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About the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship The Berthiaume Center is the entrepreneurial hub for UMass Amherst and across the region. The Center emphasizes teaching, mentoring, and connecting by channeling resources of the Commonwealth’s largest university to its students. Berthiaume supports cross-campus courses that push entrepreneurial thinking and events that engage and inspire.



An ambitious schedule of diverse events gives students access to guest speakers and opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills.

Student organizations allow anyone on the UMass Amherst campus to get involved. They offer students opportunities to work together, create their own events, and exchange insights with like-minded student entrepreneurs.


A vibrant mix of courses accelerate student engagement with entrepreneurship. Courses are campus wide—in management, the sciences, engineering and the arts. The Isenberg School of Management also offers a course series in real estate, emphasizing entrepreneurship in that field.

To learn more, visit the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at the Isenberg School of Management (isenberg.umass.edu/bce).




Challenge The Innovation Challenge is a 4 part cross-campus business competition that helps promising ventures on campus move their business or product to the next level.

The Four Events





THE MINUTE PITCH COMPETITION in October offers participants an easy way to get started and test business ideas without having to develop written business models or plans.

THE SEED PITCH COMPETITION in November challenges and rewards participants for taking the first steps toward building their business model and forming their elevator pitch. In this round, teams must convince the judges why they need money to move forward with their venture. Teams also get valuable feedback from the judges. Seed money awarded to each team varies and reflects each ventures progress.


THE SEMI-FINAL ROUND in March is a closed-door competition that simulates an investor boardroom experience. Teams present their business concepts to a panel of judges and compete for a slot in the final competition.

IN THE FINAL COMPETITION in April, the best of the best vie for significant prizes to move their businesses to the next level. Judges determine the winning teams and awards.


The 2017 first place winner was ElectroPure, the team/enterprise of Julie Bliss Mullen (a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering) and Barrett Mully (a first-year Isenberg MBA candidate). The team’s business plan for a water treatment/purification device for small water systems netted 26K in seed money. This is part of over $60K in prizes distributed during the 2017 Innovation Challenge. Pictured above are the winners with founding faculty members William Wooldridge, Center Director; Charlie Johnson, Associate Director and Birton Cowden, Director of New Ventures.

FINALISTS 25 competitive applications were received for the Semi-Final, out of which the top 7 teams of entrepreneurs on campus were selected to compete in the Finals. Ag Rowe Intelligence owners Paul O’Connor and Levi Lilly have been involved in the Innovation Challenge since the fall. Ag Rowe Intelligence makes automated data collection and analysis systems for agricultural research, production greenhouses, and golf courses.

issues. Their research has the potential to replace current standard media and to revolutionize Assisted Reproductive techniques in different mammals for benefit of humans.

Sygentic is a startup with a vision to provide the world with safe, effective, and resistant-free products to address the worldwide danger of antibiotic resistance and is headed by graduate student Ryan Landis.

App Outreach LLC consists of Isenberg undergraduates Aleric Heck, Davis McVay, Rich Sadick, Jordan Ames, Matthew O’Connor, and Lauren Tse-Wal. App Outreach LLC provides all-inclusive mobile marketing services to help app companies consistently reach high quality users at scale and on-demand.

PhD candidates Felipe Navarrete, Pablo Visconti, Ana Maria Salicioni, and David Martin will be pitching StarSperm, a product that addresses male fertility

FiB is a venture that has received a lot of attention this year for their chrome extension that detects fake news on Facebook. A controversial topic coming

to a head after this year’s election sparked graduate student Nabanita De to construct her team and solve a serious media issue. ElectroPure is a water treatment device for homes and small community systems like schools to combat diverse water quality issues at a competitive price. Julie Bliss Mullen , PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Barrett Mulley, MBA candidate will be pitching. ARBioDesign is run by Rune Percy and Alex Smith. ARBioDesign is developing a device that can quickly, easily, and inexpensively analyze a drop of blood to improve current, outdated dialysis treatment. 3


Earl W. Stafford Founder & CEO, Stafford Foundation

Social Entrepreneurship Day Explores Progressive Businesses and Their Hybrid Missions The pursuit of business and social goals in “hybrid” social enterprises was a key theme in the Berthiaume Center’s second annual Social Entrepreneurship Day, on December 6. The daylong event in the UMass Student Union building featured keynote speaker Professor Marya Besharov of Cornell University and practitioner and academic panels.



