“Strategically leveraging the array of NYSTAR resources can be overwhelming. The IRC works one-on-one with innovators and startups to navigate the NYSTAR network”
For this edition of “Ask an Expert ” we spoke with Emily Ekland, Commercialization Director of the Innovation Resource Center (IRC) at the NYS Division of Science, Technology & Innovation (NYSTAR). In this role, she works one-on-one with entrepreneurs to help them take full advantage of the more than 70 state programs available to them.
Tell us a little about the Innovation Resource Center and what it has to offer.
The Innovation Resource Center (IRC) is a new program at New York State’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) that provides tailored support to New York-based innovators and startups developing disruptive technology. NYSTAR funds more than 70 programs that assist innovators throughout the commercialization life cycle. Strategically leveraging the array of NYSTAR resources can be overwhelming. The IRC works one-on-one with innovators and startups to navigate the NYSTAR network and connect companies to the best asset for that company’s need. No matter the technology sector or stage of development, there is a NYSTAR program that can help accelerate startup growth.
In addition to working one-on-one with companies, the IRC investigates commercialization gaps or bottlenecks that slow the development of a tech startup and coordinates programming targeted to alleviate that bottleneck.
Companies such as an incubator or a manufacturing resource looking to leverage a NYSTAR-supported program can contact me directly or email the IRC general email at IRCHelpdesk@esd.ny.gov.
What should a startup know about working with you?
Companies should reach out to me directly if they’re looking for startup help and don’t know where to start. Our first interaction is a phone call with at least one of the business’ founders to learn about the company and its needs. I provide an overview of the NYSTAR network and ask which programs they may have engaged with previously. After, I develop a roadmap of the NYSTAR programs that may be most useful for the company and, if the company wants, I will introduce them to a member of the program’s leading team. Periodically, I will check in to follow up on the startup’s progress.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give a startup looking to commercialize its product or service?
Learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. I’m not sure there’s one key ingredient to building a successful company. I think the most successful startups have leadership teams that aren’t afraid to pivot, are open to coaching, and know their customers’ needs meticulously. Entrepreneurship isn’t linear; there are ups, downs, steps backwards and, if you’re onto something amazing, leaps ahead. But only open-minded, curious individuals can take those direction shifts and channel that energy into a sustainable business. Also, invest in your team. You can’t build a business alone, and everyone needs a partner or a mentor, and customers. Invest time into those relationships.
Can you share a success story?
I’m very proud of what we’re able to accomplish with the IRC. Since starting in January, we’ve touched more than 100 companies across the state, and I’m excited for the upcoming workshop I’m developing with the Tech Valley Center of Gravity focused on manufacturing a minimum viable product (MVP). The Center of Gravity is a great maker space in Troy, Rensselaer County, that houses a prototyping center and manufacturing incubator. They offer regular programs teaching innovators and entrepreneurs about building disruptive technology. MVPs are integral to a startup’s growth. Manufacturing an MVP gives early adopters the opportunity to use a device and offer valuable feedback. It’s a big step for many entrepreneurs and the Center of Gravity is a great resource to leverage when building early products.
What is your relationship with FuzeHub?
I work with FuzeHub’s matching specialists to help connect companies coming to FuzeHub to the NYSTAR network. Together, we build roadmaps and make introductions to resources that NY startups need to continue developing their companies.