Nerac President Kevin Bouley provided an update about entrepreneurial and innovative activities in the northeastern part of Connecticut since his last interview with Innovation Destination Hartford in September 2015.
NERAC BECOMES A CTNEXT PARTNER
Given the role I play fostering entrepreneurial and innovative activities—techpreneurship—particularly at the University of Connecticut, I was encouraged to submit an application to become a CTNext partner.
CTNext reviewed the application favorably, and has recognized Nerac as a CTNext partner. The value is in an expansion of the Nerac Venture Incubator serving the northeast region of Connecticut, with an emphasis on UConn. This enables increased levels of engagement, support, mentoring, and assistance for the community of tech startups.
Another focus of my efforts has been enhancing the XCellR8 programming—in both reach and frequency. The CTNext Partnership allows us to bring in the assistance of Dr. Ripi Singh, President and Innovator of Plus4pi, with Inspiring Next.
It was important that we expand the XCellR8 venue from being physically tied to the Nerac building and evaluate whether the XCellR8 sessions could be equally effective if held on campus, at the Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford, or at the Innovation Partnership Building on campus.
In November 2017, the very first XCellR8 session was held at the NextGen Residence Hall (now the Peter J. Werth Residential Tower) on the UConn Storrs campus. The location is of significance, because it houses students who have a specific interest in innovation-related activities and are involved in one of eight Living & Learning Communities:
- Engineering House
- Eurotech House
- Innovation House
- Honors to Opportunities (H2O) House
- Public Health House
- ScHOLA2RS House (Scholastic House of Leaders in Support of African American Researchers & Scholars)
- WiMSE (Women in Math, Science, & Engineering)
By bringing XCellR8 to UConn, we can more readily interact with the learning communities. And, depending upon the nature of the presentation or the subject matter being covered at that session, the learning communities may have an interest in sponsoring or becoming more directly engaged in that particular XCellR8 session.
The hope is that exposing freshman and sophomores to this kind of programming will stimulate their interests in any number of the different entrepreneur- and innovation-related programming currently taking place at UConn and give them an opportunity to think proactively about their own ideas.
These students might submit for an idea grant. They might apply to become part of Accelerate UConn or the National Science Foundation Core program. They might apply to the Summer Fellowship program at the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI). They might apply to Innovation Quest (IQ). There are many opportunities for them to become involved.
The strong brand and reputation of XCellR8 is drawing interest from a number of different areas. We have now startups from the UConn Technology Incubation Program (TIP) and reSET that are being referred to XCellR8 for further advancement, refinement, and development.
Companies participating in formal programs at UConn—whether it’s the Wolff New Venture Competition, the IQ Competition, or HackUConn—are now aware of XCellR8 as a vehicle that can be used to prepare and polish presentations prior to the competition.
The facilitation of these discussions—with companies very early in their development and in the subsequent stages of development and growth—has proved to be highly effective. So, the elevated skillset within the XcellR8 network is now helping a whole host of entrepreneurs and their ventures advance from one stage to next, and to the next, and to the next. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re already working on a program schedule for fall 2018 and spring 2019.
Other partners are beginning to emerge from within our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Arrow Electronics, a large multinational electronics equipment provider out of Wallingford, has been a stalwart supporter of XCellR8 for many years. Arrow, which looks to advance technology-based ventures, has a partnership agreement with Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site for early-stage innovations in tech and design.
Arrow is a conduit through which ventures may be qualified to submit to Indiegogo. It’s in Arrow’s best interests, because the company can build value in the customer supply chain.
It’s very interesting to look at Arrow as a prospective early-stage venture investor—a super angel—for these types of emerging companies.
Exciting developments are also taking place in Stamford with UConn’s Stamford campus now having on-campus housing. The number of students interested in attending UConn at the Stamford campus has mushroomed, giving credence to the idea that a FinTech lab could thrive there.
I see significant and impactful connections being made here in Connecticut—Upward Hartford, the Innovation Place Hartford/East Hartford, the build out of the University of Connecticut Graduate Business Learning Center in downtown Hartford, the growing InsurTech and FinTech activity. Pieces are now emerging in the Connecticut landscape that provide an increasing level of early-venture development and innovation-supported techpreneurship in a very positive way.
Learn more about Kevin Bouley and Nerac
READ: Entrepreneur at Heart Creates Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Connecticut
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