Homegrown Tech Company Expands

Jon Greenberg Photo In 2011, six General Electrics employees left their jobs to found Grey Wall, a software company based in New Haven that digitizes and streamlines business operations and emergency plans. Now, a year after GE fled Connecticut, Grey Wall is doubling down on New Haven.

Mayor Toni Harp Thursday joined Grey Wall’s co-founders, employees and members of the city’s economic development department for the grand opening of Grey Wall’s new office on the 14th floor of the 195 Church St. Key Bank tower. The roomy location is fit with two conference rooms, corner offices and ample space for the company’s 40 employees. The company was previously headquartered at a smaller space downtown.

The suite is the former home of the quasi-public Economic Development Corporation, which has moved to Long Wharf. So a space formerly used to promote new and growing businesses in New Haven is now occupied by an expanding homegrown business.

City Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson, who spoke before the ribbon-cutting, said he sees companies like Grey Wall as the future of small business in New Haven.

“What New Haven is becoming known for is using technology to transform and change industries,” Nemerson said.

“You’re a part of that,” he added, nodding to co-founder Sukh Grewal. “We want 20 more of you.”

Rapid Rise

Progress has come quickly for the tech firm. The company has expanded from six to 40 employees over six years and has landed several large clients both in and out of state, including Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, Yale, the California State University system and the Texas Department of Transportation. Co-founder Nathaniel Ellis said financial institutions and other private companies also use the platform. Twenty-five of the employees work out of New Haven; the company has opened other offices across the country and in India.

Grewal and his wife Paula Kavathas came to New Haven in 1986, relocating from Palo Alto, where he worked for GE. Kavathas was recruited from Stanford to join the Yale Medical School faculty in the Departments of Laboratory Medicine and Immunobiology. The couple lives in Westville.

Having learned at GE how people and teams do actual work, Grewal developed “process management” software to make that more logical and efficient, and teamed up with partners to launch the company to sell it.

The state helped the company launch with a $350,000 loan from Connecticut Innovations (CI) and a $100,000 grant. But the biggest help off the ground, according to Grewal, was the landing of the first client: the city of New Haven. Grey Wall manages the city’s emergency response systems. It also organizes records for the mayor’s Youth Stat program, which protects at-risk youth in the city from violence, and helps the city respond to emergencies involving young people in the program.

“I really think the work we’ve done here has saved lives in our city and can save lives across the country,” Harp said.

Grewal thanked the mayor and the city for supporting his company from the start.

The company offers one product, a platform called Veoci that brings together communications, data-storage and emergency-response plans in one place.

Before New Haven bought Veoci to manage communications, Grewal recalled, officials dealing with major storms would gather in the Emergency Operations Center below 200 Orange St. and yell at each other. We provided them with a comprehensive system, which allowed the information coming in to be logged and visible.”

The next improvement Veoci led to was in the 911 emergency system. When a 911 call comes in, it’s actually switched to a different number, he explained. And “someone used to take it [the problem or issue] down on piece of paper. We put all that in the computer, not only which tree fell but where, and visible on Google maps. They could now see duplications” of people calling about, say, the same tree. “Officials could see [information] in real time.”

At the end of Hurricane Sandy, therefore, Grewal said, “the mayor could announce 892 trees had fallen, because it was there on the map”

He recalled that he was in the EOC during Sandy and saw a tree fall on Knollwood Road, “down at the end of our [own] block.” He noted how under Veoci the city could dispatch crews to attend to a cluster of problems at once rather than send them less efficiently “here and there.”

Through VEOCI, each child being monitored by Youth Stat has a dedicated section of his or her own that only a number of authorized people can access, Grewal explained. In the past, if something changes in the kid’s life, an appointment or an achievement, the authorized people had to email each other with the news. Now you just enter it in the site and everyone involved with that child sees it right away.

That results not only in “efficiency but accountability,” Grewal said, because everyone can see who’s tasked with a job or making a call.

The next community-minded use of the software will address the systems engaged in looking at prisoner recidivism, he said.

