BURLINGTON — The Vermont Startup Collective is a new platform that offers entrepreneurs a dedicated virtual space for building community, advancing business ideas, and connecting with other startups, remote workers, small business owners, freelancers, investors, and mentors.
Supported by more than 35 Vermont organizations, the platform is free of charge and designed to be accessible and inclusive to all.
“When COVID-19 hit, we feared we would lose our ‘special sauce’— the connections made, opportunities discovered, and problems solved through casual, daily interactions,” said Dave Bradbury, president of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies ( VCET ). “But in fact, the opposite happened. More than ever, entrepreneurs sought community—for camaraderie, to problem solve, or just for a laugh. The Collective takes all that entrepreneurial energy, focuses it in a trusted digital space, and makes it widely available to everyone who needs it.”
Born from requests by innovators, consultants, and business leaders seeking connection during COVID-19, the mobile/desktop platform surrounds active and aspiring entrepreneurs with constructive guidance from advisors and mentors, thought-provoking conversations with peers, and critical tools and resources to start and scale.
“Innovation in Vermont has always been driven both by creativity and necessity,” said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. “The pandemic has brought home the ways our businesses can use technology to adapt their operations and how they connect with the broader business ecosystem. Thanks to the work of VCET and its partners, businesses will have access to this powerful tool that brings the essential benefits of Vermont’s startup ecosystem into a digital space.”
Soft-launched in September, early signals from users indicate that the fresh, effective approach of The Collective has helped them to connect in new and exciting ways.
“Being an entrepreneur can be isolating in the best of times,” said Stacy Huffstetler, founder and managing director of WidgetBrain. “You’re facing a really unique set of challenges, questions, and opportunities. Building and leveraging a community is a key part of successful entrepreneurship. It’s awesome to have a space dedicated to the shared experience of starting, funding, and running a business with others who are eager to engage.”
Posts on the platform range from a discussion around customer insights to the promotion of an upcoming innovation competition.
Users can join groups curated by topic, such as Dismantling Racism, Sustainability, Building a Team, and Capital, and join relevant “circles” including Young Professionals or Female Founders.
“The Collective allows information-sharing and networking beyond the four walls of any individual organization,” said Bradbury. “It invites expertise from anyone and everyone committed to successful entrepreneurism in Vermont and that’s where we start to see a flywheel effect for the innovation ecosystem.”
More than three dozen entrepreneurial support, economic development, and higher education organizations across Vermont have come together to contribute to The Collective.
These launch partners include: 12-22 North, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC), Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC), BTV Ignite, Burlington Code Academy, Burlington Community Economic Development Office (CEDO), Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE), Champlain College, Do North Coworking, FreshTracks Capital, The Generator, Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation (GBIC), Hula, Instig8VT, IoT Conduit, LaunchVT, Mercy Connections, The MINT, Reconciled, The Lightning Jar, The Space on Main, The Sustainable Innovation MBA – University of Vermont (SIMBA), UVM Entrepreneurship Club, University of Vermont, Vermont Bioscience Alliance, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont Business Roundtable, Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET), Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Council on Rural Development, Vermont EPSCoR, Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC), Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF), Vermont Technology Alliance (VtTA), Vermont Technology Council, and Vermont Womenpreneurs. The Collective is curated and moderated by VCET.
To learn more or to join The Collective, please visit www.vermont startupcollective.com.