MTEC SmartZone Creates SmartStart for Innovators - Pre-incubation program scopes business opportunity for new technology ideas.

November 15, 2012 – MTEC SmartZone is at the center of a growing hub of entrepreneurism and high-tech business development in Upper Michigan’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula. Founded in 2002, MTEC SmartZone provides the facilities, expertise and resources for university research commercialization, corporate R&D innovation and technology start-ups in the remote region.

One of 15 SmartZones in the state, MTEC SmartZone’s mission is to start, grow, and sustain technology companies in the community. That focus – along with a goal to create 750 jobs in 10 years – has sparked the creation of SmartStart, a “pre-incubation” program designed to foster the development of new innovations with commercial potential.

“SmartStart pushes founders to get outside of their heads and really explore their ideas from the viewpoint of business and customers,” says Marilyn Clark, executive director of MTEC. “Instead of thinking about what the technology can do, they begin to investigate different questions – is the market big enough, what problem does it solve, and will people pay money for it?”

The program provides a weekly, interactive clinic environment for founders to scope the opportunity and business value proposition for their ideas. Four advisors from MTEC SmartZone have been certified to coach the weekly clinics using the So what? who cares? why you? ® methodology and tools from Inc. (WKI). Participants range from university faculty and PhD students to local entrepreneurs.

In just a few months, SmartStart is already generating impressive results. “This has really been a great process,” says Clark. “Everyone in the program has had that pivot moment, where they either learned they really didn’t have a passion for the idea or discovered potential in markets they hadn’t even considered.” Adds Clark, “We also now have a mechanism to find out how coachable people are before bringing them in to our incubator, which is a huge factor in how quickly we can accelerate their business.”

And that is a very smart beginning indeed.

For more on the MTEC SmartZone and the SmartStart pre-incubation program, call 906-487-7000.

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