what your background.

    About The Venture Forum

    The Venture Forum, a not-for-profit community for entrepreneurs, provides a foundation for learning and connecting with resources essential to launching and growing successful businesses. The organization builds on more than two decades of success enjoyed by its predecessor organization, the WPI Venture Forum, which had a positive impact on dozens of companies, hundreds of entrepreneurs, and thousands of business people, students, educators and others. The Venture Forum expands on that history of commitment and support with new programs, new partnerships and a wider network for entrepreneurs ready to learn, launch and grow.

    For more information about The Venture Forum please visit www.theventureforum.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

    # # #


    Nikki Richard

    The Venture Forum


  • Friday, May 15, 2015 9:32 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    In a program designed to incubate new businesses in Worcester, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and its partners, The Venture Forum and Running Start, named 12 winners of the first class of StartUp Worcester entrepreneurs on Thursday, May 7. 

    Selected from a pool of applicants from local colleges and universities, the 12 businesses include three digital game developers, a real estate developer, a hydroponics company, a fashion blog/consultant and technology companies focusing on city engagements, fitness and transportation. TVF volunteer and this year’s Five-Minute Pitch Contest organizer Aaron Birt is among those selected with his company YourScene. 

    Each company won a year’s membership in The Venture Forum and the Worcester Chamber, as well as workspace at Running Start’s co-working location at 95 Prescott Street.  

    Read more about the new members and their businesses below. 

    Breeze Grigas -- Becker College; company name: Zephyr Workshop

    - game developer - founded in January 2013 by Becker College alumni. Has made appearances and spoken at large-scale events around the region

    Ryan Canuel -- Becker College; company name: Petricore Games

    - game developer focused on mobile devices

    Federico Sotomayor -- Clark University; company name: ISLA International, Inc.

    -Company plans to empower small island communities in the Caribbean with resilient and sustainable energy, water, and food infrastructure. Company founded in March 2014

    Alexander Turgeon and Abhijit Singh -- Clark University; company name: WooConnect

    - Smart phone and web application company that integrates and connects campuses with their students and community to discover the best events and promotions in their area

    Christopher J. Dibble -- Clark University; company name: Agraponics LLC

    - Bio-tech company integrating technology into food production

    Patricia De Carvalho and Hannah Martin -- Clark University; company name: The Fashion Cookbook

    - An image consulting service and fashion blog with a holistic and educational approach helping people develop their personal style and improve their self confidence. Founded in Sept. 2014

    Taylor Bearden -- Clark University; company LiveLab

    - Company will develop entrepreneurial co-housing in Worcester

    Timothy Gardner -- College of the Holy Cross; company name: Sprezza Technologies

    - Technology company focused on leveraging infrastructure to increase the effectiveness of existing transportation systems

    Mark James Lambert --Worcester State University; company name: Lambert’s Landcare

    - Company specializing in landcare management    

    Elias Aoude –- WPI; company name: For All To Play

    - Interactive media and game development studio founded in 2014

    Chris Molica – WPI; company name: Sensae

    - Biomedical and robotics engineering utilizing lean technology focuses on providing sensors and systems that together create a fitness feedback platform for adaptive instructive exercise and physical therapy; founded in 2014 

    Aaron Birt – WPI/partner from WSU; company name: YourScene

    - A mobile app company to discover the events that you are interested in attending, no matter where you are; founded in 2014

    Read the article here.

  • Sunday, May 03, 2015 5:00 PM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    After a five-minute pitch early last month by an Acton startup executive hoping to raise money to commercialize a novel osteoarthritis treatment, a boardroom of Worcester-area investors fired off a series of probing questions: Who's the competition? What's the company's exit strategy? Does it have patents, and are they defensible?

    The executive responded to the questions, packed up his laptop, and left the room.

    In the few minutes before the next company's pitch, the group of investors, called Boynton Angels, briefly discussed the merits of his business strategy.

    But the business talk quickly turned into banter that inspired one investor — a seasoned executive and Harvard University graduate — to cluck like a chicken.

    The clucking came in response to his colleague, who said he was drawn to the proposed treatment because it beat the one he had received — hyaluronic acid (made from chicken combs) injected into his knee.

