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Haverhill Announces Hardware Startup Challenge

Submitted by on August 10, 2012 – 10:58 am

Innovation is nothing new to business in Haverhill. The first business telephone call took place there in the

Shown left to right in photo: Jim DiBurro, Round Rock Consulting; Ronald Trombley, Greater Haverhill Foundation; Lisa Fitzpatrick, The Burgess Business Center; Lane Glenn, Northern Essex Community College; John Michitson, Haverhill City Council; Mike McGonagle, McGonagle Staffing; and Rich Breault, Lightspeed Mfg

Shown left to right in photo: Jim DiBurro, Round Rock Consulting; Ronald Trombley, Greater Haverhill Foundation; Lisa Fitzpatrick, The Burgess Business Center; Lane Glenn, Northern Essex Community College; John Michitson, Haverhill City Council; Mike McGonagle, McGonagle Staffing; and Rich Breault, Lightspeed Mfg

19th century when Thomas S. Sanders called his sole cutting business on Merrimack Street in downtown Haverhill from his home on Kenoza Avenue, and the first commercial product with a transistor was built there at the Western Electric manufacturing facility in the early 1950s.

A local printed circuit developer with an international customer base—Lightspeed Manufacturing—hopes to continue that tradition of innovation with the announcement of Haverhill’s Lightspeed Hardware Startup Challenge.

The company, in partnership with local government groups, business organizations, and its higher education neighbor, Northern Essex Community College, is inviting hardware startups with a great idea and limited resources to enter the competition. MassChallenge, an annual $1M global startup competition and accelerator program, is providing the model for the competition.

The winner will receive up to a half dozen free printed circuit board versions culminating with a working prototype to realize the idea. Finalists will share $10,000 in cash, access to Lightspeed’s design services and production facility, access to free and discounted work space at the Burgess Business Center Incubator, located in the Burgess Building in downtown Haverhill, and free consultation and connections to supply chain resources for production. Everyone who enters the competition will receive free workshops and mentoring on topics such as business, finance, marketing, and technology.

“Our goal is to lower the barrier for hardware startups by providing contestants with a wide range of services and incentives to enhance their chance for success,” said John Michitson, president of the Haverhill City Council and an electrical engineer with the MITRE Corporation.

Michitson explains that while software start-up competitions are fairly common, hardware competitions are rare. “The next best thing in Silicon Valley may be hardware. A lot of people believe hardware is the new frontier.”

Contest organizers hope to attract 15-20 contestants and believe the sky is the limit as far as ideas. Some recent hardware innovations include a lockable and encrypted USB drive, a guitar with an integrated iPhone that anyone can play, a touch screen tablet carputer, sensors in a smartphone and clothes that monitor location, context and environment, and more.

Ultimately, Lightspeed and other challenge organizers want to spread the word about Haverhill and the benefits it offers entrepreneurs and emerging businesses in any market.

Rich Breault, President of Lightspeed Manufacturing, said that the City of Haverhill, the business community and NECC have built a culture of support that enables entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive. “We have a close relationship of successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, financiers, marketing executives and technology leaders who are open to mentoring others. It’s now Lightspeed’s turn to give back to the community,” he said. Partners in the Lightspeed Challenge include the Greater Haverhill Foundation, the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, the City of Haverhill, the Burgess Business Center, Round Rock Consulting, Exultium, USAi.net, MassChallenge and Northern Essex Community College.

Full details on the challenge, including a preview of the application and the contest timeline, can be found online at http://lightspeedchallenge.blogspot.com/. The application deadline is November 15; finalists will be selected in November followed by mentoring and development in Lightspeed’s manufacturing center and the Burgess Business Center incubator; and the final judging is scheduled for April 13, 2013. For more information on the challenge, contact John Michitson at michitson@mitre.org or (C) 339-221-2276.

Gina Whittier of Lightspeed Manufacturing shows Haverhill City Council President John Michitson one of the company's circuit boards.

Gina Whittier of Lightspeed Manufacturing shows Haverhill City Council President John Michitson one of the company's circuit boards.