Grewal noted at the event that the state hasn’t followed up its original investment with contracts.

“We have 35 airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth, among the top five, but we don’t have Bradley,” he said. “We have 30 universities including MIT and Virginia Tech, but not UConn. We are doing emergency operations work [all over] but not with the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. We’d love to have them in our family. The state needs to do a lot more supporting their companies employing people here.”

Veoci, Up Close

Thomas MacMilan Photo After Thursday’s ribbon-cutting, Ellis gave the Independent a private demonstration of Veoci in action.

He pulled up a mock version of the platform that could be used by a city government. He demonstrated the platform’s robust group messaging function, which allows people across department to communicate quickly and efficiently.

Ellis then opened a drop-down menu of dozens of different emergency situations that could arise in a city, including “Hurricane” and “Earthquake.” He explained that clicking on a tab brings up a step-by-step plan describing exactly what to do in that situation at every point in the response process. Users input these plans into the system before emergencies arise, so that when they do, all the information they need is a click away and is located in the same place as messaging and data-storage.

“Basically, the platform helps you get all your ducks in a row,” Ellis said. “Imagine how much time is wasted at the beginning of an incident; we take care of that.”

Ellis said the platform is designed so that plans can include reminders, mass messages and calls. He clicked a button within the “Hurricane” tab, and seconds later his phone began ringing. “We are activating the city’s hurricane plan,” a robotic voice spoke from the other end of the line.

The city used Veoci to respond to Hurricane Sandy.

Ellis said one of Veoci’s best features is its flexibility. The platform is designed to be easily customizable and users are able to input their own files and plans into the platform. Ellis said this allows the platform to be adapted to a variety of fields and sectors, which is reflected in the diverse group of public and private organizations that use the platform.

The company also has developed a mobile Veoci app.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 3, 2017  4:25pm

Be careful what you ask for.Like I said New Haven is in the second stage of

The Tech Industry Is Stripping San Francisco of Its Culture, and Your City Could Be Next.


So flush has the Bay Area become with tech money and young transplants chasing it that the six square miles of San Francisco, once a haven for diversity and freedom of expression, have been taken over by developers. The city’s once-vibrant culture has been paved over to cater to the sleek, homogenized tastes (and budgets) of a single demographic.

http://www.newsweek.com/san-francisco-tech-industry-gentrification-documentary-378628

How Tech Companies Are Driving Gentrification In Pittsburgh

Google, Uber and Amazon have been good to Pittsburgh, but have pushed black residents out of their homes.

No city is safe. The gentrification of cities like New York and San Francisco is well documented. Big companies come in, start handing out nice salaries, landlords realize they can charge more than they once did, and so they do.According to Marketplace, the phenomenon has come now come to Pittsburgh. Once America’s steel town, the city is now a hub for Google, Amazon and Uber.Instead, Sims said, rents kept — and keep — increasing. “You’re talking, like, $1,000, $2,000 and up for a one bedroom,” Sims lamented. “Who’s that affordable for? Definitely not the people who lived here. And not too many people that I know of.”

https://blavity.com/how-tech-companies-are-driving-gentrification-in-pittsburgh

The people better start fighting for this.

Eviction 2.0
https://youtu.be/D4R1TI4akQ4

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 3, 2017  5:50pm

Threefifths: Why worry about the tech sector when we have Yale and YNHH?

posted by: LookOut on August 3, 2017  8:34pm

Threefifths:  Don’t worry, you can always move to Bridgeport.  They won’t be trading blight for success any time soon.  As for those of that want to move forward, expanding businesses are a great sign.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on August 3, 2017  10:00pm

3/5ths. you have repeatedly said that (1) gentrification is happening all across New Haven and (2) you will move as soon as you find a “sucker” to buy your property. If (1) is true, why hasn’t someone offered you a fair price for your property?