“Making this a better world shouldn’t be separate from everything else in business.” — Earl W. Stafford

fter welcoming an engaged Entrepreneurship Day audience, Isenberg Vice Dean & Associate Dean of Research and Engagement Tom Moliterno* introduced Earl Stafford ’76, a key sponsor of social entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst and Isenberg. “Making this a better world shouldn’t be separate from everything else,” Stafford told the gathering, advocating “close and collaborative relationships among stakeholders in this community—including [business] practitioners.” THE HYBRID ORGANIZATION LENS

Social enterprises combine social and business missions. That makes them quintessential hybrid organizations, observed Professor Besharov in her keynote remarks. Besharov drew on case studies illustrating challenges in managing competing interests in two hybrid organizations—a nationally prominent natural foods supermarket chain and a social enterprise in Cambodia and Laos that employs low-income youth as providers of digital content services. The natural foods chain, she noted, attracted two camps of employees—one with a socially idealistic agenda and the other from a more business-as-usual background. “How do you hold both [groups] together?” she asked. Managers, she concluded, must “function as pluralists,” developing integrative solutions and valuing each camp’s perspectives. Later in the day, a panel of three academics** further explored hybrid organizations and issues. PRACTITIONER PERSPECTIVES

Next, practitioners described their creative approaches to social entrepreneurship. The first social entrepreneur, Isenberg accounting graduate Michael Alden ’04 runs Language Bank, a Worcester-based translation service that employs over 200 interpreters, many of them refugees

resettled by its parent organization, Ascentria Care Alliance. “Our wage is significantly higher than what most refugees earn. It is a living wage. Our mission is about empowering people and strengthening communities through market-based strategies,” he said. “We support start-ups in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley,” Jay Leonard ’06 MBA, a second panelist, told the gathering. That entails building an entrepreneurial “ecosystem” that leverages the region’s strategic resources, including its wealth of colleges and universities. Leonard co-leads MassMutual’s $5 million entrepreneurially focused Springfield Venture Fund. Modeled after MassChallenge in Boston, the startup accelerator offers training, connections, and capital opportunities. That includes, he said, a new accelerator for student entrepreneurs. “We want students to stick around the Valley after graduation to pursue entrepreneurial and other professional opportunities,” he remarked. The Berkshires, noted Laurie Lane-Zucker, is also poised for entrepreneurial creativity. His Impact Entrepreneur Center (IEC) in Sheffield fosters socially progressive, triple bottomline ventures. (i.e., enterprises with measurable bottom lines for profitability, social, and environmental performance.) “We need to build these businesses (B corporations), in a systems-focused ecosystem that allows us to grow and sustain entrepreneurs,” Lane-Zucker told the gathering. The social entrepreneur is also developing an accelerator, for which he has secured partnerships with Williams College, Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

*Dean Moliterno also holds the endowed professorship given by Stafford: the Earl W. Stafford Professor in Entrepreneurial Studies. **Elizabeth Schmidt, School of Public Policy UMass Amherst; Suntae Kim, Carroll School of Management, Boston College; Wiljeana Glover, Babson College 5


Student Team Explores Business Potential of Its “Fake-News” Detector After making a splash with her student team at Princeton University’s HackPrinceton hackathon, Nabanita De, a UMass Amherst master’s student in Computer Science, turned to the Berthiaume Center for business advice. Nabanita’s project with three students from two other universities couldn’t have been timelier. In just 36 hours, her team devised an algorithm and Chrome browser extension to ferret out misinformation from real news on Facebook. That was no small matter, considering widespread criticism of Facebook’s role in propagating misinformation about candidates and issues in November’s presidential election. (President Obama had called Facebook “a dust cloud of nonsense.”) While Facebook CEO

Mark Zuckerberg had initially resisted such criticisms, the company reversed its position in mid-December by introducing “experiments” to combat misinformation on the site. Facebook might have responded sooner had it taken a beat from the hackathon team. Its browser extension “classifies every post, be it pictures (like Twitter snaps), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, and fake news links as ‘verified’ or ‘non-verified,’ using artificial intelligence,” Nabanita told Business Insider, which helped bring the team’s project to national attention. The browser plug-in includes a little tag accompanying stories that identifies them as “verified” or “not verified.” And

the project has open-source status, allowing any developer to install and tweak it. “None of them thought of it as a potential business,” remarks Berthiaume Center associate director Birton Cowden. But true to the center’s campus–wide role of exploring the entrepreneurial potential of UMass-based research, Cowden is encouraging the team to consider business possibilities for its browser extension. “We are now helping them think about this as a startup and connecting them with industry leaders to help broaden the team’s horizons,” he remarks.

