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Incubator tenants finding that students lead to their success

Technology IncubatorSellingHive is a start-up social networking company that provides custom-designed toolsets for businesses to increase sales. TexTivia is a young company that uses text messaging to connect businesses with small marketing budgets to current and potential customers. The two companies have a great deal in common.

For starters, both are using the Internet and its relationship-building powers to create networks that extend far beyond their Western New York headquarters. Both are also among the now 11 tenants that have signed on with the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator less than one year after it opened its doors. And both chose to launch their businesses in Northern Chautauqua County because of one key reason: SUNY Fredonia.

“The companies are recognizing what the campus has to offer,” said School of Business Dean Russell Boisjoly. “They are seeing that not only do our faculty members offer valuable knowledge and research avenues, but our students offer tremendous potential to them as interns and potential new hires.”

That potential is rapidly becoming a reality as students have begun interning for many incubator clients. SellingHive worked with three student interns during the fall semester, a number which is increasing to as many as 10 in the spring. TexTivia will be adding 12 new interns, including seven for sales positions, two in product development, and one each in public relations, graphic design, and accounting. Another nine will be working with other incubator clients or the facility itself. The vast majority of these will come from majors or minors within the School of Business.

At present, SellingHive offers three internships. Those in website development and project management assist in creating and testing new web applications; research interns focus on the international front by gathering information on foreign countries and writing business plans; and “evangelist” interns (using Silicon Valley lingo) give presentations about the company to the community and potential clients.

In fact, SellingHive’s founders chose SUNY Fredonia over Silicon Valley, home of many of the world’s largest high-tech companies, because of the advantages of working closely with Fredonia’s faculty, administration and students.

“We felt like we needed to cultivate students who we could hire and employ in our business who were both intimately familiar with social networking and had grown up with social networking, text messaging and smart phones,” SellingHive Co-founder Bob Richardson explained. “We are going to really work with them to teach them our business while they are still students. Then, once they graduate, they can potentially become employees and be further integrated into the way we grow our company.”

SUNY Fredonia’s commitment to SellingHive was far greater than what was offered by other educational institutions connected to incubators, according to Richardson. The firm’s ability to meet significant research challenges will be enhanced by the university affiliation, while some data collected may also prove beneficial to SUNY Fredonia faculty and programs.

“We’ve gotten a very high level of support from the campus community for what we’re trying to do,” Richardson added.

Being situated in a building comprised solely of start-ups positions SellingHive and TexTivia shoulder-to-shoulder with other young businesses that could readily benefit from the services each provides. Likewise, the companies can tweak their own business models based on experiences with fellow incubator startups.

“We absolutely love what these guys are planning,” Incubator Director Bob Fritzinger said of both SellingHive and TexTivia. “Right now they appear to be among the most aggressive companies in the incubator, and it’s up to us as a facility, a university and a business region to support them. The opportunities for our students, in particular, are remarkable.”

“The anticipation throughout the School of Business is very high,” Dr. Boisjoly added, regarding the developing relationships. “These real-world, hands-on opportunities are giving current students and faculty extremely worthwhile experiences. Plus, they’re positioning Fredonia very nicely in the minds of potential new student and faculty recruits.”

posted @ Saturday, January 22, 2011 1:56 PM by Christine Davis Mantai

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