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on August 4, 2017  5:55am

I think that it may be time to let 3/5ths to his own designs.  When someone does not conform himself to the dictates of reason and justice after so many attempts by the community to help him it is the community who must stop giving him the power of a forum because that is the only influence he has.  If words do not conform to reality, then the words should be held of no account.  After so many attempts to respectfully help him see reason, I am commending him to the grace of God.  That is unless he wants to honestly try the challenging pursuit of dialogue without perpetually quoting outside sources with very little original input from himself.

posted by: robn on August 4, 2017  6:26am

KMCCARTHY FTW!

posted by: Peter99 on August 4, 2017  7:02am

Gentrification equals safe, clean and decent neighborhoods to raise families in. Crime infested neighborhoods where people are warehoused should be razed and rebuilt. You do not give people credit for adapting and overcoming 3/5’s. Your tunnel vision of the future and desire to live in the past do not serve you well. Nothing ever stays the same. You either evolve and adapt, or you become extinct.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on August 4, 2017  7:58am

Best. Comment. Ever. Thank you, LookOut. Hartford is running a close second to Bridgeport.

posted by: LookOut on August 3, 2017 8:34pm

Threefifths:  Don’t worry, you can always move to Bridgeport.  They won’t be trading blight for success any time soon.  As for those of that want to move forward, expanding businesses are a great sign.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  8:20am

posted by: LookOut on August 3, 2017 8:34pm

Threefifths:  Don’t worry, you can always move to Bridgeport.  They won’t be trading blight for success any time soon.  As for those of that want to move forward, expanding businesses are a great sign.

Have you been to Bridgeport? Go to Bijou Square.The vampires have already put 84 luxury apartments and more to come..Rents starting at 2,000 a month.You talk about blight.Who made the blight .You got the right name look out.Keep looking out.More to come..

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  8:24am

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on August 3, 2017 10:00pm

3/5ths. you have repeatedly said that (1) gentrification is happening all across New Haven and (2) you will move as soon as you find a “sucker” to buy your property. If (1) is true, why hasn’t someone offered you a fair price for your property?

Who wants to move to conn which is the second most expensive state to live in the country. A lot of people in this state are trying to find suckers to buy there houses.So your point.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  8:27am

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on August 4, 2017 5:55am

That is unless he wants to honestly try the challenging pursuit of dialogue without perpetually quoting outside sources with very little original input from himself.

You must not read what I write.I do have original input. Outside or not the sources I use show the same thing here.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  8:52am

posted by: Peter99 on August 4, 2017 7:02am

Gentrification equals safe, clean and decent neighborhoods to raise families.

Gentrification makes it safer for whom?In fact study shows.on the surface, gentrification may outwardly reduce crime, yet it also frequently stimulates crime in a major way. Urban homesteading may unleash burglary, break-ins, stick ups and even murders especially prior to an area’s full gentrification.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on August 4, 2017 7:58am

Best. Comment. Ever. Thank you, LookOut. Hartford is running a close second to Bridgeport.

You are right about that.Second to having the gentrification vampires coming.

posted by: robn on August 4, 2017  10:21am

3/5

So your argument was “let poor people remain in decrepit housing forever with no change” amended to “let poor people remain where they at the same low rent by forcing either private landowners or taxpayers to improve property with no compensation” and now you’re amending it to, “prevent neighborhood improvement by homesteading because long time residents will break and enter.”? really?

posted by: alycia on August 4, 2017  10:49am

Congratulations to Grey Wall!

posted by: westville man on August 4, 2017  11:41am

I don’t want to speak for 3/5ths but my understanding of his posts are that there is a “planned obsolescence”  or a dereliction of duties by both the government and private parties to let these neighborhoods go downhill, making them ripe for reinvestment and kicking out those that live there.

In essence,  if the tenants are keeping up with their rent obligation and the LLs and municipal governments aren’t, in the end the tenants get screwed by this gentrification process.

Those critical of him are selecting the time frame when the properties are blighted- no one wants that. But he is focusing on the time before that when they were not and folks moved in to decent housing and neighborhoods.

