Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter of thanks from Jeff Stein, editor of the Ithaca Voice, to the business incubator Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.
The Ithaca Voice operated out of the incubator from December 2014 until late October, when we moved to a new office on Ithaca’s west end.
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ITHACA, N.Y. — We still don’t really know if the Ithaca Voice business model works.
But we do know this: Our online news outlet has a much, much better chance of success because of the mentorship and support of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, the business incubator that opened in downtown Ithaca in September 2014, than we would have otherwise.
The goals of Rev have always been lofty. The venture, co-founded by the area’s three universities, has sought to give the region’s entrepreneurs the ability to turn their dreams into real companies by providing them with co-working space and the expertise of seasoned executives. Few enterprises can claim to have missions of such crucial importance.
Now, I don’t purport to know if Rev will prove to have a truly transformative impact on the economy of Central New York and the Southern Tier.
But on Oct. 22, I went to one of my favorite local events — “Pitch Night” at Rev, in which different startups give summaries of their business ideas, describe what fields they hope to upend, and say why and how they want their companies to make a difference.
At least 100 people were in attendance — on this particular pitch night, at Rev’s sleek, remodeled offices at 314 East State Street.
There were old faces and new. I listened as Adam Maher, founder and president of Ithaca’s Ursa Space System, described the evolution of his company’s satellite operations (in outer space!) to new frontiers. I applauded as Cody Ohlheiser, founder of Backwoods TechGear, outlined how BTG had moved successfully toward creating the technology that will allow skiers to use their iPhones on the lift without getting their hands frozen.
And I grinned at the newcomers … so desperately eager to explain every possible innovation and benefit of their startup that they sometimes tried doing so all at once — and, in so doing, end up actually saying nothing at all. (I remember being in that position. It’s an exciting place to be!)
Last week, the Ithaca Voice moved out of Rev and to The West Side Office Center adjoining Mama’s Goose and Mimi’s Attic on West State Street.
That’s what’s supposed to happen with Rev’s start-ups: We’ve grown and added staff, and the new space will give us room to expand that Rev’s shared co-working space could not.
But while we are no longer physically sharing space with Rev, the incubator’s mission will very much remain a part of ours.
Rev gave us legitimacy when we had little. It opened doors that had been closed and forced us to think bigger — to wonder how old ways of doing things could be fundamentally changed, to imagine what it would really be like to wipe the slate clean and build a news outlet from scratch.
And for that, I will always be grateful. Regardless of how successful the Ithaca Voice ultimately proves.
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