Entrepreneurs like being around other entrepreneurs. At least, that’s the idea behind the creation of four startup hubs that opened at the end of last month.
“We’ve learned that entrepreneurs want to be in places with the best networks – be they technical, financial or social – which enable them to explore and test great ideas and to find the partners, attract the investment, and connect with the customers they need to grow,” Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a press release last month.
That’s why the state’s quasi-public agency, Connecticut Innovations, is investing $5 million per year in the creation of four hubs in Storrs, New Haven, Hartford, and Stamford. The hubs will act as incubators for entrepreneurs with an idea they don’t quite know how to turn into a business.
Each hub helps entrepreneurs connect with the right services and programs to help them gain a competitive advantage, and offers a variety of programs operated in coordination but separately.
Tim Coates is the managing director of the Connecticut Innovation Ecosystem, a public-private partnership, that oversees the hubs.
The four hubs are designed to be self-supportive after five years, Coates said. The idea is to improve the communication skills of fellow entrepreneurs seeking funding for their start-up.
“Each hub will work with startups, providing them with mentoring and support throughout the beginning stages of the business,” Coates said.
Entrepreneurs will be able to use these hubs for rented office space, but even more importantly, these hubs can serve as a springboard for ideas.
Timothy “Scott” Case, CEO of Startup America Partnership and the founding chief technology officer of Priceline.com, said last October that every new job that’s been created in the last 30 years has been created by a company that was less than five years old.
“It’s not just these young companies, but it’s the entrepreneurs that lead them,” Case said explaining the energy behind these startup businesses.
Chris Levesque, the program manager for the eastern Connecticut hub in Storrs, said each hub will offer a 10-12 week business accelerator program.
“This is a significant undertaking that takes advantage of creative individuals, involves creative sciences, and focuses on bringing entrepreneurs together,” Levesque said.
The accelerator program strips away some of the distractions an entrepreneur might face, enabling the owner to deal with mentoring and advice. It involves “getting your program ready for equity and financing,” according to Levesque.
Levesque, who helped found the bio-tech company Affinimark, says that the main thing investors and bankers will look for in an entrepreneur is persistence, an ability to analyze the business plan and market, as well as energy and confidence.
“Small businesses usually hit their stride around the third or fourth year, so it is really important to investors to see how business is handled the first year,” Levesque said.
Just ask John Fitzpatrick, co-founder of Applivate, the company that produced ShugaTrak. Fitzpatrick’s idea won $1,500 from Startup Weekend 2011, and he is hoping to take part in the accelerator program next spring.
According to Fitzpatrick, ShugaTrek is based on the concept of using a Bluetooth adapter to help diabetics measure their blood sugar levels.
“The Bluetooth adapter gets a reading from the blood glucose meter and sends it to the person’s phone application, saves it online, and our service sends out texts and emails to recipients,” Fitzpatrick said.
Hannah Brencher, owner of moreloveletters.com, said she got her motivation while dealing with depression, and now has 7,000 members worldwide in almost a year.
Brencher credits The Grove in New Haven with helping her to advance her company through her conversations with other entrepreneurs. Brencher’s company mails a bundle of handwritten love letters to a person in need.
“The Grove has helped me get mentored and make connections,” Brencher said.
The Grove is the location of the New Haven hub.