Cleantech Startups and Mentors Generate Excitement for 2018 Cleantech Open Accelerator

Posted by Malayah Redmond on

Category: Northeast


Greentown Labs Global Center for Cleantech Innovation, Somerville, MA---March 22, 2018


                      Attendees gather around the stage for the highlight of the night. Photos by Jonathan Lantz.

“Hello, everyone! We are going to start our programming for the evening soon!” All eyes turned towards the stage as Program Manager Gina Bellato announced the formal programming of the evening. And after a couple minutes of wrangling the crowd into the open presentation space, the attendees finally gave their full attention to the stage.

Greentown Labs is a strong partner of Cleantech Open Northeast

“We want to thank our host Greentown Labs for tonight. Isn’t this space great?” The high ceilings and open concept floor plan provide the perfect space for what’s ahead for tonight. It is clear on everyone’s face that they all agree. With close to 200 people registered for one of Cleantech Open Northeast’s first events of the year, tonight’s kickoff was sure to be a breeding ground for strategic networking and collaboration for many innovators, students, and entrepreneurs in the cleantech community.

Senior Director of Marketing and Chief of Staff at Greentown Labs, Julia Travaglini then shared a few words on behalf of the incubator: “We at Greentown Labs are happy to be a host and partner of CTO.” A round of applause is drawn from the crowd. “And just to give you a feel of how close we are to Cleantech Open Northeast, 70% of 2017 CTO finalists are either Greentown Lab members or are planning to be.” 

The room is filled with entrepreneurs, mentors, sponsors and other cleantech enthusiasts                            


Regional Director, Beth Zonis and Mentor Committee Chair, Alice Nichols with attendees. Photos by Jonathan Lantz.

After elaborating more on the partnership, Julia passes the mic over to Beth Zonis, the Regional Director of Cleantech Open Northeast to introduce the whole northeast team. And to get a better sense of the attendees for the night, Beth poses a series of questions to the audience: “Who here is an entrepreneur? A Mentor? Sponsor?” With each inquiry the respective parties raise their hands to indicate their involvement with Cleantech Open. 

Mentors are the glue

“Mentoring is a great opportunity to get involved in the cleantech community,” she notes enthusiastically. As a former mentor herself, Beth speaks on the behalf of over 500 mentors that have been an integral part of the accelerator since its start in 2005. As of 2018, the Northeast region boasts a total of 360 alumni, all of whom have crafted their business models with the expertise and support of their mentor network. A few notable alumni have gone on to make incredible achievements in the cleantech sector. For instance, Solstice Power Technologies (‘15), Pecos Wind (‘17), and change:Water Labs (‘17) were each awarded $50,000 in AccelerateMass Grants to “support the Commonwealth’s vibrant clean energy innovation sector”. 

MassCEC offers funding opportunities to Cleantech Open alumni

Kathryn Elmes, Investment Associate at MassCEC speaks on the behalf of the various programs that the development agency runs in Massachusetts each year. As one of Cleantech Open’s largest sponsors, MassCEC values all of the work and dedication that CTO puts forth. “We fund accelerators, incubators, and researchers,” she states. Once Cleantech Open alumni complete the program, they are exposed to significantly more opportunities that the cleantech community has to offer. Kathryn pivotes back to the presentation, “And this is how you approach us for funding.” Of the numerous funding opportunities that MassCEC provides, five are particularly relevant for tonight’s crowd: Catalyst, AmplifyMass, AccelerateMass, InnovateMass, DeployMass. Each program is targeted toward specific members within the cleantech space and is designed to provide the grants they need.

Alumni share their experiences


         Joshua Groleau of Pecos Wind Power talks about the value of Cleantech Open. Photos by Jonathan Lantz.

Representing two teams from the 2017 cohort, alumni Alan Ransil of CoolComposites and Joshua Groleau of Pecos Wind Power share their experiences with the accelerator and what they found to be the most valuable to their respective teams.

“You should expect to meet a lot of people who are ready to help you with your business plan, a curriculum that pushes you, and deliverables that require you to actively reach out to your customer base,” Alan imparts. “But what we got the most value out of was the mentors.”

On a similar note, Joshua emphasizes the value of creating a stronger business plan: “CTO was super valuable. We started as just a group of engineers with a cool idea, and our mentors helped us create an actual business plan. We are now much stronger because of CTO.”

Eager to start the feature of the night, Beth thanks both Alan and Joshua for their contributions and swiftly turns to the crowd, “Now, are there any innovators in the room who want to share their pitch?” 

Prospective Cleantech Open entrepreneurs pitch to the crowd


                Entrepreneurs line-up as the crowd gets ready to vote for their favorite pitch. Photos by Jonathan Lantz

To get members of the community excited for the launch of the accelerator, all cleantech entrepreneurs in attendance have the opportunity to participate in a 1-minute pitch competition to share their idea, concept, project, and/or business model with the audience. The winning prize? A free application to the 2018 Cleantech Open accelerator, valued at $150.

What starts as a slow trickle turns to a total of nine entrepreneurs lined up to share their pitches. Each competitor brings something new to the stage, including solutions to challenges in clean energy generation, agricultural production, and waste disposal. All participants wrap up in a minute or less, and now it is time for the audience to lock in their choice for favorite pitch. After just a few minutes, the winner of the night is announced: Guillaume Defrance de Tersant of Arable Labs, an agricultural technology company working to enable producers to make data-driven decisions in agriculture and resource management. 

We have an early winner!

Applause erupts in congratulations to Arable Labs and to all who participated in the contest. It is not easy to stand up and speak in front of a large crowd! As networking resumes, the participants return to the crowd to connect with more members of the cleantech community. The conversations that result bring a new fervor to the event, effectively kicking off the 2018 Cleantech Open accelerator in the Northeast. 

  • By Malayah Redmond on in Northeast

Updated on June 14, 2018 12:36 PM