MassVentures President Jerry Bird with the winners

It’s an all-too common scenario for small businesses: Despite having a promising product and gaining some initial traction, they seem to hit a wall, and have a tough time getting that initial VC funding. That’s the primary reason why MassVentures launched the START program: The three-year process designed to empower Bay State companies that show potential and progress on the path toward commercialization with the capital, experience, mentoring and network necessary to transition to high-growth companies. On a larger scale, that ultimately stimulates innovation across the Commonwealth. Today, the VC firm has announced the Stage 1 and Stage 2 winners of the 2015 START program, which have been given grants to boost hiring and fuel manufacturing.

“The START program provides companies the ability to foster research to the point where they are able to attract private capital,” explained Bob Weiss, President of Technology Transitions, in a press statement. “With SBIR recipients in gateway cities throughout the Commonwealth, START provides an opportunity to spread that growth and create a broad resurgence in Massachusetts as the center for high technology.”

All 10 companies selected in Stage 1 will receive $100,000 in funding. Over the course of the next year, each will work on executing its product commercialization strategy, with guidance from MassVentures and the START community. From there, an expert panel will narrow the 10 finalists down to five winners, each of which will be given $200,000 grants. And at the close of the second year, the judges will select two companies to receive $500,000 each. Thus far, the START Program has awarded $9 million to 40 Massachusetts SBIR Phase II companies.

Past winners have grown revenues by 20 percent and have used, or will use, their START grants to secure an additional $24,000,000 in funding. Winning companies have also increased employment by 30 percent, adding dozens of new jobs to the ecosystem, according to MassVentures. Recently, MassVentures funded Boston biotech company Ginkgo BioWorks—a past Stage 3 winner—for commercializing the world’s first organism engineering foundry.

“The START program has provided a diverse group of high-tech companies with the resources and guidance they need to reach their potential and enjoy sustained growth,” noted Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth and Chairman of the Board for MassVentures, in a press statement. “START is a catalyst for our innovation economy and sends a resounding message to high-tech businesses around the world that we are creating a supportive and productive environment in which these companies can thrive.”

The 10 Stage 1 winners are as follows:

  • Agiltron, Inc., Woburn, MA
  • Barrett Technology, Inc., Newton, MA
  • Coventry Associates, Inc., West Boylston, MA
  • Dynamo Micropower, Inc., Somerville, MA
  • Greentech Solutions, Inc., Woburn, MA
  • Hstar Technologies, Corp., Cambridge, MA
  • Pharyx, Inc. Woburn, MA
  • Physical Sciences, Inc., Andover, MA
  • Primaira, Inc., Woburn, MA
  • Remote Sensing Solutions, Inc., Barnstable, MA

The 5 Stage 2 winners are as follows:

  • Cambridge Electonics, Inc., Cambridge, MA
  • NetBio, Waltham, MA
  • Persimmon Technologies Corp., Wakefield, MA
  • Triton Systems, Inc., Chelmsford, MA
  • Xtalic, Inc., Marlborough, MA

Photo via MassVentures.