MIT Accelerator STEX25 Launches With Five Boston-Area Startups

There’s a new startup accelerator program at MIT. This one is pretty different from what you might be expecting.

The program, called STEX25, is being run by MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program as part of its Startup Exchange (STEX). The latter has been around for about two years, and its goal is to connect big companies to MIT-affiliated startups and technologies. STEX25, as its name suggests, is planning to work with 25 startups at a time. Today it announced the first five (more on those below), with others still to come on a rolling, roughly quarterly basis.

Unlike accelerators such as Y Combinator or Techstars, STEX25 does not take equity in the companies, nor does it provide funding. It is also not a residential program with office space, and startups will be admitted for one year, instead of a few months. Rather than preparing founders to raise money and develop the right products, the program is focused on helping startups form partnerships with industry. That can mean anything from finding early customers or improving distribution, to forming strategic partnerships or even getting acquired.

The range of sectors and markets for the startups is quite broad: the program highlights aerospace, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, energy, healthtech, life sciences, and materials, among other fields.

STEX25 is being directed by Trond Undheim, who is a senior industrial liaison officer at the Institute and a former senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He was previously director of standards strategy and policy at Oracle, so he knows big companies. (He did his PhD in Trondheim, Norway, so he knows beautiful cities, too.)

Undheim (pictured above) says the big goal is to “further the global impact of MIT’s innovation.” He adds that “STEX25 should represent a wide spread of the most important technologies.”

To be nominated for the program—and companies must be nominated by the MIT community, there’s no applying for it—startups need to have a founder who is a faculty member, staff member, student, or alumnus of MIT, or to have licensed technology from the Institute, Undheim says.

He adds that startups in the program will tend to be less than five years old, have a “strong science and technology foundation,” and “need a service that matches them with corporations.” (The five companies named today have either raised outside funding or are in the process of fundraising.)

Undheim says STEX25 should be complementary to other startup- and innovation-related programs on campus. Those include the Deshpande Center, the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, the Venture Mentoring Service, the Technology Licensing Office, and big research centers like the Media Lab. Perhaps what’s most interesting is that STEX25 will span all parts of MIT—a huge ecosystem that is (not unintentionally) pretty fragmented when it comes to startup creation and mentorship.

The new program will hold five symposiums a year on campus, Undheim says, where startups will meet with big companies from the Industrial Liaison Program. There will also be peer-group meetings, other startup events, and a “global road show” targeting conferences in China, Japan, and Europe, he says.

As for STEX25’s involvement in any corporate partnerships that arise, Undheim says, “We’re not a financial broker. We make introductions, but we’re not part of the deal in any way.”

Here are the five startups being unveiled today:

Akselos makes computer simulation tools for engineering applications.

BioBright is developing a “smart lab” to help scientists with experiments and workflow.

Lexumo makes cybersecurity software that targets open-source vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things. (See Xconomy story.)

Poly6 Technologies makes new kinds of bio-based materials from waste and other components.

Tagup is developing Web software to help businesses manage industrial equipment data.

[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories examining entrepreneurship on MIT’s campus and beyond.]

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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