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Two Clarkson University Entrepreneurs Place in National Competition
Clarkson students Matthew Turcotte and Daegan Gonyer have a commonality in their budding entrepreneurial careers: both are runners-up for Sigma Nu Tau’s first National Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Gonyer and Turcotte operate businesses in Clarkson’s Peyton Hall Incubator in downtown Potsdam.
Gonyer, who began at Clarkson as an undergraduate and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in physics, placed first runner-up. His business, Blue Sphere Industries Ltd., has developed technology to grow row after row of plants in an indoor environment without soil. Light-emitting diode (LED) lights and a recycled water system with nutrients provide the plants with necessary ingredients to thrive. Gonyer is successfully growing the world’s first soil-less indoor citrus plants in Peyton Hall. He has also run another business, Illusion ATC Prototyping, for nearly a decade.
Turcotte, a rising senior innovation and entrepreneurship major from Clayton, N.Y., was second runner-up for founding and operating North Shore Solutions, which provides Internet consulting services for municipalities and companies around the world, including over 40 towns and villages in New York State. Turcotte also recently entered the real estate industry by purchasing an office building in the town of Watertown.
The award recognizes “successful entrepreneurs who are pursuing principled entrepreneurship in their business ventures,” according to the Web site for Sigma Nu Tau, the entrepreneurship academic honor society. Turcotte placed first in the competition’s “Main Street” category, while Gonyer earned first in the “High Technology” category.
Erin Draper, director of operations for Clarkson’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, nominated Gonyer and Turcotte for the award.
“Daegan and Matthew's awards are representative of the true spirit of entrepreneurship that exists at Clarkson,” Draper said. “Every day they and many students like them are not just working hard in their classes but they are taking business calls during breaks, meeting with clients, and growing their companies.”
Founding and developing a business is much more than a 40-hour a week commitment, Turcotte and Gonyer said. The challenge of developing a business in an incubator program and balancing that with academics requires dedication and discipline but is also very rewarding.
“Peyton Hall is a laboratory where you can experiment with new ideas. As opportunities come up that look appealing, why not go for them?” Turcotte asked. “There are a lot of students out there that are trying to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas. I hope that Daegan and I can inspire other students to pursue their ideas. Just because you are young doesn’t mean you can’t be successful with the ideas that you have.”
Gonyer said the award will help his business as he begins to market his technology to potential customers. His technology may have increasing demand; there will not be enough land to feed the global population by 2050, which will require new ways to grow food.
“Any time I can have some outside expert or panel look at my business and say ‘Yes, you’ve done a good job,’ not only is your technology validated, your entrepreneurial and business efforts are as well,” Gonyer said.
Both Turcotte and Gonyer praised Clarkson for its support as they have developed their businesses.
Turcotte was the first student to participate in Clarkson’s Young Entrepreneurs and Innovators Program, in which the University received partial equity in his company in exchange for free tuition. Turcotte was also recently selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration Syracuse District Office as the winner of the 2013 SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Clarkson worked with Gonyer to develop and patent his idea, and is continuing to nurture the business to prepare it for the marketplace. “There’s just this entrepreneurial spirit here that I don’t think you’d find at other universities,” Gonyer said.
Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: Clarkson University student entrepreneurs Daegan Gonyer (left) and Matthew Turcotte are runners up in Sigma Nu Tau’s first National Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award competition.
[A photograph for media use is available at http://clarkson.edu/news/photos/gonyer-turcotte.jpg.]