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The Incubator

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Why Get Involved?

I built GENEVA Group to help others better structure their business processes and effectively use complex enterprise software. I derive huge satisfaction from projects that successfully develop and translate strategy into operationally effective action. Building and maintaining a successful business is hard work. I know! I made mistakes, changed course, achieved success, experienced disappointment and never stopped learning.

I believe the fee for this knowledge is an obligation to inspire, mentor and connect creative people. I discovered Greentown Labs in Somerville MA as an advisor to Dynamo Micropower. Given opportunity to work with and coach bright, enthusiastic and creative people, I soon developed the broader role of Executive in Residence of Greentown Labs. I mentor Greentown Labs staff and members of the startup communities throughout the innovation ecosystem of Greater Boston.

The Organization

Greentown Labs was created to fill the perceived need to establish a fertile environment for creative people to work on commercializing new technology applications.

“Our mission is to enable a vibrant community of entrepreneurs to work on their visions and to provide access to the space, resources, and funding that allows their early-stage companies thrive.”

Proximity to MIT is not accidental. The entrepreneurial virus runs rampantly through the halls of MIT and like others, I developed a lifetime obsession for transforming concept into product while I worked and lived alongside the “infinite corridor”.

Mechanical fabrication, assembly and testing of equipment in the energy industry requires work space considerably different from that needed for biopharma or software startups. Founders of Greentown Labs wanted to create a way to share space appropriate for their own projects with other young companies.

It is difficult to find work space for the machine shops, assembly and testing facilities for mechanical equipment in the urban area around MIT. Early life of Greentown Labs was all about work space and to some extent, facilities and related services will always be one of the most important benefits for members of the community. Appeals to local government have been important to locating and acquiring appropriate space and grants from local industry help pay startup costs.

Founders chose the name “Greentown Labs” to appeal to public interest in “greentech” solutions that address general concern about climate change and energy consumption. The mission always included the concept that a portfolio of interesting startup ventures will attract investment interest. Greentown Labs raised funds from “an A list” of corporate sponsors to establish facilities and provide initial operating capital.

The organization has been very effective recruiting startup ventures. Members report high-perceived value in the associations and culture of Greentown Labs. With expansive, flexible laboratory and shop space, shared office work areas, conference rooms with kitchen and fabrication/assembly/test facilities, Greentown Labs clearly meets resource needs of the entrepreneurial ventures it seeks to attract.

The Challenge of Growing up

The administrative burden of Greentown Labs grew as participating ventures increased from four to over 40 and now nearly 100 companies, expanded to multiple buildings and added facilities. Running an organization this large and complex challenged the management team to develop a staff structure and grow to nearly 30 people.

With growing public concern for managing climate change, Greentown Labs emerged as a leading center of excellence as “the largest cleantech incubator in North America”. The organization has several current challenges, none more important than providing a rich ecosystem where member companies can thrive and grow. The future is bright with even more exciting challenges ahead.

Adapted from an article written in 2015. -- JMR

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