    The room filled with laughter.

    There was none of the drama of "Shark Tank," ABC-TV's reality series that features groveling entrepreneurs trying to win over merciless investors.

    But investors with Westboro-based Boynton Angels are just as eager to find and help finance the next big thing, in fields ranging from medical devices to artisanal spirits.

    Read the full article here.

  • Monday, April 27, 2015 11:00 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Open House and Speed Mentoring on Wednesday, April 29, 5:30 -8:00pm
    Worcester, MA, April 27, 2015 – The Executive Board of The Venture Forum (TVF) announced the formation of a new Accelerator Division, co-founded by Chair Joe Vignaly and Program Committee member Rosemarie Boulanger. The new Division was established to operate The Innovation Center of Worcester (INCW), downtown’s newest small business incubator located at 20 Franklin Street, developed by the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC).

    “The Venture Forum is  delighted to be named INCW’s operator because it expands and formalizes the work that we have been doing for the past 25 years, including mentoring, matching start-ups with funding and other resources, and running educational programs and contests to accelerate the start-ups’ lifecycle,” said Dick Prince, TVF Secretary.

    As INCW’s operator, TVF’s Accelerator Division will be responsible for developing customized mentoring and educational programs, collaborating with local colleges who will refer or sponsor student startups, and partnering with local corporations to spark innovation and train entrepreneurial employees. Through this new initiative, TVF’s Accelerator Division will expand the organization’s focus beyond technology-based companies to include startups and small businesses in all industries.
    Joe Vignaly and Rosemarie Boulanger will share the role of co-Founding Directors of INCW. “Joe and Rosemarie are particularly well suited for this position  because they are active entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, both were educated locally, they mentor students and startups, and have successful track records with start-ups,” noted Rick Powell, TVF Treasurer and Senior Vice President at Greenberg, Rosenblatt, Kull & Bitsoli, P.C.
    Joe Vignaly received a BS from WPI and an MBA from Babson, and Rosemarie Boulanger received her BA and MBA from Clark University.
    TVF, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, will continue to fulfill its core mission of providing a foundation for learning and networking to inspire innovative entrepreneurs.

    The Innovation Center will host an Open House on Wednesday April 29, 2015 from 5:30-8:00pm at 20 Franklin St. in Worcester to celebrate entrepreneurship past, present and future with local startups, facility tours and speed mentoring. For more information and registration, please go to www.innovationworcester.org

    See media coverage of the new Accelerator Division here.

  • Wednesday, April 15, 2015 5:00 PM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Worcester, April 15, 2015 –A “smart pancreas” producer that automates glucose and insulin delivery to hospitalized diabetic patients, Admetsys won both the $2,500 first prize and the $1,000 audience choice award at The Venture Forum’s ninth annual Five-Minute Pitch Contest last night. Rapidly absorbent sutures company VitaThreads, LLC took the $1,500 second prize, and Articulate Labs won special mention from the judges for its successful orthopedic device that speeds recovery from knee surgery. AMProtection, which has developed an antimicrobial surface treatment for orthopedic implants, won the $500 poster session prize for the second year in a row.

    Admetsys CEO Jeff Valk gave the winning presentation on the company he founded seven years ago with his father, endocrinologist and the company’s chief scientist, Tim Valk. Poised to begin prototype production within months and then clinical trials for its fully automated intravenous glucose control system early next year, Boston-based Admetsys expects to improve the economics of healthcare by addressing the nation’s diabetic epidemic, which accounts for more than one in five healthcare dollars spent annually.

    VitaThreads grew from the work of two WPI biomedical engineering professors on a microthread device developed from fibrin, the body’s own wound healing matrix. President and CEO Adam Colette, PhD, showed the audience the first prototype of the dissolvable suture material, and explained that the company’s first market would be aesthetic surgeons with customers seeking less costly procedures and lower odds of complications with post-surgical sutures.                                      

    Returning for a second year, AMProtection won the poster award for its description of a tethered antimicrobial peptide it has developed for orthopedic implants, such as a hip replacement. Co-founders Todd Alexander and Lindsay Lozeau seek to improve patient outcomes by reducing infection stemming from orthopedic surgery. 

