Midday, August 3rd, Twenty-five champions of entrepreneurship and innovation met at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works with the newly renovated Ithaca Commons as the backdrop. The group included small business owners and entrepreneurs just starting out who sat alongside and across from titans of education and government.
“The purpose of today’s event is to hear from you,” stated United States Senator Kristen Gillibrand, addressing the local entrepreneurs in the room. Senator Gillibrand avidly supports the work both incubators and small business are doing to in the Southern Tier, but this roundtable meeting was more than just to voice needs; it was an agreement between government, education, and business to make a future for America’s economy.
Also presenting the federal government’s support was chief operating officer of the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Matt Erskine. “We are the only federal agency whose only purpose is to improve the U.S. economy. It is who we are, what we do, and all we’ve done since our founding in 1965. We are small, but we fight above our weight,” he said, explaining the purpose of EDA.
To his left, Elizabeth Garret, President of Cornell University, explained that Rev is a “vibrant result” of cooperation between educational institutions, Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins County Community College. “Education is in the lifeblood of Rev,” she said.
Startup companies as well as the daily defenders of entrepreneurs, such as Jennifer Tegan of Cayuga Venture Fund and Tom Schryver of Center for Regional Economic Advancement, did, indeed, voice issues confronting the growth of startups and the local economy, but also expressed their appreciation for the united group of individuals and organizations represented at the roundtable event.
There was no mistaking the task that had brought them together, the overarching problem – the stagnation and decline of the American economy. And there was no mistaking the shared agreement among them. Each, in their way, is dedicated to the solution – local entrepreneurship and innovation.
This was not idle talk. On the federal level, the EDA announced Cornell University a winner of Regional Innovation Strategies Program Competition and awarded an i6 Challenge Grant, of which, Rev is a major partner. On a less grand level, but far from unimportant, the participants of the Southern Tier Startup Alliance Hardware Accelerator, a rapid prototyping and product development program at Rev, have been pushing toward founding new companies based on new products developed over this summer. Several H.A. participants were among the 25 at the roundtable, including Micah Green, Xanthe Matychak, and John Hohm. The large spectrum in the middle, between these two levels, included representatives of educational institutions and local government, such as the Mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick, and a multitude of companies fostered by both Cornell University and Rev.
Adam Maher of URSA Space Systems, INC. started out in Silicon Valley and moved to Ithaca. “We get ‘why Ithaca, New York?’ all the time,” he said, noting that his is not a popular story, “There is amazing talent that wants to be in New York.” He and his wife choose Ithaca to have the lifestyle they wanted, finding the Southern Tier to be the ideal place to both start a family and continue the business they love.
Xanthe Matychak of Make Better Stuff, also wishes to keep her business in Ithaca. “I really want to manufacture as much as I can in New York State,” she told the roundtable, “I am overwhelmed a little bit about the process of sourcing in the U.S.”
This is where the joined efforts of all those in attendance are really making a difference – allowing job growth and a prosperous economy to start locally. “The i6 grant awarded by the EDA launches a 3 year program that addresses exactly that,” said Tom Schryver, speaking of allowing business to keep production and sourcing local.
Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, one of many facets of innovation, is the center of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Southern Tier Upstate New York. “Without Rev as the background, we would not have time as business owners to make this happen,” said Chelsey Kingsley of Kingsley Quality Woodworking who is part of Rev’s Women in Entrepreneurship program, “Rev being here for us is an incredible opportunity.”