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Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao cuts the ribbon marking the launch of the Massachusetts Founders Network developed by Lever.
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Jeffrey Thomas of Lever addresses the gathering at the Porches. Featured on the MFN is Brandale Randolph, founder of 1854 Cycling Co., a high-end bicycle assembly company.
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Lever Launches Massachusetts Founders Network to Support Startups

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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From left, state Sen. Paul Mark, state Rep. John Barrett III, Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Deputy Director Patrick Larkin and Mayor Jennifer Macksey listen to Lever's Jeffrey Thomas at Studio9 in North Adams. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A statewide one-stop source for networking, collaboration and resources for innovative entrepreneurs — Massachusetts Founders Network — was launched on Wednesday with support from state and local officials. 
"This is a hybrid, digital and human platform to help startups in Massachusetts advance more quickly," said Jeffrey Thomas, executive director of Lever, a local nonprofit catalyst and resource for startups. "Time and money are startup founders' most precious resources. And our hope is that MFN will save them time and help them access funding."
Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao joined the gathering at Porches Inn's Studio 9 that included Lever board members and representatives from some 20  accelerators, incubators and innovation centers. The event was also livestreamed.
"I know firsthand how perilous it is to be on that roller coaster ride," said Hao, reflecting on her own time as an executive with online pharmacy startup PillPack that Amazon bought for $753 million in 2018. "And amazingly, we'd pulled it off by figuring it out, talking to previous founders, talking to lots of venture folks, getting lots of advice, and we had an amazing outcome selling to Amazon."
Lever Inc. was awarded $25,000 in seed money last year by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to develop a hybrid program of "digital, remote and in-person" to connect entrepreneurs with like-minded peers and mentors.
MTC is the lead funder along with sponsorships from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. 
"These are the groups for the state that are really injecting energy and capital resources into the innovation ecosystem," Thomas said.
Membership offers portals to news, commentary, events, advice, directories, personal experiences, trends, information, sessions with experts in their fields, and resources and tools.
Hao said the launch was personal in terms of her experience in startups and private equity, and because of its location in the Berkshires, where she attended Williams College and has a home in Williamstown. 
"I love spending time here. And from being out here, I know how much takent we have here. And how interestings, exciting, creative things are happening," she said. "And as we think about our state's economic development, how can we leverage that and really accelerate and amplify that."
The secretary said the Healey-Driscoll administration is focused on how to make Massachusetts the best for citizens to start a career, live their best lives and raise their families by helping entrepreneurs large and small grow their businesses and be successful. 
"Throughout all that, we think about the three big pillars of equity, affordability and competitiveness," Hao said. "And we think about that across all of our regions, all the incredibly diverse talent we have."
She later attended a Berkshire Skills Cabinet roundtable at the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield with Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler and Workforce and Labor Secretary Lauren Jones. 
Patrick Larkin, deputy director of the MTC, noted Hao is the chair off the quasi-state agency's board and that its goals are aligned with the administration's.
"Our hope, Jeffrey, is that the MFN will help founders throughout the commonwealth to succeed more quickly, more efficiently, advancing the state's innovation economy, creating jobs and ensuring our continued competitiveness," he said, adding the chief strengths with the ecosystem has been the support organizations. "It has really been the secret sauce for our innovation economy in Massachusetts, and I think the secretary so eloquently described that in her remarks."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey said she was thrilled how the project would showcase the "small but mighty" North Adams region.
"North Adams has a long history of innovation, leading back to the 19th century," she said. "Levers work will help to ensure that innovation continues here and organic, and throughout the commonwealth."
Also speaking were state Sen. Paul Mark and state Rep. John Barrett III, who recalled how bad the economy had gotten after the closure of Sprague and its unlikely renaissance through the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the creative economy.
"This is a great day for a lot of reasons and I can't get into all the technology and what is going to be but I do eventually know there is going to be additional jobs. It's going to be in a better economy throughout the state of Massachusetts," he said. 
"We know there are limited resources. So we make sure that we use those resources effectively and put them where you're going to have greatest impact," said Mark. 
"I think this going to lead to more people taking that risk, trying to make their ideas heard and, hopefully, finding the support that they need. And at the same time what place could be better than North Adams and Northern Berkshire."
Thomas sees Founders Network as a direct extension of the work Lever has been doing since 2014.
"Our mission goals have always been about empowering innovators, to leverage markets to solve problems. And we've always operated in a way that is inclusive as possible, simply for the practical reason that entrepreneurs are everywhere," he said. "We never know where the next great idea is going to come from."

Tags: entrepreneurs,   lever,   ribbon cutting,   state officials,   

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Pedestrian On Moped Hit on Mass Ave

Staff Reports
Update on June 6, 2024 at 2:55 pm: Lieutenant Anthony Beverly released a statement indicating that officers are continuing their investigation of a "serious motorcycle accident" on Mass Ave.
Road closures are expected to last "several hours," and future updates will be communicated by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office and the Massachusetts State Police.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A portion of Mass Ave. was closed Friday after a pedestrian on a moped struck a car.
According to officers on scene, around noon, a woman on a moped struck a Honda CRV that was backing out of a driveway near the Ashton Ave intersection on Mass Ave.
The moped driver, who was heading towards North Adams, tried to go around the vehicle. As the vehicle backed out, the woman hit the left rear bumper of the car, reported police.
The woman was taken away via ambulance, reporting officers had no information on her condition.
Currently the road is closed from Protection Ave to just before Ashton Ave as officers continue their investigation.
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