Innovative Organization

Jaime Coughlin, DEN DRTCJamie Coughlin
Director of DEN Innovation Center

The Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network—or DEN— is “the brand of entrepreneurship for Dartmouth,” explains Jamie Coughlin, a native of Bedford and the Director of Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth College. Before coming to Dartmouth, Coughlin helmed the ABI Innovation Hub, the predecessor to the Alpha Loft, and there cultivated an interest in developing a “climate of entrepreneurship” and working to “better connect the different parts of the state.” Dartmouth, as a world-class institution, Coughlin explains, has innumerable resources and connections at its disposal that can be great assets in our common endeavor to support and incubate the high tech ecosystem. In Coughlin’s view, these have not been fully leveraged and DEN seeks to connect the network and resources of Dartmouth with the budding entrepreneurs of New Hampshire. DEN, ultimately, is designed to be the “organizer and energizer of entrepreneurship at Dartmouth.”

The focal point of this mission is the DEN Innovation Center, a smaller incubator and coworking space in Hanover and an “entry point” for entrepreneurship in the Upper Valley. Moreover, they award grants to promising startups and offer numerous educational programs to further this goal. While designed largely to promote entrepreneurship within the community of Dartmouth students, faculty, and alumni, many of their resources are also available to the larger community. These resources are expanded upon by the Dartmouth Regional Technical Center—or DRTC—a larger, independent, non-profit incubator that has operated in Lebanon since 2004 through the backing of Dartmouth in addition to the Grafton Regional Development Cooperation, North Conway Council, and the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED). While DEN, in part, focuses on connecting rising entrepreneurs with the necessary financial support, DRTC is primarily a facility and infrastructure driven incubator that provides startups with the physical space needed in the early stages of growth. Originally geared toward providing startups in the biotech sector with the necessary lab resources and facilities, DRTC is “agnostic towards industries that [they] support.” This allows them to operate in lock-step with and help facilitate DEN’s mission to expand and develop entrepreneurship in the region.

Looking ahead, DEN is in the process of transitioning out of its pilot phase and becoming a permanent fixture within the Dartmouth community. DEN is working to develop its resources and services, sharpening its focus and channeling energy toward four “pillars” that are defining their maturation. The first of these pillars is Experiential Learning. DEN, in part, seeks to provide potential entrepreneurs with a sampling of what the road of entrepreneurship will look like. To this end, they fund educational programs that allow those interested to explore the foundations of business and connect them with internship opportunities. The second pillar is Startup Support. DEN provides resources, funding, and mentorship all aimed towards incubating nascent startups. A major element, and the third pillar, of DEN’s strategy moving forward is Alumni Engagement. Part of DEN’s mission going forward is to tap into the vast network of Dartmouth alumni and channel their experience and talent back into the ecosystem. Finally, the fourth pillar is Community Involvement, an effort to “close the gap” between talent concentrated at Dartmouth and New Hampshire’s budding high tech ecosystem.

Ultimately, what the history of the DRTC, DEN, and its pillars boil down to is an initiative to connect the talent and fully exploit the resources in New Hampshire for the benefit of its high tech sector and, as Coughlin puts it, orient the state more “towards entrepreneurial thinking.”