The Chamber’s entrepreneurship programs support the new business development and growth required for a thriving private sector economy. By providing education, mentorship, and funding, the Chamber supports entrepreneurs and strategic partners throughout the startup ecosystem.
LaunchVT is one of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce’s flagship programs to support workforce development and foster entrepreneurship. It is a mentoring program and pitch competition that provides strategic mentorship to seven local startups, $130,000 in cash and services to 5 local startups, and informational seminars for over 200 members of the entrepreneurship community. In response to growing support and demand for services, LaunchVT is developing strategic initiatives and partnerships to better support local entrepreneurs. Our first initiative is an interactive “Connector” resource on the LaunchVT website that helps entrepreneurs find the specific services they need to launch and grow their businesses.
Flagship LaunchVT Acceleration Program
In 2017, LaunchVT received over 60 applications for its flagship mentoring program and pitch competition. The 2017 finalist cohort was very impressive and represented a mix of industries and business stages with everything from satellite propulsion to cricket farming. Each team was paired with a vertical or stage specific mentor for six weeks. Mentors provided strategic assistance to businesses and helped them refine their pitches for the final competition. Teams also participated in four Office Hour sessions where they received additional business development support, access to local service providers, and leadership and presentation training.
Over the course of 6 weeks teams refined, and in some cases completely overhauled, their business plans and the pitches showed it. The final pitch competition was fierce and the 160 attendees were on the edge of their seats as the winners were announced. MajorWise was our first place winner and took home $30k in cash and $45 in services, and Packetized Energy was our Epscor innovation prize winner and took home $15 in cash and $20k in services. The other five finalists were GreenScale Technologies, TheaterEngine, CampersAPP, Tomorrow’s Harvest, and Share to Wear.
LaunchVT Collegiate Competition
LaunchVT Collegiate was once again a huge success this year with the top three businesses taking home a total of $10,000, and the first place winner going on to win first prize in the flagship LaunchVT competition. After winning pitch competitions at their respective schools, young entrepreneurs from eight Vermont institutions of higher education competed at the final collegiate competition. Beacon (now MajorWise) from UVM won first prize taking home $6k in cash, Share To Wear from Middlebury won second prize taking home $2k in cash, and PedMed from VTC won third prize taking hom $1k in cash.
This past year we engaged over 300 members of the entrepreneurial community through our three seminar series events. Our serial entrepreneur panel was extremely valuable. Paul Budnitz and Allen Newman dished on what it really takes to get a startup off the ground and there was great audience participation. Members of the startup community also had the opportunity to hear from three local founders about their experiences and have their pitch decks review by venture capital veterans.
Most recently, LaunchVT has just started a program called JUMP/START in collaboration with Generator. JUMP/START is a product-focused 12-week program designed to connect very early stage makers with the resources they need to turn their product prototypes into market ready businesses. JUMP/START provides a six part business development program, one-on-one expert mentoring, sophisticated prototyping tools-sets, technical training, free work space and financial support.
To learn more about LaunchVT, or to get involved, visit their website.