IN CONTROL: Aquabotix Technology Corp. President and CEO Durval Tavares, right, with engineer Courtney LeBlanc and engineer intern Michael Montee at the company, which makes remotely operated vehicles for use underwater and under ice.
Durval Tavares’ business, launched in 2011 through the Advanced Technology & Manufacturing Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, has just experienced its first year of profitability.
Tavares, 55, is president and CEO of Aquabotix Technology Corp., based in Fall River, which makes remotely operated vehicles for use underwater and under ice. A byproduct of the center, which is an incubator, the company stayed local, keeping its research and development division in New Bedford and outsourcing manufacturing of its products to a firm in Hudson, Mass., Tavares said.
Tavares and Aquabotix are the model for the type of budding entrepreneur the center wants to attract to a new business-plan competition modeled on the popular television program “Shark Tank” and set to launch in fall or early winter.
Aquabotix “developed [its] technology in a relatively small amount of time and achieved this sustainability, and that’s the key thing,” said Louis Goodman, interim vice chancellor for research and economic development at UMass Dartmouth. “We maintain a relationship with them, so they’re an archetype for how a technology venture company would function.”
Tavares had no funding assistance when he was launching Aquabotix, and would have loved to participate in the kind of competition the university is now fostering.
“Anything that fertilizes the entrepreneurial spirit is worthwhile to do,” he said. “You just can’t give up. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and be persistent.”
In “Shark Tank,” budding entrepreneurs try to entice a panel of savvy, experienced investors to invest in their startups. Similarly, judges will award money to youths whose business plans are viable and demonstrate other key qualities of entrepreneurship, Goodman said.
“We would like to see some detail in the plan, marketing, product, sales – all the kinds of things in a first-class business plan,” Goodman said.
Goodman, who is also interim director of the center, has $50,000 – half from his office and half from the university’s Charlton College of Business to use for the entire competition, including some stipends for judges.