Wentworth’s Accelerate: Expanding Global Reach

October 11, 2018

Sitting in Willson Hall just prior to the start of another semester, the staff of Accelerate, Wentworth Innovation + Entrepreneurship Center were ready for a new semester. Having secured a major partnership with Workbar, and found success with another ThinkTank event, the team was geared up for a host of fall programs.

With featured news coverage in NECN, Education Dive, VentureFizz, and Boston Business Journal, Accelerate is making major moves within the City of Boston and beyond, while also introducing programs and collaborations that will further bolster the innovation and entrepreneurship experience for Wentworth students.

Another major milestone for Accelerate was the selection of Startup Challenge participant Maarouf Barry, BSM ’20, and his team at Eleis Farm into the prestigious MassChallenge Boston Cohort for 2018. Eleis Farm cultivates, processes, and exports palm oil for the African diaspora and farmer, while simultaneously empowering women and promoting socio-economic development. Out of 1,600 applications for the Cohort, only 128 early stage startups were accepted to participate.

“In the past six years, we’ve welcomed more than 6,000 participants across all programs in Accelerate. From the Startup Challenge focused on entrepreneurial pursuits to programming that highlights innovation activity such as the Social Innovation Lab and ThinkTanks, we have significantly expanded our footprint in Boston and beyond,” says Accelerate founder Monique Fuchs, associate vice president, Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

In addition to Fuchs, the Accelerate team includes Director of Programming Max Rollinger, Assistant Director Tory Lam, BSA ’14, and temporary support Ryan Hathaway.

One of the center’s largest successes in 2018 was February’s “Future of Our Cities - Converging Generations” ThinkTank. Established by Accelerate in 2013, ThinkTank is an interdisciplinary initiative that convenes thought leaders, students, faculty members and design thinkers to brainstorm and identify opportunities across disciplines and sectors. Another ThinkTank is also on the horizon, this time taking place November 3 at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square on the “Future of Aging.”

Held at Workbar Back Bay, the ThinkTank brought together participants from more than 40 different organizations in the Boston area who would not ordinarily intersect on a daily basis to discuss challenges that different generation could face in the future.

The process was organic and participant driven. Individuals were encouraged to push their comfort zones with robotics experts found working in the same groups as museum professionals, and students sharing ideas with C-Level executives.

The event also shone a spotlight on Workbar itself, a network of physical locations offering coworking and office spaces to the general public. In May, Accelerate announced a partnership with Workbar that allows Accelerate students to utilize the Workbar space free of charge, while Accelerate alumni receive a discount.

The partnership also affords Accelerate an off-campus locale to use for networking and mentoring opportunities, including a HotSeat event that took place September 12.

Back on campus, Accelerate played host to a BootCamp on September 17, which featured a full evening of guest speakers sharing their entrepreneurial journeys, and giving students real-world examples on the process behind building ideas. On October 25, the second HotSeat of the semester will take place, inviting current and newly formed teams to stress test their latest ideas.

“The great thing about the HotSeat is that it allows students to receive critical feedback on their ideas from members of both the Wentworth community and the Boston innovation ecosystem,” says Rollinger. “Those valuable conversations often pay dividends down the line as the ideas that our student teams generate continue to evolve.”

--Greg Abazorius

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