Nabanita De presenting FiB, a chrome extension that detects fake news, at this year’s Innovation Challenge. 6


For finance major Nikhila Nandgopal ’18,

the Berthiaume Center has been a catalyst for entrepreneurial opportunities and best practices. Through classes with Berthiaume faculty members and encouragement from Berthiaume advisors, Nikhila discovered her passion for solving market problems. Specifically, “I wanted my market to be underserved individuals and I wanted to help students think of those underserved markets as areas for innovation,” she recalls. To that end, Nikhila founded the campus’s Social Entrepreneurship Club last year. In its first semester, the club organized the Hult Prize @ Amherst, which challenged ten student teams to generate ideas on how to restore human rights to “forced” migrants and refugees. “I was immensely proud of their innovations and the club’s own energy and progress,” Nikhila emphasizes. Along the way, she adds, the Berthiaume Center offered valuable encouragement and mentorship, especially with challenging decisions.

Berthiaume Brings

“She Started It” to Campus Through intimate, action-driven storytelling, “She Started It” explores the cultural roots of female underrepresentation in entrepreneurship — including self doubt, fear of failure, and risk aversion among young women. Following the film a panel of female entrepreneurs spoke and answered questions.



Berthiaume Hosts Practitioners in the Classroom Each semester, well-connected Berthiaume faculty invite 15 to 20 practitioners to the classroom, who share insider perspectives on entrepreneurship with students.


“At Nantucket Nectars, we had really good systems,” remarked its cofounder, Tom Scott in Charlie Johnson’s class, New Venture Organization and Growth. “It’s human nature to figure out systems,” he told the students. But, he advised: “People buy the product, not your system. Never build products around systems; build systems around products.” As young entrepreneurs, cofounders Tom Scott and Tom First were uncompromising in their commitment to quality (no high fructose corn syrup, greater juice content than competing brands). To prepare for Johnson’s class, the students read a case and answered the question: Were the partners right to sell their business or should they have continued on their own? “You’re all correct,” Scott responded to several student explanations. “But the one that drove us craziest was—in those days, if you sold your business, you were selling out your employees.” Professor Johnson chimed in: “The best that you can get the buyer to do is to agree that they won’t fire anyone for a year.” “You can’t scale an entrepreneur’s mojo,” Scott remarked. “I’m very product-oriented. Marketing is just a simple process—a translation


of the product. My whole thing is making people’s lives better . . . taking stress off consumers . . . making them smarter.” That goes for entrepreneurs as well. “Happiness,” he continued, “matters a lot.” Yet, “many people with lots of money are really unhappy.” At bottom, he affirmed, “the only way to be happy in your profession is to love it.” ACHIEVING ENTREPRENEURIAL BALANCE

For Peter Levin ’14, hatching a business less than a year after graduation was both rewarding and daunting. “Next time, I’ll be more proactive in finding my balance,” he told students in Birton Cowden’s Isenberg course, New Ventures. Peter’s 2016 start-up—Slydde— has helped consumers overcome a vexing problem: “Waiting 45 minutes for a beer in a bar or restaurant—you shouldn’t have to do that,” he insisted. Slydde allows patrons to order and pay for drinks in advance directly via a phone app. Last November, Peter and his three partners sold the business to Hooch, a Manhattan-based venture that draws subscribers to restaurants and bars with one free drink per day. The venture tapped Slydde for its synergy. Before that, noted Peter, two offers to buy the business had

proved enticing. “One of them though would have brought two of our four cofounders little value. Initially, I was ready to take a big piece (50%) of the pie, but over three weeks every conversation (among the partners) was baked in resentment. “Then I took a step back and realized that incentives needed to be better aligned. After all, you are going to war with these guys [as your allies]. Without shared motivation, there is no value. “So we said no to both offers. Then, in November, Hooch came along and saved us at the bell. They were looking,” he said, “to build a mobile system for bars. The synergies were exceptional. “Being a CEO/founder can be very isolating,” Peter confessed. “If you don’t consistently move the ship toward the North Star, you’re not doing your job. Every time you say yes [to an employee], you’re prioritizing it over the mission. Saying no to the people you love most—that is so hard!” Peter offered additional advice. “Build for speed, not perfection. That’s because you have so little [market] information. Customers will decide for you. Then build on top of that. As an entrepreneur, you have to build something. That is good enough.”


