University News

FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series Receives MassMutual Support

Published: July 10, 2024 | Categories: All News, Business

Young Entrepreneurs Turn Ideas into Action

FinTech summer innovation fellowship participants stand with MassMutual and College of Business leadership

Left to right: Sears Merritt, Head of Enterprise Technology and Experience, MassMutual; Patrick Larkin, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative; WNE Board Chair Nicholas LaPier; WNE Trustee Elena Gervino, Senior Vice President, Travelers; Dr. Robert E. Johnson, President, Western New England University.

Western New England University (WNE) has launched its first FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series, made possible by the generous support of MassMutual. With a donation of $75,000 over three years, MassMutual is the first sponsor of the FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series, comprised of a series of events designed to connect college students and local entrepreneurs who have innovative startup ideas with the training and resources needed to bring those ideas to life. This initiative is further set to make significant contributions to the economic landscape of western Massachusetts by providing an avenue for participants to channel their academic scholarship into entrepreneurial ventures using some the latest financial technology (FinTech) and artificial intelligence (AI) ideas.

MassMutual’s Head of Enterprise Technology and Experience Sears Merritt presented a check to WNE President Dr. Robert E. Johnson during the FinTech + AI 413 Summer Incubator Fellowship (SIF), a six-week residential fellowship in which startup teams advance their FinTech ideas to a prototype phase. 

During the official check presentation on July 10, President Johnson emphasized the importance of preparing students for the future, highlighting the University’s commitment to advancing innovation and entrepreneurship and inviting other partners to join the effort. He stated, “Western New England University is committed to fostering a dynamic environment where innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive. This partnership with MassMutual empowers our students by providing them with the resources, mentorship, and practical experiences necessary to bring their FinTech ideas to life. Our mission is to equip students with the skillset and mindset necessary to excel in an ever-evolving technological landscape, ensuring they are well-prepared to contribute meaningfully to the future of the industry and our community. We look forward to working with other sponsors and partners to further build the impact of this program.”

Merritt underscored the shared vision of both institutions to drive economic growth and innovation in western Massachusetts, saying, “We’re proud to support Western New England University as they launch the 413 FinTech & AI accelerator and excited about the impact this program will have in helping students innovate and launch startups that will shape the future. This program also serves to bridge innovation across the state – from Boston to Worcester and now Springfield – and the collaboration demonstrates our commitment to contributing to a thriving ecosystem for innovation right here in western Massachusetts.”

The Mass Fintech Hub, which Merritt recently began to co-chair, was a key driver in helping launch this accelerator, as its mission is to make Massachusetts the global FinTech hub. WNE has been one of the Mass Fintech Hub’s academic partners since the inception of the organization three years ago. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative also played a key role in launching the Mass Fintech Hub, along with WNE and other leading academic institutions across Massachusetts.

Western New England University and MassMutual are longstanding partners, having previously collaborated on innovative projects that benefit the community and enhance educational opportunities. For example, they launched the Free Legal Kiosk initiative, providing accessible legal resources to underserved populations. WNE and MassMutual also spearheaded the COVID Relief Coalition, offering critical support and services during the pandemic. Additionally, their Consumer Debt Initiative (CDI) aims to educate and assist individuals in managing and overcoming financial challenges. The partnership also supports student development through internships and mentorship programs, offering invaluable real-world experience and professional networking opportunities. These initiatives reflect a shared commitment to social responsibility and community engagement.

About the FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series

The WNE FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series kicked off in April with 11 participants from area institutions including WNE, Springfield College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and The Hartford participating in the Idea Jam to share ideas for feedback with industry mentors. The Pitch Camp followed, where mentors helped the participants prepare and practice an elevator pitch of their startup idea in advance of the Elevator Pitch Contest. Judges selected five winning teams to receive the Summer Incubator Fellowship (SIF) and up to a $1,000 micro-grant to launch their startup.

About WNE’s FinTech Incubator

Western New England University’s FinTech Incubator (FTI), housed in the College of Business, is emerging as a central hub for FinTech growth in western Massachusetts. The FTI aims to provide workforce development and technical resources to promote local FinTech initiatives, fostering partnerships with enterprises to drive research and innovation in the region. This initiative is set to make significant contributions to both academic scholarship and practical applications in the fields of finance and technology.

The FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series aims not only to enhance general education about financial technology but also to elevate awareness of the regional resources and culture of entrepreneurship available beyond Boston. By showcasing student innovation and engagement, WNE and MassMutual are setting the stage for broad community and regional benefits through their collaboration.

For more information about the FinTech + AI 413 Startup Launch Series and the FinTech Incubator at WNE, visit