#StartupsEverywhere: New Hampshire

#StartupsEverywhere Profile:  Joshua Cyr, Director of Education and Accleration, Alpha Loft

This profile is part of #StartupsEverywhere, an ongoing series highlighting startup leaders in ecosystems across the country. This interview has been edited for length, content, and clarity.


Sculpting the Granite State into an Innovation Masterpiece

The “First in the Nation” state is not always first when thinking of startups and innovation.  However, Joshua Cyr at Alpha Loft is working to change that narrative and improve entrepreneurs prospects for successfully launching and scaling innovation-based startups in New Hampshire. As an initiative of the New Hampshire High Tech Council, Alpha Loft incubates and accelerates startup and early-stage companies in NH, creating an entrepreneurial culture of growing companies. While Joshua and his team work to expand and build the innovation ecosystem in the Granite state, limited resources are still a struggle for this growing ecosystem.

What’s your role in the New Hampshire area startup ecosystem? How did you get involved working with startups in New Hampshire?

I am the Director of Alpha Loft’s startup accelerator, Accelerate NH. I also run our education and programming efforts at Alpha Loft. My first foray into the startup scene was working at a startup many years ago. I later created a coworking space for entrepreneurs to work. That eventually lead me to work for the nonprofit, Alpha Loft. Our mission is to aid startup founders throughout the state of New Hampshire.

Can you tell us more about what your company does?

We offer direct consultation, monthly educational and networking events, and long form educational programing to early stage startups. Once a year we run a three-month long accelerator program, as well.

What’s the most exciting thing that has happened for the New Hampshire startup scene in the past year?

A new infusion of startup capital for early stage companies.  There were contests in the past which offered a total of $50,000.  Last year a new fund was made, Millworks Fund II, which now invests $600,000 a year through two large programs. Our startup accelerator, and a startup competition.

What makes New Hampshire an ideal place to start a company? What is the biggest challenge you face in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire’s quality of life is a huge draw. We rate in many top 10 lists for taxes, safety, schools, health, and places to live. Many startup founders are realizing they do not need to move to start their company. They decide where they would like to live first, then build.

A challenge we face is that we are a small ecosystem. Our state is small in size and population. Resources can be limited. That said much of the state is a short drive away from Boston and the very active ecosystem there.

What industries have historically thrived in New Hampshire? How has this shaped the startup ecosystem there?

Healthcare, tourism, mainframe computing and networking technology in the more recent past with textiles and milling before that.  We have a lot of experience in enterprise, electronics, networking, and manufacturing. Interestingly the textile base in the mills of Manchester, New Hampshire are now a new base of operations for the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute which is manufacturing the future of biofabrication.

What are some of the inputs that have helped your ecosystem grow?

Critical inputs that would likely be the same in any active ecosystem. Entrepreneurs, capital, support systems, quality education, and affordable places to live and work. Alpha Loft is largely funded through corporate sponsors. Their support is vital for many organizations in our ecosystem.

Are there specific public policies or government initiatives that have enabled startup growth in New Hampshire?

Live Free and Start is a state initiative aimed at creating jobs and making New Hampshire an even better place for innovative businesses to start, grow and succeed. The initiative is run by our State’s Director of Entrepreneurship, Liz Gray, and supported by the LFS Advisory Council, a group of dedicated entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the state.

How involved are your government representatives in the New Hampshire startup space?

Our congressional delegation is active and supportive of the many initiatives in the state. Numerous state and city staff also engage when and where it makes sense.

Engine works to ensure that policymakers look for insight from the startup ecosystem when they are considering programs and legislation that affect entrepreneurs. Together, our voice is louder and more effective. Many of our lawmakers do not have first-hand experience with the country's thriving startup ecosystem, so it’s our job to amplify that perspective. To nominate a person, company, or organization to be featured in our #StartupsEverywhere series, email jen@engine.is. Give us your feedback here.