“Success is not a safe line. Many founders who have the most compelling businesses fell into their projects. They know and feel the problem. As an entrepreneur, you want to solve it.”

Peter Levin ‘14



Fostering Innovation with Finance Savvy Julian Lustig ’17 MBA is building bridges through entrepreneurship in the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences and across the 5 college campuses. “UMass and its 5 College partners are sitting on a gold mine of talent and opportunity,” Julian Lustig ’17 MBA. “The challenge,” he notes, “is to get inside silos of expertise like innovations in science and technology and devise entrepreneurial ways to monetize them.” A key player in this undertaking is the Berthiaume Center, which fosters business creation through education, research, and networking. The networking facet spans traditionally exclusionary boundaries—between academic disciplines and between the university and the business community. During his first year as an MBA student, Julian—through his Isenberg MBA fellowship*—worked with the Berthiaume Center to forge ties between the region’s investors and entrepreneurs, many of them campus-based. Much of his focus was on the life sciences, through the university’s new Institute for Applied Life Sciences. Julian’s contributions drew on his focus on finance, including his interests in venture capital and socially responsible investments.


A year later, his involvement with the entrepreneurial ecosystem remains undiminished. In September 2016, he founded the Venture Consulting Club, an entrepreneurial gathering node for Five College students—many of them Isenberg MBAs—who invest their eclectic skills in local startups, many of which also receive resources from the Berthiaume Center, Valley Venture Mentors, and other business catalysts. The club, which has mushroomed to 119 members, meets twice monthly at Amherst Works, an entrepreneurial co-workspace that opened in January in downtown Amherst. The club’s executive committee and core group, notes Julian, are a diverse mix of MBA and undergraduate students. Recently, members of the club lent their consulting prowess to finalist teams in Berthiaume’s annual Innovation Challenge business plan competition. COMMITMENT TO THE ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM

Julian notes that his involvement with the club and local

entrepreneurs will continue after his graduation in May. He has taken a full-time position with Kirschbaum Development Group in Belchertown. The small, fastgrowing company specializes in web app development and software solutions for business. Julian will also continue to work part-time as a business analyst for Stakeholders Capital, an Amherstbased socially responsible wealth management firm. “Both the club and Berthiaume exist to energize early-stage enterprises,” Julian remarks. “To date, most of the startups that we [the club] have aided have been student-run.” The club’s consulting expertise, he adds, is both operational and financial. That includes identifying channels to venture funding. “All of this came out of my initial work with Berthiaume,” he continues. “Bill [Wooldridge], Charlie [Johnson], and Birton [Cowden] have all been terrific mentors. They’ve helped me find a way that supports their vision—call it a startup for startups.”

*A compact where MBA students receive full tuition and a stipend for tackling key strategic and operational challenges at Isenberg 10

UMass Graduate Named Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur Forbes Magazine has named Robbie Bergquist ’14 and his sister Brittany to its 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 Class of America’s top “game changers” and entrepreneurs. In 2004, while still in middle school, Robbie and Brittany founded Cell Phones for Soldiers (CPFS). The nonprofit enterprise brings soldiers and veterans cost-free phone services, devices, and emergency funding. After graduating from Isenberg, Robbie, a former sport management major, rededicated himself to the company full time as its CEO. The enterprise mails 130,000 calling cards to active duty soldiers and veterans each year. It actively seeks cell phone donations, but sends cards, not phones, to soldiers in the field, notes Bergquist. That’s because, he says, cell phones pose a security risk through enemy triangulation. Instead, active service personnel receive portable phones from the military that connect them to secured landlines. Collecting and reselling donated phones to raise revenues, then, (along with direct monetary support from sponsors) provide the financial fuel for CPFS’s calling cards.

Those competencies are driving a new program that will distribute repurposed phones and minutes to 60,000 veterans this year. In five years, Bergquist hopes that the new initiative will serve 350,000 veterans. A FAMILY CONCERN

While Robbie was an undergraduate at Isenberg, his parents—both schoolteachers—ran CPFS’s dayto-day operations. Still, Robbie remained active on its board and as a national spokesperson, which entailed periodic travel, including visits to U.S. bases in Germany. “I graduated from Isenberg with great balance and pragmatic knowledge across many business areas,” Robbie emphasizes. “My experience in Amherst, primed me for social entrepreneurship. I can’t tell you how important it is to soldiers and their families to communicate directly when [the former] are in the field. Isenberg helped give me business tools to save the world.”

