Entrepreneur of the Year

Entrepreneurs to Watch

 


CONNECTING 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 later.
 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 students—Mark Bernstein '94 and Degerhan Usluel '94—and 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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