    Gold sponsors InnoLoft and the WPI Robert Foisie School of Business, and silver sponsor Gesmer Updegrove underwrote the prizes and the event’s reception, with additional support from Boynton Angels, Hamilton Brook Smith Reynolds, Vector 5 Collaborative, Mirick O’Connell, Bowditch & Dewey, Greenberg, Rosenblatt, Kull & Bitsoli, P.C., Paul Horn, Davideo Company and media partner Worcester Business Journal.

    The Venture Forum recently grew out of two decades of operation as the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Venture Forum. It offers a foundation for learning and connecting with resources essential to launching and growing successful technology businesses, typically through meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at WPI.  For more information, visit theventureforum.org.

    Contact: Allison Chisolm, 508-856-7207


    See pdf press release


  • Wednesday, April 01, 2015 6:00 PM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Joe Vignaly, chair of The Venture Forum and co-founder of Worcester’s Innovation Month with fellow TVF member Rosemarie Boulanger, discussed with Worcester News Tonight on April 1 the inspiration for the five-week celebration of the city’s entrepreneurial community.

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015 11:58 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Worcester, March 24, 2015 -- The Venture Forum (TVF), in collaboration with entrepreneur-focused organizations, announces Worcester’s first annual Innovation Month beginning April 1, 2015 and ending May 7, 2015. Events throughout the month will include a discussion of diabetes research opportunities, a pitch contest, a networking event, the opening of a downtown innovation center and a celebration of a dozen new entrepreneurs.

    In what is expected to be an annual event, Innovation Month celebrates local innovation and introduces the community to the resources, including incubators and accelerators, which support Worcester-area entrepreneurs. Conceived and organized by The Venture Forum, Innovation Month offers a variety of events throughout the five-week period, intended “to celebrate past and present local innovation,” said Joe Vignaly, Chair of The Venture Forum and co-founder of Innovation Month, together with Rosemarie Boulanger. As the series emerged, “the idea for Innovation Month took on a life of its own,” said Boulanger, who is a Program Committee member at The Venture Forum. “We are grateful to our partner organizations for joining us in celebrating our collective constituency of local entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators.”

    Kicking off April 1, Innovation Month begins at Worcester’s most successful and established incubator, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, now celebrating its 30th anniversary. MBI is hosting “Diabetes: Our Health, Our Care, Our Future,” featuring presentations by biotech entrepreneurs and researchers at MBI Gateway Park, 60 Prescott Street, Worcester at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Kevin O’Sullivan at kosullivan@massbiomed.org, 508-797-4200 ext. 100, or visit www.massbiomed.org.

    On April 14, The Venture Forum, which has been providing entrepreneurial education and mentorship for more than 20 years, will hold its ninth annual 5-Minute Pitch Contest at WPI’s Rubin Campus Center. For more information, visit theventureforum.org/Events or contact Patrick Tinsley, ptinsley@fletchertilton.com, 508-459-8211.

    On April 23, from 6-9 pm, VentureMeets, a group of local entrepreneurs who meet monthly for seminars and networking, and will soon be celebrating its one year anniversary, will hold a free meetup/networking event, at the Compass Tavern. For more information, contact founder Kevin Anderson, 774-823-5156, kanderson@eoxity.com, and visit www.meetup.com/VentureMeets-WorcesterEntrepreneurMeetup/events/221209271/.

    From April 28 to May 1, the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) will celebrate the opening of the Innovation Center of Worcester, downtown’s first start-up accelerator at 20 Franklin Street, with the following events:

    • April 28, 4-6 pm: Entrepreneurship Faculty & Staff Reception
    • April 29, 5:30-8 pm: Grand Opening Reception and Speed Mentoring Event with Angel Investors
    • April 30: 7 pm: Web Technology Meetup: Angular Typescript and Tooling, sponsored by ten24. For more information, contact David Crouch at 877-886-5806 Ext. 101, david.crouch@ten24web.com or visit www.ten24web.com/blog/ten24-hosting-meetup-on-april-30th/.
    • May 1: 3-5 pm: Start-ups Focus Group Friday
    For more information on opening events, contact Lisa Drexhage at WBDC, 508-755-5734, drexhage@worcesterbdc.com, or visit thewbdc.com/newgardenpark/theatredistrict.html.

