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Startup Incubator to Tap IP from Boston University Labs

Oct 7, 2011Boston Business Journal, Council in the News

By W. Marc Bernsau
Boston Business Journal

Bernie Prusaczyk, CEO of Atlantic VIC, says his startup incubator’s first company is expected to hatch by the end of the year.

A new type of startup incubator is setting up shop in Massachusetts, one that won’t be divvying up its office space between a group of young aspiring entrepreneurs with big ambitions.

Instead, Atlantic VIC — which stands for Virtual Incubation Company — will handle the business development end of things for its startups. And those startups will be built from scratch, using intellectual property from university labs in the Boston area.

“We start with earlier-stage technology than many would touch,” said Calvin Goforth, chairman of Atlantic VIC, who is basing the company on the original Virtual Incubation Company that Goforth founded in Arkansas in 2000.

It’s a model not totally unlike that of Flagship Venture Labs, the business incubation arm of Cambridge’s Flagship Ventures, which founds new companies rather than support pre-existing ideas.

The sourcing of the IP from local universities would be one key difference for Atlantic VIC.

Atlantic VIC expects to work with researchers at universities such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts system to launch the new companies, said Bernie Prusaczyk, CEO of Atlantic VIC.

The new companies will license the technology, and Atlantic VIC will start pursuing grant funding to further the research and development, before eventually looking for private funding, he said. Atlantic VIC will be the official founder of the company and will share equity with the partners it brings in, Prusaczyk said.

The focus is on IP from the worlds of science and engineering; Atlantic VIC’s first company, expected to form through the incubator by the end of the year, will fall under the umbrella of life sciences, Prusaczyk said.

That original VIC in Arkansas launched with a $1 million investment, and since then has started 13 portfolio companies — three of which have graduated to commercialization and their own management teams.

Among them is NanoMech Inc., a company whose nanomanufacturing technology came out of the University of Arkansas and which has launched a number of products to market. Overall, the original VIC’s portfolio companies have received $30 million in grant money and $10 million in private investment to date.

The plan is to take a similar approach in Massachusetts. Atlantic VIC is in the process of closing a $1 million investment to get started, and the office itself opened Sept. 1 inside the Massachusetts High Technology Council in Waltham. After licensing the technology, it’s expected that it will take about five years to graduate the company to its own management team, Prusaczyk said.

For the Massachusetts High Technology Council, partnering with the Atlantic VIC is another step toward forming closer ties with early-stage companies, said council President Chris Anderson.

The council’s core membership has historically been large, established technology and defense firms, but the council has sought to branch out, last year launching the Innovation Access Network, which seeks to connect startup technologies with larger firms.

“The technology landscape in New England really is evolving — there are fewer large dominant tech firms today than there were 10 to 15 years ago, and many, many more young, small, midsize innovative tech firms that a lot of people don’t know too much about,” Anderson said. “The Northeast’s economy is going to be heavily affected by our ability to increase the number of startups in the region, and then retain those companies here.”

Increasingly, the Massachusetts High Technology Council is stepping up to create, execute, and lead critical statewide competitiveness strategies. Fostering a vision for our innovation economy under the MassVision2050 banner, the Council solidifies its position as a thought leader providing valuable insights to navigate emerging technologies, facilitates long-term planning, and reinforces the Council's commitment to excellence and action in the evolving Massachusetts tech-driven economy.

To learn more, contact Council President Chris Anderson.