The Engine selects its first seven startups to fund

Incubator seeks to make Boston an epicenter of breakthrough technology

The Engine, an incubator and science and technology start-up accelerator founded last year by MIT, released Tuesday the names of the first seven companies it will invest in. The startups work in a broad range of fields, from biotechnology to renewable energy.

The Tech participated in a press conference call with Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner of the Engine, and Israel Ruiz, MIT’s Executive Vice President and Treasurer, and chair of The Engine’s Board of Directors.

During the call, Rae explained that The Engine was born when MIT recognized that some of the “most important inventions were getting stuck in the lab because they were underserved by the current venture capital market.”

The Engine thus provides a path for these “tough tech” inventions to commercialize and reach the public.

According to The Engine’s mission as stated on its website, it works “to move hard tech from the lab into the light.”

“These companies need the [kind of] patience that MIT has shown since its founding,” Ruiz said.

The Engine defines “tough tech” as breakthrough technology that involves the physical world and has implications that reach across many diverse fields, such as robotics, biology, and artificial intelligence. These types of inventions often need a much longer time frame to market and require highly specialized equipment — conditions that prevent these companies benefitting from the current venture capital structure.

The Engine attempts to solve these problems through its four main components: a closed, long-term capital investment fund of $200 million; the Engine Room, a space which has highly specialized equipment that can be rented and shared among the companies; a mixture of ready-to-go lab and office space; and the Engine Network, a group of experts, alumni, and 14 corporate partners who serve as a support system for the founders in numerous different ways, including acting as pilot customers and confidants to the founders.

The seven “tough tech” start-ups chosen by The Engine include Analytical Space, which enables delivery of high-speed data from space to improve tasks like city planning and climate monitoring, and Kytopen, which developed technology that “modifies microorganisms 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art methods.”

In order to be considered to be a part of The Engine, the companies have to be in tough tech space and have “incredible teams” who “have to want to be entrepreneurs,” Rae said. While these companies do not have to be from MIT, they have to be based in the Boston area, since The Engine seeks to make Boston an epicenter in the “tough tech” field.

Rae told The Tech during the call that these start-ups can be placed into three stages based on their individual timelines. Two of the seven companies are in the “just out of the lab” stage, and receive smaller dollars and focus on trying to cross important milestones. Four of the companies are in the “company formation” stage, and thus have well thought out plans with fully formed teams. One of the companies is in the “company building stage,” and so already has early customers and is beginning to generate revenue.

These seven founding startups were present at an event on Tuesday to commemorate the opening of The Engine’s new headquarters at 501 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA.

The full list and descriptions of the chosen start-ups are available on the MIT News site.