For Immediate Release - February 04, 2014


Investments from Massachusetts Technology Collaborative will Strengthen Entrepreneur Mentoring Programs to Help Grow Businesses in the Merrimack Valley, South Coast, and Pioneer Valley

Merrimack Valley Sandbox
Governor Patrick discusses the Administration’s initiatives that foster the innovation economy and entrepreneurship opportunities across the Commonwealth at Merrimack Valley Sandbox in Lowell. (Photo: Taylor Nealand / Governor's Office)

LOWELL – Tuesday, February 4, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today met with area innovators to discuss the Administration’s dedication to fostering the innovation economy and entrepreneurship opportunities across the Commonwealth. The roundtable discussion was held at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, a Lowell-based non-profit which works to spur entrepreneurship and innovation in the cities of Lowell, Lawrence and beyond.   

The discussion centered around ways in which state government can help support and enhance entrepreneurial and innovation activities in each region of the Commonwealth to bring 21st century economic opportunities to all Massachusetts residents. The roundtable also focused on how, outside of government, mentoring activities can help to develop connections between targeted communities, regions and clusters to create new pathways for economic success.  

In 2012, the Massachusetts Innovation Mentoring Initiative was established at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborate (MassTech) and aims to strengthen entrepreneur and startup mentoring activities across underserved populations, regions and industries in the Commonwealth, with a goal of encouraging the growth of new jobs, startups and business. Three grants were awarded from the program that aim to boost entrepreneur mentoring activities in the Merrimack Valley, the South Coast and the Pioneer Valley. The awardees, Merrimack Valley Sandbox, Valley Venture Mentors and Interise, were chosen through a highly competitive selection process.

"We can't wait to start strengthening and growing its mentoring program through the funds provided by the Commonwealth and the Mass Tech Collaborative," said Merrimack Valley Sandbox Executive Director David Parker. "The hundreds of entrepreneurs coming through our program consistently report that mentors are the most valuable service that the MVS program provides."

Created as part of the 2012 Jobs Bill, the Mentoring Initiative is designed to engage and boost a broader base of participants in Massachusetts’ innovation and entrepreneurship communities, catalyzing new business formation and growth in regions, communities, and populations who do not benefit as directly from the rapid economic expansion seen in the Greater Boston innovation hub.

“The Commonwealth has built an exceptional network of startup initiatives focused on mentoring, including MassChallenge, TechStars and the MIT Enterprise Forum,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “The Mentorship Initiative builds upon that successful foundation, encourages entrepreneurs from regions around the state to more fully participate in our innovation economy, connecting communities, regions, and clusters to new pathways for economic success.”

The three Mentorship Initiative awards were made to organizations that have built a successful track record of business mentorship, including:

  • Merrimack Valley Sandbox ($150, 000): Funds will help Merrimack Valley Sandbox strengthen and scale up their mentor program for entrepreneurs in the Greater Lowell area. The group will hire two additional part-time ‘Managers of Mentorship,’ including a bilingual mentor who will support the Sandbox’s new program for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs. In addition to the added mentor support, the award will be used to enhance communication between mentors and entrepreneurs, and to build awareness of the Sandbox’s programs in the region;
  • Interise, Inc. ($149,613): Interise will provide extensive executive mentoring to a select number of established small business owners in the South Coast region, with an emphasis on minority- and women-owned businesses.  Interise will work closely with the Smaller Business Association of New England on the program, which will span the Gateway Cities of Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and Barnstable. From its strong roots in the Commonwealth, Interise has become nationally recognized based on the success of its StreetWise MBA program, a seven-month certificate program which will create the foundation for this new effort;
  • Valley Venture Mentors ($149,259): Based in the Pioneer Valley of Western Mass and targeting cities such as Springfield and Holyoke, Valley Venture Mentors will work to expand their private sector-led entrepreneur mentorship program with the aim of increasing the number of active start-ups, improving the quality of new enterprises, and building out programs to support the innovation economy in the Pioneer Valley.  The new funding will allow Valley Venture Mentors to expand the number of companies being mentored, open a co-working space for entrepreneurs, hire additional program staff, and host more events for entrepreneurs and potential investors, including ‘demo days’ and pitch contests. Valley Venture Mentors will work closely with Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) on this program.

In partnership with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, MassTech will also host a workshop focused on mentoring best practices in spring 2014. 

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