abi incubator CEO takes a new job at Dartmouth

A group of alumni donors provided $2.6 million in seed funding to get the Hanover center up and running
Photo by Corinne Arndt Girouard/Dartmouth College

The head of Manchester’s only business incubator has left that role to accept a new position at Dartmouth College, where he will aid the Ivy League school with creating a new incubator for students to launch startup businesses and social enterprises.

He’s also reviving the New Hampshire Business Incubator Network, which was formed when Craig Benson was governor but has been largely dormant since.

Jamie Coughlin recently left his position at the abi Innovation Hub, where he was CEO and entrepreneur in residence, to help Dartmouth launch its new venture center.

Philip Hanlon, Dartmouth’s new president, announced the Innovation Center and New Venture Incubator in his inauguration speech on Sept. 20, saying that “student innovation is a well of unlimited creativity and potential on this campus and one we must nurture.”

A group of alumni donors provided $2.6 million in seed funding to get the center up and running, which it is expected to be by early 2014. The incubator will be overseen by the school’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, led by Trip Davis and Tillman Gerngross, a Dartmouth professor who founded GlycoFi – which was sold to Merck for $400 million – and Adimab.

While Coughlin said he would always view the abi as “his baby,” Dartmouth “represents such a larger, global opportunity.”

Getting the student incubator running has been the effort of those who’ve seen the benefits of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network and the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center, the region’s largest incubator that is home to several later-stage firms, including GlycoFi.

Now Dartmouth’s entrepreneurial infrastructure will be able to provide support to firms from their earliest stages to their later stages, said Coughlin.

“Can we provide an environment in which the resources, connections, capital can all be coordinated for the benefit of all our stakeholders: students, faculty, staff, alumni, locally to the Upper Valley, to New Hampshire, to the country, and to the globe? That’s what Dartmouth affords – the ability to impact on truly a global level.”

Coughlin said the Dartmouth incubator is being designed with student input at each step. While the physical space is important – it will feature a flexible workspace, private meeting areas, and state-of-the-art technology – Coughlin said that the center “is less about space and more about manifesting, in physical form, the ecosystem we are trying to build at Dartmouth. My responsibility … is to build a community and an environment that promotes and supports ‘outside the box’ thinking and entrepreneurial pursuits.”

'Intangible goodwill'

Coughlin is a Princeton grad and Bedford native who has started several entrepreneurial ventures himself. He joined the Manchester incubator in October 2010, when it was still known as the Amoskeag Business Incubator, which had been founded in 1997 as a joint venture of Southern New Hampshire University and the city of Manchester to nurture early-stage companies.

He led a turnaround of the incubator and rebranded it so that it would attract resident companies with a tighter focus on innovation, and thus the name change to the abi Innovation Hub.  (Related: Incubator rebrands itself to attract new talent)

It also moved from its location in the Manchester Millyard to a space downtown on Elm Street.

On top of that, Coughlin was the force behind creating the abi’s multiple business startup competitions, such as TechOut, which annually awards $100,000 in cash to promising local startups.

With the abi, there was an “intangible goodwill that was created where we were known as … a bastion of innovation and hub of activity for all of New Hampshire,” said Coughlin, who will remain on the abi’s board of directors. The board is now trying to decide whether to replace his position.

Additionally, Coughlin was recently elected president of the New Hampshire Business Incubator Network, which he hopes to get resurrected to inspire more communication between New Hampshire’s geographically disparate nonprofit incubators. The hope is that the incubators will be able to host shared events and to “further connect and position new Hampshire as a legitimate destination for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Current members of the incubator network are Dartmouth, the abi, Technology Village in North Conway, Enterprise Center at Plymouth State University (which will have its grand opening Oct. 15) and the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene.

“I just feel blessed that I can continue my career in New Hampshire,” said Coughlin.

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