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Retirement plans fit for entrepreneurs

Highlights from boston.com/hive, Boston’s source for innovation news.

Sean Kevlahan is the 26-year-old chief executive of the Beverly startup Quad Technologies. He has to juggle product development, business strategy, and a social life. So it’s fair to say Kevlahan has a lot of things on his mind.

Retirement isn’t one of them. And most other entrepreneurs in his position aren’t thinking about saving for their golden years, either, he said.

“Retirement is not something that we look toward,” Kevlahan said. “We’re betting that the value we build with our startup companies is really going to seed our future. That’s what I think the mentality is.”


Kevlahan and I are the same age, and I, too, give little thought to retirement planning. The difference is that I have taken a more conventional career path — working for a well-established business — which means I at least have a company-sponsored 401(k) account that I throw a few bucks at.

So how can all you entrepreneurs avoid falling too far behind? (You know, on the off chance that your startup doesn’t grow into a billion-dollar company.)

There are a couple options, said Deborah DiVerdi Carlson, a partner at the Boston law firm Posternak Blankstein & Lund.

Sole proprietors can create one-person profit-sharing plans that let them stash away income and defer tax payments until age 70.

“The benefits of a profit-sharing plan for a single person are that it’s very cheap to set up and it’s very flexible,” Carlson said. “They could put away money one year, and the next year not put anything away. For the entrepreneur who wants to put something away on an inexpensive basis, they’ll be able to do it and not pay taxes until they withdraw the funds.”

Carlson said a profit-sharing plan has a higher annual contribution limit than an IRA — as much as $51,000 — ideal for an entrepreneur who may struggle to save for a while, then want to take advantage of a good year.


For young businesses that are adding employees, Carlson recommends a SEP-IRA, or simplified employee pension plan.

“The benefit to the entrepreneur is they can exclude employees who have not worked with the company for three years, Carlson said. “They want to incentivize employees to be loyal to the business because turnover is expensive, but the reality is a startup existence is not for everyone and there may be some turnover. So this is a way for the entrepreneur to put away money on a tax-deferred basis for himself or herself, and for those employees who have been loyal.”


A whole new way to get a grip

Empire Robotics’ “jammable gripper” screws in a light bulb.EMPIRE ROBOTICS

A Cornell-spawned startup that moved to Boston’s Innovation District last year is releasing its first product. Empire Robotics says its “jammable gripper,” priced at about $4,000, is one of the first of its kind to be sold commercially. A a kind of robotic hand, it looks and feels like a stress ball. Filled with granular material, in one mode it is squishy enough to envelop an object it’s trying to grab. When a vacuum is created inside the ball, the granules are pulled together, solidifying around the object. The design enables the gripper to pick up a wide range of objects of up to 20 pounds. Empire dubbed its product Versaball. Some of the early work on it was done in partnership with iRobot, of Bedford, and funded by DARPA, the Pentagon’s R&D arm. Empire says it has an exclusive license to a key patent filed by Cornell.


Chief technology officer John Amend said the startup has raised nearly $1 million in National Science Foundation seed funding and grants. Empire also won cash prizes at seven business plan contests.


Gold for Akamai, even before the Olympics

Akamai Technologies Inc. struck gold with a deal to provide online video streaming and related services for NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia next month.

“The Sochi Olympics mark the first time that all Winter Games competitions will be streamed live,” Akamai said. Coverage will include every medal competition, event highlights, and athlete interviews. Akamai’s technology also lets viewers use DVR functions such as pause and rewind.