The Hippo


Jan 20, 2020








Tech Success

Eric Ely, the co-founder and CTO (read “tech guy”) of Midair Technologies, was in the first group of companies to participate in the accelerator program at Alpha Loft. 
Prior to that, Midair successfully raised funds to bring its first product, GoGlove, to market through a Kickstarter campaign in 2013. The GoGlove is a bluetooth remote built into a glove for skiers and snowboarders to control their smartphones or GoPros.
After the Kickstarter campaign, “We started looking for investors, incubators and accelerator programs to figure out, OK, we have the product, we have a way to build the product, now we want to build a business around that,” Ely said.
He said the accelerator program was a huge help.
“We spent the three to four months going through that program, and that really helped us build up a strategy. ... We can talk to investors to help us figure out what our long term business strategy is going to be. That’s still evolving today, definitely,” Ely said. “We’ve definitely used them as a big resource to help us define what we’re doing as we try to build our business.”
Now, Ely says, the company has diversified. Their new product, Bluz, is a maker kit not unlike arduino, which is a bluetooth enabled, cloud-based system that serves as a blank slate for tech developers looking to buy premade circuitry hardware for their projects. The cloud backend is serviced by a company called Particle that Midair has partnered with. 
“We’re starting to see really good traction. We just started shipping [recently] but we’re getting really good feedback,” Ely said.
The biggest customer so far? Makerspaces.

Business Support
Incubators help build companies

By Ryan Lessard

 Starting and growing a new business comes with all kinds of hurdles, but there are several incubators in New Hampshire that offer guidance and networking. 

For startups and more
Liz Gray, the state’s director of entrepreneurship and the leader of the Live Free & Start initiative, says New Hampshire has five major incubators spread around the state.
“They’re all really unique. They play such an important role within the state and within the regions and it’s great to ... see how they are supporting their small businesses across New Hampshire,” Gray said.
Some of the incubators focus purely on innovative startups while others lend assistance to existing companies looking to grow or find more financing. Some focus on for-profit businesses and others count nonprofits among their members. Gray says the five main business incubators she partners with are all nonprofits themselves.
In southern New Hampshire there’s Alpha Loft, which has locations in Manchester, Portsmouth and Durham and the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene. Further north there’s the Enterprise Center in Plymouth, the Mount Washington Valley Tech Village and the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center in Lebanon.
“Some incubators in the state and elsewhere are really focused [on] and help a wide variety of companies, not just startups. In other words, they may be helping new, small consultancies or lifestyle businesses or things like that,” said Joshua Cyr, Alpha Loft’s director of education and acceleration. “Others such as Alpha Loft are really focused on startups. These are high-growth-potential businesses which have some sort of innovative spin on their business model or their product or something else along those lines.”
Mary Ann Kristiansen, the head of the Hannah Grimes Center, says they serve the broader business community in the Monadnock area.
“We have startups, we have financial, we have marketing, we have leadership, nonprofits as well as for-profits and a very wide range of businesses from large manufacturing firms to sole entrepreneurs,” Kristiansen said.
Incubators offer a wide variety of services but generally have coworking space available for a fee, workshops, mentorships and networking opportunities. 
Alpha Loft helps startups answer the questions that the startup founders don’t even know they need to ask yet.
“The nature of a startup is they have an hypothesis that they need to test out and it’s generally not an accepted, obvious business plan,” Cyr said.
Cyr says they hold regular business hours for walk-ins, and for anything they can’t directly address, they connect startups with mentors, potential partners, customers or sometimes investors.
The Hannah Grimes Center offers workshops that “ tend to be free or quite affordable,” Kristiansen said.
They also offer coaching and mentorship on subjects like productivity and finance, and there’s a monthly meeting of nonprofit directors called the leadership circle.
One of the key ways incubators can help startups is through an accelerator program. These are intensive sessions with guests speaker and workshops with a small cohort of companies accepted into the program through a competitive application process. After months of learning and honing strategy, mission and value proposition of a company, they get together for an event called Demo Day, where they each pitch their company to investors. And judges select a winner based on the pitches.
Presently, Alpha Loft is the only incubator in the state that offers a formal accelerator program, and it just started its second year.
Hannah Grimes offers something similar to an accelerator program with its Startup Lab, a six week program that starts in April. And Gray says more may join the bandwagon after July 1 when $107,000 in state funding is freed up.
“It’s the first time the state has put any money into … a budget to support the incubators,” Gray said. 

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