Facing significant cuts from funding sources, Alpha Loft, a business accelerator program, recently laid off its manager of operations and communications and is reevaluating its programs.
Earlier this year, the University of NH, presented Alpha Loft with two funding options. The University, its biggest supporter, offered to continue funding but at a lower level and with the caveat that Alpha Loft, in turn, increase the services it provides though UNH’s new Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter). “We want more high growth startup opportunities to come from our faculty, staff and students. We wanted them [Alpha Loft] as recurring mentors to help with programs and technologies,” says Marc Sedam, associate vice provost of innovation and new ventures at UNH.
The second option was to provide funding at a lesser level as a sponsor for the next year.
Alpha Loft’s leadership team and board of directors weighed the options, ultimately choosing the sponsorship model, event though that meant cutting UNH’s contribution to Alpha Loft by 75 percent, says Mark Kaplan, CEO of Alpha Loft. He declined to provide specific figures, although UNH’s Sedam says, UNH will still be Alpha Loft’s sponsor.
Kaplan says it was better for Alpha Loft to focus on its core mission of serving the founders of startups statewide rather than trying to commit more resources to support UNH’s specific entrepreneurship and commercialization efforts.
Kaplan adds he is concerned other supporters may be coincidentally reducing their support, including Dyn, one of the organization’s major contributors, which was acquired by Oracle. The combined reductions led to the decision to cut one position, though Kaplan says he does not anticipate further cuts.
“The board and I are going through a planning process for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, to focus on how to best deliver on our mission of [supporting] scalable startups,” Kaplan says. “We have a lot of events that may or may not be targeted to mission and we will look at what we continue to do and what we won’t. Certainly we have our challenges, but we have a good foundation as an organization and have demonstrated to the state we add real value to the economy.”
Alpha Loft was named the 2017 Business Assistance Organization of the Year by Business NH Magazine and the NH Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Alpha Loft offers co-working spaces in Portsmouth, Manchester and Durham and provides programs and resources to help early-stage grow. Those programs range from monthly workshops, access to experts, panel discussions, and one-on-one advisory meetings.
The business accelerator has about 40 members using its co-working spaces and 30 to 80 people who attend its monthly events and education programs. One signature program is the eight-week Startup Fundamentals that assists entrepreneurs with business plans. Alpha Loft’s Accelerate NH seeks to give six to nine startups a year a boost. Participants go through an intensive three-month curriculum that includes mentoring and education, culminating in a “demo day” when they make their pitch to an audience of investors and business professionals. The companies receive free services from Alpha Loft partners, including support from Amazon and Microsoft.
Alpha Loft will no longer manage co-working space at UNH in Durham, but will continue to offer co-working space at its Portsmouth and Manchester locations, Kaplan says. “Our objective is to help more entrepreneurs. We’ll be able to do that effectively. We will be further developing our programs to be more effective and valuable.”