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Halfway Pitch Day & Visits to Schenectady

Halfway Pitch Day & Visits to Schenectady

Week 5 was a big week for the startup teams. On Tuesday, IgniteU brought in advisors and seasoned professionals from all over the Capital Region for the startups’ halfway pitch. This was a chance for the teams to practice how to pitch their companies as well as receive feedback from the judging panel in the startup community. The halfway pitch event was a great success.

After our long and busy Tuesday, the IgniteU staff and the teams went out to relax and watch the local Tri-City ValleyCats game, thanks to our friends at the Rensselaer County IDA. The ValleyCats faced off against the State College Spikes for the first game in their three-game series. They put on a great performance and shut out the Spikes 7-0. This was a great chance for the startups to socialize and, as our Startups In Residence would say, go “Two Buttons Deep.”

On Thursday, we wrapped up the week by taking the startups to Schenectady to visit the NYBizLab and the Electric City Innovation Center (ECIC). The BizLab is both an incubator and accelerator that offers an environment to foster entrepreneurial growth in the heart of Schenectady, NY.


The ECIC, also in downtown Schenectady, is a co-working space where community members can make valuable connections, participate in events, and stretch their dollars in an all-inclusive office environment. Introducing the teams to these local resources is a major piece of what we do at IgniteU: exposing startups to the people and resources that can help them grow their businesses further, even after they finish our program.

What do our teams want to take away from IgniteU?

What do our teams want to take away from IgniteU?

This past week, IgniteU teams talked about their goals for the summer accelerator program. Here’s what our entrepreneurs are most interested in learning from IgniteU.

1.     Networking – Networking is the lifeline for entrepreneurs. Shaking the right hands can mean “do or die” for a new business. IgniteU excels at putting our teams in front of the right people. We bring in lawyers, subject matter experts, and various community members for our teams to work with. Building durable relationships through networking will serve the teams well, whether they leverage those contacts immediately or years down the road.

2.     Pivoting – Not every business is set in stone when they come to IgniteU. As an early-stage accelerator, we aim to help companies start moving in the direction guided by their customer interactions so that they don’t stagnate (which can happen without proper execution and guidance). Sometimes, that means pivoting from the original business concept to something new. Pivoting can feel intimidating, but the mentors we provide help all startup teams navigate business challenges.

3.     Personal Growth – The process of entrepreneurship provides numerous opportunities for personal growth. Human character is tested under pressure, and builds as a new business goes through the stages of a startup. Our entrepreneurs are learning where they excel and where they have opportunities to learn new skills. The vlogs we are making for the teams capture how the teams evolve over the eight weeks of the accelerator program—and by the end of the program, they will be amazed to see just how far they’ve come

Halfway through IU

Halfway through IU

The IgniteU NY summer accelerator program is officially at its halfway point. We started on June 5th and our Demo Day will be on August 2nd. Teams have made major progress to their business models and some have pivoted in a different direction. The nature of startups is based on adapting your purpose and strategy while remaining true to the original mission of a business: solving a problem.

During week 4 of IgniteU, we covered many underlying issues of startup companies, such as pricing strategies, board member expectations, state funding, and customer discovery. We also focused on more essential startup tasks such as developing a mission statement, proper vision for your company, and the importance of monitoring and capturing data.

On June 28th, IgniteU hosted a 1 Million Cups event, where Illuminate-ESI-NY, one of our core startups, pitched their business. Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1 Million Cups seeks to get startups connected and engaged into their local community to discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee.

We capped this past week with trips to Syracuse and Rome to visit other startups in upstate New York. Our first stop was the Syracuse Student Sandbox, an accelerator program similar to IgniteU’s. The Sandbox has developed a number of very successful startups and entrepreneurs. We heard the pitches from two Sandboxteams: Spark Charge and Ravle.

Next we went to Rome to attend the Commercialization Academy Demo Day held by the Griffiss Institute at Mohawk Valley Community College - Rome. By partnering the Air Force Research Lab with private industry and academia, the Griffiss Institute is able to facilitate and grow the technology base of the Upstate New York region. This was demonstrated through the presentations of the 2017 Commercialization Academy teams.

Last week was extremely productive for our teams in terms of development and networking. We collaborated with a great group of entrepreneurs from across New York state and our teams are excited to get back to work after their July 4th break.