Robbie Bergquist ‘14 Cell Phones for Soldiers



Student Ventures to Participate in Berthiaume Center’s Pilot Accelerator Program Four student teams will step up development of their new ventures in Berthiaume’s eight-week summer accelerator program. The intensive program will offer student ventures access to investment, licensing, and daily advice from a broad brush of mentors through the Berthiaume Venture Mentoring Service (BVMS).

plan competition. They submitted business model canvases, executive summaries, and delineated their goals for the accelerator’s 8-week schedule. Berthiaume chose the ventures for business viability and their potential to achieve sales or outside funding after the 8-week program. Berthiaume views the new UMass Accelerator program as the capstone of the center’s new venture services offerings. The center will gather metrics this year in hopes of doubling the accelerator’s ventures next summer. Sponsors will prove a critical ingredient in the accelerator’s success. The service includes experienced entrepreneurs, technologists, financial advisors, marketers, legal experts, and other professionals. Based on their progress, the teams will be eligible for stipends. Each week will highlight a different business/entrepreneurial theme, driven by visiting experts. The goal of the accelerator is to surround these ventures with experts who will help them with specifics for their start-ups. Each venture will receive a dedicated mentor who will remain with them throughout the program.


Berthiaume invited ventures to apply and chose the four winners based on multiple criteria. All applicants were participants in UMass Amherst’s Innovation Challenge business


Ignite Mind and Body LLC – Researches and develops highquality supplements to empower customers to reach their full potential and enjoy their lives to the fullest. The team’s members are undergraduates Jake Bernstein from Computer Science and Cameron Russell from Entrepreneurial Studies and Project Management. Ignite is already selling its product. Aclarity LLC – Developed a water treatment device for homes and small community systems, including schools, to combat water quality

issues at a competitive price. This year’s Innovation Challenge winner, the venture took home $26,000, which it will invest in creating more prototypes. It will test them in homes and continue customer discovery. Aclarity’s founders are graduate students Julie Bliss Mullen (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Barrett Mully (Management). App Outreach LLC – Provides allinclusive mobile marketing services to help app companies reach high-quality users at scale and ondemand. An Innovation Challenge participant since last fall, the team includes Isenberg undergraduates Aleric Heck, Davis McVay, and Lauren Tse-Wall. Phytos Therapeutics – Aspires to generate safe, effective, resistantfree products that address the worldwide danger of antibiotic resistance. A $3,000 winner in the 2016 Innovation Challenge Seed Pitch, the venture is headed by graduate student Ryan Landis.


Birton Cowden Director of New Ventures

“We couldn’t have found a more deserving recipient,” notes USABE’s Executive Director, Patrick Snyder.

Cowden Wins USABE Excellence Award Director of New Ventures Birton Cowden is recipient of an Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Innovation Award from the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). The honor recognizes Cowden’s innovative teaching in entrepreneurship. “It is one of USASBE’s most coveted honors,” notes USABE’s Executive Director, Patrick Snyder. “Leadership at USASBE are big fans of Dr. Cowden’s work. We couldn’t have found a more deserving recipient,” he observes. Last year (2016), the Berthiaume Center received USASBE’s Outstanding Emerging

Program award. This year’s award to Cowden affirms the center’s continuing progress with its evolving programs. Cowden’s honor recognizes his prowess in conducting SOLD!, an entrepreneurial sales skills boot camp on the UMass Amherst campus. Building on SOLD!’s successful

launch at UMass, Cowden and his colleagues plan to continue salesfocused training for entrepreneurship students. “It is one of many learning gaps that we hope to remedy with innovative solutions,” he remarks. “It’s all about empowering world-class job creators,” he emphasizes.

Investing in UMass Amherst

INNOVATION Maroon Venture Partners Fund I, LP is a for-profit venture fund that invests in early stage companies linked to UMass Amherst. Our investments are typically in the range of $50,000 to $200,000 and are often a venture’s initial outside equity funding. Our broader goal is to foster the growing spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the UMass Amherst community. LEARN MORE AT MAROONVENTUREPARTNERS.COM 13

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Berthiaume Center Newletter  

Berthiaume Center Newletter