Guv Picks Grove To Help “Reboot” CT

Melissa Bailey PhotoGov. Dannel P. Malloy popped into one of New Haven’s hotbeds of innovation Thursday to announce that he’s helping it more than double in size—and become part of a new turbo-charged statewide network of startup centers.

The hotbed is a coworking space called The Grove at 71 Orange St. in downtown’s Ninth Square. Officials shut down the street Thursday afternoon as a crowd gathered to hear Malloy make a major announcement: The state is pouring $5 million over five years into four startup “hubs”—at the Grove and in Stamford, Hartford and Storrs—to build a newly dubbed “Innovation Ecosystem.”

The Grove will get $100,000 in state money this year to pay for new training programs and expansion into a second 5,000 square-foot space at 95 Orange St., which has a facade above the Dunkin’ Donuts on Chapel Street (pictured), according to Grove co-founder Slate Ballard.

The news met a warm welcome at the Grove’s 4,000 square-foot coworking space on Orange Street.

“The timing is perfect for us,” said John Fitzpatrick (pictured), one of the Grove regulars who were busy at work before the crowds descended.

Fitzpatrick and two partners are using the Grove as a launching pad for a new business that aims to help moms and dads keep track of their children’s diabetes. Kids with diabetes frequently prick a finger and check their blood sugar level with a blood glucose meter (pictured).

Fitzpatrick’s company, Applivate, LLC, created a mobile app called ShugaTrak that automatically sends those results to the kid’s parents via text or email. The company was hatched at The Grove’s Startup Weekend in November 2011. Fitzpatrick, a West River block watch organizer with a PhD in biology, took part in an 11-week training program for startups run by the quasi-public agency CT Innovations. In May, he decided to quit his job at Yale to devote his time to the new company.

Applivate is currently testing versions of the app with a half-dozen “early users,” he said. The company uses The Grove and CTech, an incubator space in Science Park, as makeshift headquarters.

Malloy’s announcement Thursday opens up several new doors to startups like Fitzpatrick’s. The state is investing in online software that will virtually link the four innovation hubs together, creating a new “innovation ecosystem” that will connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need, such as an accountant, a lawyer, a graphic designer, office space, or an investor.

Fitzpatrick said that may prove helpful as his company moves towards its next phase. Applivate is exploring partnerships with institutions and has received interest from investors, he said.

“We’re very close to launching the product,” he said. “We may start growing and hiring soon.”

As part of the new initiative, startups like Applivate will be able to apply for $5,000 in state-funded vouchers that they can use, through the online database, to pay for a graphic designer or any other business-related cost.

New Haven’s hub will be run out of The Grove in conjunction with New Haven’s quasi-public Economic Development Corporation.

The goal is to help both startups and up-and-coming small businesses grow, keeping jobs in the state, said Malloy, addressing a crowd of business and political leaders from a stage outside The Grove.

Connecticut endured 22 years with no net job growth, Malloy said. “We had no excuse—except that we were ignoring our weaknesses, we were ignoring our strengths, and letting other people eat our lunch.”

Malloy said in the absence of the state playing its proper role in supporting startups, The Grove has been filling that role for the past two years, enabling the state to “hang on” to jobs that might have otherwise left the state.

Tim Shannon, a venture capitalist with Canaan Partners, admitted from the stage that his firm invests less than 5 percent of its money in Connecticut companies. That’s because the state had a “deficiency,” or at least a perceived deficiency, in helping companies get off the ground.

Shannon said he just got off a plane Thursday morning from California, where he was talking to startups he’s involved with in Silicon Valley. He said he looks forward to “a fabulous reboot” of the state’s innovation system so he can have those conversations in Connecticut.

Before the speeches, Malloy popped inside to check out The Grove. He stopped inside the office of Ioannis, a self-made New Haven business man who designs products for the music industry. He founded his company, Vivid Images Creative, along with his brother, George Vasilopoulos, in the 1990s. He opened a new book about Led Zeppelin to show off some of his work.

Ioannis, who goes by only one name, said he discovered The Grove through his brother.

“George checked it out,” he said, “and found it to be a great, thriving place.”

The observation was true, said The Grove’s Slate Ballard: Two years after its founding as the first Project Storefronts experiment, the coworking facility is going strong.

“We’re approaching sustainability within a year,” Ballard said.

The state grant will allow The Grove to launch new training programs, including a Bioscience Clubhouse, a CEO Boot Camp, and a digital production company.

The hub should expand to its second location as soon as December, Ballard said.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 25, 2012  9:07pm

Guv Picks Grove To Help “Reboot” CT

How about a reboot to get rid of the career politicians in the pictures.

posted by: anonymous on October 26, 2012  9:10am

Sounds like we need priorities and timelines. 

For example, this $5 million would have more than covered the $30,000 city match that our Board of Aldermen “Leadership” at the last minute decided not to pony up to match Fed/State funding to develop a streetcar and/or improved bus system in New Haven. 

That $30,000 would have laid the groundwork for around 1,500 good union jobs, many of which would have gone to New Haven residents.  New Haven residents had overwhelmingly testified in favor of it.

Does anyone know how good many union jobs for New Haven residents will be created by this $5 million investment in “startup ecosystems”?

If our State & City Muckamucks think that we need to invest in startup companies so that we can pay for transit in the future, then the Muckamucks need to consider this—trying to “sell” a city to a startup company or small business, when there is no good transit or airport, is like trying to sell a car with no tires.  It simply does not work. 

New Haven will continue to bleed good jobs until we get a Board of Aldermen “Leadership” that has some common sense.

posted by: davecoon on October 26, 2012  9:35am

Looking at the photos, is Roland Lamar now considered a ‘muckamuck’ by the NHI?

posted by: amay47 on October 26, 2012  12:53pm

Is that Chris Donovan in the photo? Is he still considered to be a high muckety-muck (my termn of preference). As for Roland Lemar, I am afraid, thanks to redistricting, his days of muckety-mucking might soon (Nov. 6) be over, unfortunately.  I hope I am wrong, but that seems to be the prevailing wisdom. He is a bright guy, however, and I am sure he will end up on his feet.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on October 26, 2012  12:54pm

No matter what gets funding, people are going to complain about it.  “Well, X and Y could’ve used the funding more badly.”

Okay, sure, but the fact is, Connecticut needs a multi-facted approach to economic development, and earmarking a fairly small sum to encourage entrepreneurs to stay in Connecticut, rather than leave for New York or Silicon Valley, hardly seems like a wasteful policy to me.

posted by: Stephen Harris on October 26, 2012  1:55pm

I aways thought the term was Mucky-Muck.

posted by: PH on October 26, 2012  2:25pm

I thought Lemar was running unopposed in the 96th.  That should give him plenty of time to join Looney, Donovan and Holder-Winfield in the muckamuck/muckety-muck/mucky-muck category.,_2012#District_96

Regardless, glad to see New Haven innovators being supported.

posted by: amay47 on October 26, 2012  5:11pm

Correction.  Roland is indeed running unopposed. Mea culpa. So he will be mucky-mucking more in the future.

posted by: robn on October 27, 2012  12:02am

Muckmuck is more authentic but mucketymuck is clearly more ;  not to mention more newsie. NHI, Please file this in the same place reminding Tom to stop using “an” before “historic” when he isn’t speech writing.