Two Becker-generated startups part of first class of StartUp Worcester program designed to incubate new businesses

Published on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
StartUp Worcester group shot

L to R: James Spavold ’15 of Petricore, Ryan Canuel ’15 of Petricore, Sarah Como ’14 of Zephyr Workshop, Becker College President Dr. Robert E. Johnson, and Breeze Grigas ’13 of Zephyr Workshop.

Part of Becker’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship in its students. On May 7, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and partners recognized two entrepreneurs whose gaming companies started at Becker. The Chamber announced the 12 winners of the first class of StartUp Worcester entrepreneurs at a reception spotlighting their startup businesses. The Chamber’s Higher Education – Business Partnership coordinated the effort to encourage innovative startups to locate their businesses in Worcester by providing support to these talented graduates.

Among the winners—a mix of current students and alumni from the Worcester-area colleges—are two with Becker roots:

• Ryan Canuel ’15, who graduated from Becker this May, is a game developer and the founder of Petricore Games. His company focuses on mobile development.

• Breeze Grigas ’13 is a game developer and founder of Zephyr Workshop, which was founded in January 2013 by talented alumni from Becker College. Zephyr Workshop is growing and has made appearances and been invited to speak at large-scale events around the region.

The 12 winners were selected from 23 applicants representing seven local institutions of higher education. Participation in the program was determined through a competitive application process and review by a committee. The one-year StartUp Worcester membership includes space at Running Start and membership in the Chamber and The Venture Forum affording them access to a variety of tools and resources to help them succeed.

“I am very proud of these two individuals who are excellent representatives of a Becker College education,” said Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., president of Becker College. “They have embraced the agile mindset with their innovation and entrepreneurial outlooks. While at Becker and since graduating, Breeze has been relentless in pursuing opportunities that will ensure the growth of his company. Meanwhile, Ryan has been a top student in our nationally ranked game design program, and now that he has graduated, is sure to build upon his successes.”

Becker’s undergraduate video game design program is ranked #9 in the world among undergraduate game design programs by the Princeton Review. The program has been top-ranked by The Princeton Review for six consecutive years, and is the only institution on the East Coast, and one of four nationally, to maintain this longstanding distinction. In 2011, Becker was designated by state officials as host of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), a statewide center for academic cooperation, entrepreneurship and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.

According to Chamber president and CEO, Tim Murray, “As part of our recruit, retain, incubate approach to organizing our work, we thought it was important to support these budding companies. We want to retain these bright, entrepreneurial graduates and help them to incubate their ideas in Worcester. By providing them access to the resources afforded by our partnerships, the Chamber, The Venture Forum, and Running Start will help to secure Worcester’s future as a great place to do business.”

The Venture Form is an important resource for entrepreneurs as they tackle the challenges of securing funding, creating a business plan, and seeking out expert advice. The Venture Forum provides workshops, counseling, and other forms of support for the entrepreneurs to help their businesses grow. StartUp Worcester helps to incubate new businesses and retain the bright young graduates of the area’s college and universities. This initiative encourages them to grow their business here – where they have access to everything they need to succeed – including physical space. Running Start, a co-working space on Prescott Street in Worcester, will provide space and other amenities to get these businesses up and running. Collaboration with other startups experiencing their own growing pains and celebrating their successes provides inspiration and encouragement.

The value of membership in the three organizations is valued between $2,900 and $5,300, depending on the number of employees in the startup. But according to Karen Pelletier, director of the Chamber’s Higher Education – Business Partnership, “The true value of StartUp Worcester lies in the connections, opportunities, and support inherent in being involved with these three business organizations. Another partner, SCORE (funded by the U.S. Small Business Association) will provide one on one counseling and mentorship to participants. I am thrilled to see this program have such a robust start – it’s a win-win-win – for the startups, the community, and someday soon, the consumers of these new products and services.”