    Innovation Month will conclude on May 7, from 4-6 pm, with a reception for the winners of StartUp Worcester at Running Start, a local business incubator founded in 2012, sponsored by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact Karen Pelletier at 508-753-2924, ext. 229, kpelletier@worcesterchamber.org, or visit worcesterchamber.org/new-collaboration-kick-start-entrepreneurs-take-ideas-themarketplace/.

  • Monday, March 09, 2015 12:00 PM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Now in the final stages of finding funding and finalizing trials with a prototype in hand, last year’s Five-Minute Pitch winner Sano LLC is close to launching its chronic wound diagnostic product.

    “Has it already been a year?” asked Sano’s co-founder Paul Hayre. “We are pushing to close our first round of financing within the next month.”

    There is a substantial level of interest in his company, he said, because they have already conducted laboratory trials (on bovine enzymes) and a clinical trial (on actual human wound fluid), on their chronic wound diagnostic that measures wound biochemistry to help clinicians select treatments that speed healing and reduce treatment costs. The human trial, testing samples of human wound fluid from 20 patients, found their assay performed “terrifically well,” he reported. Additional trials will be conducted in collaboration with the wound clinic at UMass Medical in Worcester.

    Sano has also benefited from the New Venture Competition at the M2D2 Center at UMass Lowell, where it won in-kind sponsorship from M2D2 and Smith & Nephew, a global advanced wound care company; the Mass Life Science Center internship program, where they have hired clinical and strategic interns at local universities; and MassChallenge, where Sano was a 2014 finalist and Gold Prize winner. With appropriate funding, Sano is ready to approach the FDA and manufacture a prototype for use in clinical trials, he said. The first small-scale production will begin somewhere in greater Boston. The company also has the capability to develop a global supply chain within its board of advisors.

    “There’s great market interest in what we’re doing,” Paul continued. In today’s healthcare market, health providers are motivated to improve outcomes once a wound is diagnosed. Already in discussion with seven advanced wound care companies, the company is negotiating exclusive licensing agreements with two.

    In the weeks leading up to the Five-Minute Pitch Contest, Paul recalls with appreciation the feedback Sano was given by advisers assigned by The Venture Forum, including two attorneys at Wolf, Greenfield and pitch delivery consultant Paul Horn, as “we are always open to input on how to do things better.” With thanks to The Venture Forum experience, he concluded, “the opportunity to pitch before a large audience and an expert judging panel prepared us for our recent investor pitches.”

  • Friday, December 12, 2014 8:36 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)

    Miriam Kutcher of Miravan LLC, a presenter at the May 2014 TVF meeting on start-up manufacturing, launched a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign to begin manufacturing her Moozi baby-bottle prep machine. There’s still time – until December 13 – to help raise funds to bring to market her baby formula heater/dispenser system for 98 degree prep in under a minute. Find out more about the product at moozifed.com.

    “My bottle is raised to everyone who has taken a moment to pledge, share and promote Moozi to your networks and friends these last few weeks,” said Kutcher. “It's our final week to ask for your help. Thank you all for joining me on this adventure. The work continues as we plan for the Moozi debut in 2015.”

  • Friday, December 12, 2014 8:00 AM | Danielle Festa (Administrator)
    Drinkwell, which has a franchise model for local, low-cost production and sales of clean water in the developing world, was named a $100,000 diamond winner at the fifth-annual MassChallenge in Boston in October. The world's largest startup accelerator, MassChallenge awarded more than $1.75 million in grants and $10 million of in-kind prizes in 2014. Drinkwell was elected the 2014 Audience Choice award winner at The Venture Forum’s Five-Minute Pitch contest last March.

    Since 2010, the 617 startups accelerated by MassChallenge have raised $706 million in funding, generated $404 million in revenue and created 4,800 jobs.


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