Two years ago, Steve Boerner spun HeliumIQ off of a previous concern that he operated, Hatch House Ventures, which helped universities develop entrepreneurial programs. Hatch House helped schools develop curriculum components and faculty training and even ran live-work accelerator programs.
HeliumIQ helps higher education institutions and their surrounding regions cultivate and support entrepreneurs by providing a network of services, the better to produce graduates capable of helping the economies in their regions. Boerner, who has done extensive work on how to cultivate entrepreneurs, discussed what HeliumIQ is doing and where the company is going.
Q: How did you begin partnering with universities through Hatch House?
Steve Boerner: We worked with them to help them develop entrepreneurial programs and get them off the ground. We helped with curriculum writing and were on-site providing an experiential resource for students and faculty. We were a third-party extension of their entrepreneurial programs. I was even the interim director of entrepreneurship at Rowan University.
Q: How do these centers help boost entrepreneurship?
SB: We did a lot of work with economic development in the regions where we were located, and we realized regional economic development across the country was based around the supply of small businesses. It’s important to be able to centralize the resources for those areas.
Q: So, how does Helium IQ fit into that idea?
SB: What Helium IQ does is help fill the need to organize events, job opportunities, special projects and other firms that support small businesses scattered around a region, so that entrepreneurs have resources.
Q: Who are some of your partners in this endeavor?
SB: The number one priority on the Delaware Growth Agenda is to create an entire ecosystem. A lot of people have come together around that, including Jeff Fetterman of First State Development. We are also working with First State Innovation and M&T Bank, which is a premium sponsor. Organizations have come together to help fund us through equity and sponsorship.
Q: How will you monetize this?
SB: We never charge entrepreneurs. We want to provide services for companies that are listed as resources. It’s free for everybody for the first six months, but as we validate and change different features, we want to know, for X dollars a month, what are the services you need?
Q: Where do you go from here?
SB: We do have relationships with other regions. We are starting a pilot in April in another area, and we have other pilots that we will build out.