RIT incubator’s new graduates mean new ideas, new jobs

RIT incubator’s new graduates mean new ideas, new jobs

As a sales representative for artificial knee joints, Robert Turbett spent more than 20 years observing operations. He couldn’t help noticing the lengthy and cumbersome preparations surgical staff made unwrapping trays of sterilized instruments.

The procedure could involve three people to unwrap, inspect and discard sterile wrappings around each tray, taking as much as 20 minutes to set up before surgeons could begin their work.

Turbett started a company to create a solution to that problem and this week Turbett Surgical was one of four companies graduating from Venture Creations, the business incubator at Rochester Institute of Technology. The company has developed a multi-tray container for surgical instruments that is sterilized all at once and eliminates the need for individually wrapped trays.

”Our record time for setting up for a total knee replacement was 49 seconds,” Turbett said. With operating rooms costing an average of $100 a minute, a faster set-up of surgical equipment can save time and money—about 60 to 75 minutes a day, which is enough to allow an additional surgery to be performed, he said.

Promoting such advances, and the jobs created to spread them, are some reasons Venture Creations exists. In 14 years, 38 companies have graduated. Nine were acquired, and 28 of the remaining 29 still exist, with all but one still contributing to the Rochester-area economy. With the newest crop of graduates, 499 jobs have been created, said Ryne Raffaele, vice president for research and associate provost at RIT.

Four companies graduated Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean the incubator is kicking them out of the nest, said Incubator Director Richard Notargiacomo. The companies tend to move off campus once their staff has grown so much that they need new space, or if they need special facilities, he said.

The other new graduates are:

  • Token, creator of a two-factor identity authentication technology housed in a ring you wear on your finger that replaces passwords, codes and cards.
  • Impact Earth, a zero-waste solutions company that handles recycling at more than 300 events a year, Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, and Brighton Central School District.
  • Optel, a one-stop service company that guides medical device creators on design, engineering and compliance with regulations.

Typically spending about three years in the incubator, each company receives business coaching and may also obtain space on campus. There are other intangibles, such as encouragement and connections.

“It’s great to be surrounded by people who are knowledgeable, who you can go to for answers.” Turbett said.

Venture Creations graduation for Turbett Surgical
Venture Creations graduation for Turbett Surgical. Photo by Elizabeth Lamark/RIT Photography

The graduation featured a short keynote address by Marty Strenczewilk, founder, president and CEO of Splyce, an electronic-sports franchise. Splyce launched from Venture Creations in 2016 and in 2017 signed a deal with sports entertainment conglomerate Delaware North, to add Splyce’s e-sports teams to the group’s traditional sports teams, such as the Boston Bruins.

“Without the help of Venture Creations, there would be no Splyce,” said Strenczewilk. He provided a list of tips for new graduates that included his theory that hard work is worth more than great ideas, and “no one sells your product better than you.”