ALL THE PIECES
A nationally recognized expert on business incubation today, Rice has
been involved with Rensselaer's entrepreneurship programs since their
beginnings. His company, Power Kinetics, was one of the first tenants
in the Incubator, which opened in 1980. He became Incubator director a
few years later and in 1988 founding co-director of the Center for Technological
Entrepreneurship. He assumed sole leadership of the center four years
In December 1998, Rice told Entrepreneur Magazine, "Creating
an environment where companies can thrive requires an important underlying
fabric." That fabric, he said, includes "an active angel network, a source
of technology or new business ideas, a large number of entrepreneurs,
[and] a base of professionals . . . that understand entrepreneurial companies
. . ."
The threads of that fabric already exist at Rensselaer, and the
connections tracing back and forth among them are beginning to form a
tightly woven cloth. Consider this tapestry of alumni and their companies
nurturing and assisting new generations of Rensselaer entrepreneurs.
We all know the story of how the world's leading producer of desktop
mapping software began as a Rensselaer class project. How four students
sharing one PC built an international company with annual revenue of more
than $60 million. It's the MapInfo story. MapInfo Corporation went public
in 1994 and is traded on NASDAQ/NM:MAPS.
One of the key players at MapInfo was Michael Marvin, a former Rensselaer
administrator who helped the young entrepreneurs find financing and get
solid management advice from people like Rensselaer Trustee Warren Bruggeman
'46. Marvin, who is now chairman of MapInfo, went on to co-found Exponential
Business Development Company. Exponential, which like MapInfo is located
in the Rensselaer Technology Park, provides financial support and management
services to start-up firms.
One of the Rensselaer start-ups launched with money from Exponential
is being positioned as the next big IT success story. In 1994, two MBA
studentsMark Bernstein '94 and Degerhan Usluel '94and Professor
Jack Wilson (now co-director of the Severino Center) founded ILINC (Interactive
Learning International Inc.). The company, now called LearnLinc, outgrew
its Incubator quarters almost overnight, moved to the Tech Park, and is
quickly cornering the market on Web-based interactive distance learning
for Fortune 1000 companies. Rice uses a case study he wrote about the
firm's formation as a teaching tool in his entrepreneurship courses. Marvin
is LearnLinc's vice chairman. Early help with product development came
from an alumnus named . . . Paul Severino.
Drive a few miles north of campus to an aging Lansingburgh mansion.
Here is the apartment-headquarters of yet another Rensselaer entrepreneurial
venture. Steven Vasquez '96 and John Reine '96 won first place in Rensselaer's
student business plan competition last year and started their company,
ReQuest, with the $20,000 prize. (Degerhan Usluel of LearnLinc was on
the jury that awarded them the prize.) ReQuest's latest product, AudioReQuest,
is a VCR-sized device that can download, store, sort, and catalog up to
150 hours of digital music. Technical help was provided by the Center
for Automation Technologies at Rensselaer. And this summer ReQuest received
a $250,000 investment from Exponential.
Thread by thread the cloth becomes stronger and more tightly interwoven.
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