20 July 2010

NYC ACRE and Varick Street Incubator Turn One Year Old

The New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE) turns one year old this month.

NYC ACRE is part of the business incubator at 160 Varick Street in SoHo, which is a joint venture between the New York City Economic Development Corporation, NYU-Poly, and Trinity Real Estate.

"This initiative was built on the strength of our tenants, the support of NYU Poly and NYSERDA, and the desire of the community to grow," says Micah Kotch, operations director for NYC ACRE. "The credibility of our partners -- the City, the NYC Investment Fund, Columbia University, Pratt, and NYU -- has been instrumental in our success."

Among the first tenants was Ecological LLC, which helps the commercial real estate sector reduce costs through improved efficiency. The firm has been one of the most successful ACRE companies, growing from 5 to 14 full-time staff in a year and raising nearly $3 million in funding. Kotch says the firm will soon be graduating to a larger office space.

Of the 35 companies in the Varick Street incubator, nine are cleantech related; the others range from financial services to social media and cybersecurity. Together, Kotch calculates, NYC ACRE and the NYCEDC sponsored incubator have created 125 jobs and attracted $15 million in capital.

In addition to office space, tenants have access to mentors and other technical and strategic advisors, including advisory committee members from SJF Ventures, Braemer Energy Ventures, and Expansion Capital, as well as programming designed to help tenants attract funding and strategic partners. NYC ACRE also runs a Cleantech Executive program to help fill the leadership talent gap in the sector.

One ACRE tenant, M.J. Beck, an economic and strategic consulting firm, recently became the on-demand energy consultant for the City of New York, while another, Wind Products, Inc (formerly AeroCity), will soon install the city's first building mounted wind turbine using their technology.

Two other ACRE companies have been making headlines as well as progress. ThinkEco's product, the "modlet" (or modern electric outlet) was a finalist at the 2009 CEA-sponsored "i-stage" competition and the company recently closed an angel round.

Brooklyn-based SyntheZyme, an early stage green chemistry company commercializing natural biosurfactants developed by Dr. Richard A. Gross at NYU-Poly, is hoping to provide alternatives to toxic methods of cleaning up the Gulf oil spill.

In year two, Kotch hopes to continue to create new jobs, build sustainable companies, and help them get funding. But, as with most things in the cleantech sector, Kotch says, "We need long-term price signals that will allow the sector to grow."

Meanwhile, as Ecological and a few other tenants graduate, there are over 100 applicants waiting in the wings for space at the site. While not all of them are cleantech companies, the success of NYC ACRE tenants speaks to a good start for cleantech at the incubator.

Even New York City Mayor Bloomburg is pleased with the results of the incubator effort. "I'm already impressed by the ideas developed by the entrepreneurs based there," he wrote in a letter about the incubators to John Sexton, president of NYU, and Jerry Hultin, president of NYU-Poly. "The number of companies at the incubator, the additional jobs created by them, and the sense of community on the floor are all testimonies to your outstanding work so far."

Mayor Bloomberg recently announced the NYC Media Lab, a partnership between NYCEDC, NYU Poly, Columbia, and NYC.gov, and NYCEDC has several other incubators up and running, including one for fashion designers in the garment district and a "kitchen incubator" at La Marquetta in East Harlem.

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