The MetroHartford Alliance hosted “Impact Hartford: Innovation Today for Tomorrow” Wednesday, June 20 at the Connecticut Science Center. The sold-out event showcased new programs designed to strengthen the Hartford region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
PASSION AND ENTHUSIASM
MetroHartford Alliance President and CEO David Griggs kicked off the event by noting, “It’s a great morning to be in Hartford!”
He went on to introduce Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who noted that innovation is a topic he’s passionate about.
“Hartford has made an impact on the world with our innovation. And it continues,” he said. “We need to build an environment where entrepreneurs and innovators want to be.”
Keynote speaker Jim Loree, CEO at Stanley Black & Decker, underscored that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the MetroHartford Alliance and what it can do for our region. He spoke about why Stanley Black & Decker deliberately chose Hartford for its the STANLEY+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator.
“The Accelerator has the potential to create a robust entrepreneurial community right here in Hartford,” Jim noted. He added that a team effort is needed and encouraged the community to get involved.
Stanley Black & Decker CTO Mark Maybury, who moderated the event, asked event panelists about lessons learned from their initiatives.
Michelle Cote, Managing Director, the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI), was first to respond, saying she realized it is important to understand from the market point of view exactly what people want and then determine how to develop that capability. “[You can’t] come up with a solution right out of the box,” she emphasized.
Mark touched on the importance of being able to pivot and added that a startup pivots on average pivots seven time before getting it right.
Frank Alfano, Senior VP of Sales at Techstars, learned that entrepreneurs are everywhere, saying, “Entrepreneurs are good for the world.” Frank discussed the ways Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed. “Many of us have built companies and we’ve made all the mistakes,” he said. “We can help entrepreneurs pivot faster.”
Frank emphasized the importance of building a community in the Hartford region.
“Let’s go out and look for other entrepreneurs—you’ve got to lean in and look to help,” he said. “The thought is: Mentor the businesses and interesting things will happen.”
Sabine VanderLinden, CEO at Startupbootcamp, says by working with large companies she realized there were opportunities in InsurTech and FinTech.
“Entrepreneurs want to change the world,” she said. “It’s been amazing to work with entrepreneurs and give back what I learned—I can help them understand the industry.”
Sabine said Startupbootcamp had to invest in the city of Hartford to show this is a relevant place to launch and grow startups. She noted that after seven months in the accelerator program, four companies decided to stay in Hartford.
HARTFORD’S GREATEST STRENGTHS
Mark then asked the panelists about greatest strengths of the Hartford region.
According to Michelle, an unrecognized benefit is our region’s size. She related her experience with Innovation Places, saying, “I asked for help from community and they immediately got involved. Once you get plugged into the ecosystem here, you can access it.”
She added, “People are committed to making Hartford a powerful ecosystem. We have the ability to collaborate and work together.”
Sabine noted one of the region’s strengths is in our mentors who “give so much time and effort.” She also talked about the importance of localization and proximity. “It makes a massive impact. Being able to access expertise.”
Sabine discussed her experience engaging with university interns who worked with local startups. She explained that through their experience, the students could see what innovation means and they may be encouraged to launch their own startups in the future.
Frank praised Hartford’s strong community, educational institutions, and global companies as some of the region’s strengths. “This is the perfect environment where we can make change,” he said.
Mark then questioned the panelists about how to accelerate the Hartford region. He mentioned that foreign companies are coming to Hartford to build their future and partnerships are important to attract global companies.
According to Frank, “Entrepreneurship and startups can drive change. Once companies start to succeed the capital flocks to them.”
Sabine highlighted the importance of directing people to find the right skills and talent here in the Hartford region.
Michelle made a point of saying we undervalue ourselves and our region. “We need to talk about our strengths loudly using resources like Innovation Destination Hartford,” she said. “We need to work together and build an infrastructure that encourages collaboration.”
The Hartford region is well on its way to becoming a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation—as was evidenced by the turnout and the discussion at this morning’s event. How can others get involved?