“You Have Dazzled Us”: Governor Patrick Visits Venture Development Center
April 15, 2011
After speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate earlier this month, Governor Deval Patrick took a walk across campus to the third floor of Wheatley Hall.
First on his agenda: his monthly cabinet meeting, held in the glass-walled conference room of the Venture Development Center; second: a physical and intellectual tour of the VDC from the men and women behind the businesses growing there.
The Venture Development Center is home to 16 businesses that use the space as an incubator to turn brilliant ideas into fledgling companies. Fully equipped with high-tech labs and computers, the VDC serves entrepreneurs who might have difficulties finding appropriate and affordable space elsewhere in the Boston area.
The center was renovated from an old cafeteria with an initial investment from the Commonwealth of just $5 million.
“We wanted to show you that we've taken a cafeteria and made what was considered old into something new,” Chancellor J. Keith Motley said in his welcome to Governor Patrick and his cabinet, adding that he was excited for the governor to see how his commitment to public higher education pays off.
When the closed-door cabinet meeting concluded, Chancellor Motley and VDC Executive Director William Brah gathered inside the conference room, along with a crowd of students, faculty, staff, and VDC partners who had come to observe the governor's visit.
Also at the table were representatives from four of the businesses that reside in the VDC: Timothy Harris and Dustin Armstrong, co-founders of 4s3 Bioscience; Jhana Senxian, founder and CEO of Sustainability Guild International; Micah Rosenbloom, CEO of Novophage; and Richard Anderson, founder and CTO of Symmetric Computing.
View photos from the visit on the UMass Boston Flickr page.
Each representative gave Governor Patrick his or her "elevator pitch" – a brief presentation on the product or service offered by the company. Each also spoke to the significance of the VDC to its companies.
“What's unique about the VDC is that you can start a web business in Starbucks, but when it comes to the hard sciences, it's quite hard to start a business. You need infrastructure, permits... and [because of those barriers], a lot of great technology dies on the vine,” said Rosenbloom, citing the VDC's accessibility as a major benefit to Novophage.
Senxian, whose enterprise provides consulting on sustainability for public and private sector organizations internationally, said that the UMass Boston campus is the perfect location for her offices.
“We looked at other possibilities,” she said, “but when we met with folks here, we realized that this was more than just a space. Clients have chosen to work with us over other organizations, because when they come to this vibrant space, when they pass through campus and hear students from all over the world speaking every language, it's the experience of the global community.”
Governor Patrick asked detailed questions of each presenter, taking a special interest in UMass Boston alumnus Anderson's mid-range supercomputers.
Explaining that most supercomputers cost well over $1 million, making them inaccessible to smaller institutions like hospitals and research universities, Anderson pointed out that the market for supercomputers is wide open for less expensive alternatives.
“At UMass Boston, we have people from MIT using our prototype computer because they don't have one," Anderson said. "And our prototype has half the memory of the model we're launching.”
After taking a tour of the facilties, Governor Patrick left with high praise and high hopes for the center.
“It's so nice to be surrounded by so many smart people,” he said. “I'm so incredibly excited by the presentations you've made and the opportunity to drive innovation here. You have dazzled us; I'm just glad none of you decided to run for governor.”
Check out the Boston Herald story on the governor's VDC visit.
Read more on the Venture Development Center blog.