Hartford’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge winners received awards at the end of May 2015. The SC2 Challenge, which is designed to help cities create economic development plans, is a critical part of the Obama Administration’s SC2 Initiative. The awards were funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The Entrepreneurship Foundation received a third place, $75,000 award for its proposal that is designed to help Hartford residents open new businesses, which will create new jobs and economic and community growth.
Mike Roer, President of the Entrepreneurship Foundation, spoke with Innovation Destination: Hartford about the non-profit organization and its plans to accelerate Hartford’s economic development.
IDH: Tell us a little about yourself.
ROER: I’m a parallel entrepreneur of 20 current and previous for-profit and non-profit entities. I’m also an author and university lecturer.
IDH: How did you get the idea for your SC2 Challenge proposal?
ROER: We perceived serious voids in the support continuum for economic development through new venture creation. The premise of SC2 was economic development through entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurship Foundation wondered: What are all the ingredients an ecosystem needs to accomplish that? We looked at what’s out there now and what’s missing in that continuum.
The Entrepreneurship Foundation’s Business Plan Competition is a good example. We do a great job of teaching entrepreneurship to students and then they’re halfway across that bridge and realize it ends halfway across the river. There are gaps. A lot of them are following through after some of the entrepreneurial programs, whether it’s a Startup Weekend, a 15-week course or a 12-week accelerator. One the program is over, what’s next? There are just too many bridges to nowhere. And to get from A to B there are gaps in the process.
The Entrepreneurship Foundation wants us to fill in those gaps and connect and work with existing organizations that are each doing a great job providing some of the critical ingredients. No one provides them all, even us. We want to help connect them together and fill in the missing pieces.
IDH: What types of programs and resources does the Entrepreneurship Foundation provide?
ROER: We run business plan competitions, administer associations of university professors, develop interdisciplinary entrepreneurship curriculum, advise business incubators, mentor entrepreneurs, and act as a catalyst to increase the supply of talent—especially in the computer sciences—necessary to the establishment and growth of new ventures.
IDH: How does the Entrepreneurship Foundation plan to use the SC2 Challenge award money?
ROER: We will focus these one-time resources on pilot programs—in collaboration with other award recipients and organizations—in the support of early-stage ventures.
IDH: What is the best thing about living in Connecticut?
ROER: The quality of life. We in the Nutmeg state do not promote what we take for granted: four seasons, the best educational system in the world, sailing on the Connecticut sound, et al. Instead of trying to sell low taxes, state-of-the-art transportation, world-class ports and low-energy costs—none of which we have—we should simply advise CEOs that Connecticut is the greatest place to live and raise a family. You get what you pay for.
IDH: Any advice for those who are starting out?
ROER: Don’t bet your life savings on the first roll of the die.