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Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator Graduates First Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Erika LaCasse, founder of Cass Caps, speaking to a person holding one of her CassCap spice bottles.

Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator Graduates First Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Your startup developed a great business idea, identified a customer base, and created a working prototype. Now, it’s time to scale up and begin to manufacture. This is a pivotal moment for startups—one that often determines success moving forward.  

Many entrepreneurs may face roadblocks at this moment in their startup’s commercialization journey. With that in mind, Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, in collaboration with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, launched the inaugural Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator

The 60-week accelerator is intended for startups that have developed a fully functional prototype and confirmed a clearly identified customer need through an extensive customer discovery process. Teams accepted into the program have full access to Rev’s manufacturing and networking opportunities, including manufacturing consulting and introductions; entrepreneurial mentorship; and workshops on topics ranging from manufacturing processes to packaging, distribution, and logistics. Each entrepreneur is mentored and supported as they bring their prototypes to production. 

For startups such as Ashlawn Energy, one of the participants in the first Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator cohort, these resources were invaluable. During the program, founder Norma Byron learned to work through key processes such as assessing manufacturing readiness, creating product specifications, and creating bills of materials and processes. The guidance she received along the way improved her company’s product, a flow battery that will allow commercial buildings to store electricity from renewable energy, and increased her overall cost efficiency. 

“Moving from machining to molding is a breakthrough which will result in a 90% decrease in part costs while allowing us to make parts more accurately and at a much higher rate,” said Byron. “With what we achieved at Rev, Ashlawn Energy is poised to embark on the next step to finalize design improvements and move our energy storage battery into production.” 

The accelerator is overseen by Ken Rother, Director of Rev and Hardware Accelerator Programs, who also serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR). Rev’s EIRs work closely with the startups in the program, valuable providing mentorship as each team works toward bringing their product to the manufacturing stage, and eventually to market. 

“Moving from fully functioning prototype to a manufacturable product that meets customer expectations for function, quality, and price requires a skillset vastly different from conceiving and prototyping an initial idea,” said Rother. “The initial cohort of the Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator all made significant progress with some participants such as CassCaps moving into full production, and others, such as Ashlawn Energy, demonstrating significant progress improving the manufacturability of their product prior to full scale production.” 

The startups that successfully completed the inaugural cohort of the Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator include:

  • Ashlawn Energy: Founded by Norma Byron and Maurice Daniel, Ashlawn Energy provides energy storage solutions to provide commercial customers with clean, cost-effective energy solutions. 
  • CassCaps: CassCaps, founded by father-daughter duo, Mark and Erika LaCasse, developed a patented measuring devices that eliminate the need for measuring spoons when cooking by measuring spices and powdered ingredients straight from the container.  
  • Heat Inverse: Founded by Romy Fain, Heat Inverse creates thin films that cool without additional energy input, moving parts, or waste heat. 
  • RealStraw:  Founded by bartender Marty Walters, RealStraw aims to replace plastic drinking straws with all-natural, gluten-free, wheat stem straws. 
  • Sustainable Viticulture Systems: Sustainable Viticulture Systems, founded by Hilary Niver-Johnson, micro-combines heat and power generation via grape-seed biomass gasification. 

“Rev: Ithaca Startup Works delivers the mentorship of experienced entrepreneurs, interactions with people that have great ideas, and a structure that paves a path to success. This future straw mogul owes much to the good folks at Rev,” said Marty Walters of RealStraw.  

Following the success of the first cohort, a second Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator cohort will be held this fall starting October 1, 2021. Interested entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply now. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through September 20, 2021. Learn more about the Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.