Business support grows for UMass entrepreneur program

Printed from:

BOSTON – Both the private and public sectors in the Bay State are stepping up support of entrepreneurs through the University of Massachusetts-Boston. The Massachusetts Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence program at the school announced Thursday that it had added a second private-sector backer, Goodwin Procter, the Boston-based a law firm.

Goodwin Procter’s donation will cover the cost of about 10 additional entrepreneurs who will be based out UMass-Boston’s Venture Development Center, bringing the total number of entrepreneurs in the program to 20. The program is designed to attract entrepreneurs from other countries to Boston and help them start businesses in the region.

“We’re thrilled the way the private sector is stepping up,” William Brah, the center’s founder and executive director, said in an interview.

The program began in 2014 with funding from a jobs bill and a public-private partnership started by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, in collaboration with members of the innovation community, including the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a state-funded organization. The state contributed an initial $100,000 to the program and a similar effort at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Initially conceived by Jeff Bussgang, a venture investor and Harvard Business School professor, the centers aim to help local entrepreneurs and attract and retain talent from outside the region.

The center on the South Boston campus offers young startups the use of UMass resources – including computers and academic mentors – to help them transition into a commercial environment and subsequently pursue investment and start companies, even aiding business owners with the specialty work visa process.

The first two participants joined in 2014. Since the beginning of this year, 13 entrepreneurs with plans to launch companies have already applied from schools like Harvard, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities. They’ll join 10 entrepreneurs from the 2015 program who are now expanding their ventures – which have collected a total of $49.9 million in venture capital investments and employ 137 people in all.

Bussgang said that he hopes Goodwin Procter’s $15,000 gift will induce other corporations to contribute to the global program and help bring more entrepreneurial, job-creating talent to the region.

“This is a great partnership between the public and private sectors to help smooth the path to visas for entrepreneurs,” Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, said in a statement. “It completes the vision of Massachusetts as a talent magnet and global innovation hub. The program participants would not be in Massachusetts today if it wasn’t for the Global EIR program. They would have started their companies elsewhere or not at all.”

Goodwin Procter, which has one of the largest technology practices in the nation and represents more than 1,000 companies, joins the Silicon Valley Bank as a program backer.

“Public-private partnerships are key drivers for the commonwealth’s economic success,” Jay Ash, the state’s secretary of housing and economic development, said in a statement.

“Massachusetts is competing for talent and business development globally, so it’s critical that the commonwealth be proactive about welcoming, and nurturing, entrepreneurs, wherever they hail from,” Ash said. “Programs such as the Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence provide a strong foundation for creative thinking and the innovative solutions required to grow businesses in Massachusetts.”

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.

NBPUrban NBPEconomic