And while I hesitate to say it- it must be said:  race plays a part in it.

posted by: robn on August 4, 2017  11:53am

WVM,

I don’t disagree with what you wrote. Can we both agree that inaction via xenophobia is not an option?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 4, 2017  12:52pm

@Robn: in defense of Three-Fifths, your statement omits the reality that many investors/landlords do NOT re-invest in their properties but milk them for every cent and leave the poor with few options. LCI has not proven adept at changing this. A return to the old Building Dept. inspections would be cheaper (less bureaucracy to support) and more accountable.
    Gentrification is more than adding a Starbucks and $6.00 coffee to the neighborhood. It is equally about displacing the people and their connections that sometimes go back for generations.
    New Haven brutally demolished and displaced the homes and businesses where Route 34 and its newly built and disconnected buildings now stand. The photos at the Jewish Community Center tell the stories of the people and mix of cultures that were lost forever.
    Urban renewal has mistaken buildings in need of improvement for people in need of being gone.
    Poor or struggling does not mean people have nothing to contribute. Some of the most generous people are those who struggle; the wealthy, by contrast, give relatively little as a percentage of their wealth.
    Good development would not displace people, but would improve their housing, repair their schools, maintain their parks and open space and add to the quality of their lives. Vision, more than money, could do that.
    There is a balance that can be achieved, but not when the City is desperate for every permit dollar of desperate to increase the tax base at any cost.
    Three-Fifths sometimes just adds his “gentrification vampires” warning whether it appears to fit or not, but generally I agree with his warning and will until I see a concern to protect the people who are already here and whose presence is important to the vital diversity in place.

posted by: westville man on August 4, 2017  1:03pm

Robn-  yes we can,  but racism trumps general xenophobia in the US.

posted by: westville man on August 4, 2017  1:06pm

BTW,  Beautiful photo a a diverse group to lead the story.  Better than most….

posted by: Esbey on August 4, 2017  1:24pm

This thread got highjacked by the usual gentrification debate, but that is not what the story is about. 

Speaking of anti-zenophobia, can we celebrate our African American mayor honoring a Sikh entrepreneur who is bringing jobs and vitality to our city?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  4:04pm

posted by: westville man on August 4, 2017 11:41am

I don’t want to speak for 3/5ths but my understanding of his posts are that there is a “planned obsolescence”  or a dereliction of duties by both the government and private parties to let these neighborhoods go downhill, making them ripe for reinvestment and kicking out those that live there.

You can speak for me anytime. You are correct. My point Is that there is a “planned obsolescence”  or a dereliction of duties by both the government and private parties to let these neighborhoods go downhill, making them ripe for reinvestment and kicking out those that live there. All on has to do is look across this country and you will see it.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 4, 2017 12:52pm

Three-Fifths sometimes just adds his “gentrification vampires” warning whether it appears to fit or not, but generally I agree with his warning and will until I see a concern to protect the people who are already here and whose presence is important to the vital diversity in place.

Home Run.You took the words with you post out of my mouth. In fact I will add this Gentrification Also eliminates the longtime tenants, usually at the hands of greedy, unscrupulous landlords and their friends in City Hall.The rise in bad neighborhoods isn’t surprising if you look behind the curtain to the outcomes of those who are forced to move because they have been priced out of their property or have had their rental property sold out from under them.Just look at what Happen to the people of Chruch Street South.Most of them had to move out of state.

@ROBIN You think Poor.people don’t care about their neighborhoods?

posted by: robn on August 4, 2017  4:47pm

3/5,

My view of Newhallville is that a lot of hard working blue collar homeowners there have tried really hard to take care of their houses but there are unfortunately, too many absentee landlords who have caused neglect through neglect (which I wouldn’t call benign either). I’ll bet many of those homeowners would welcome homesteaders buying and fixing houses, regardless of whether you think of their socioeconomic status or race. On that subject BTW, your repeated use of “gentrification vampires” or “hipsters” appears to be a dog whistle saying “young white middle class people” (who have every right to buy houses that are for sale.) This gives people the impression that you yourself are racist. Just saying. My point is that a better neighbor is a better neighbor, period.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 4, 2017  6:36pm

posted by: robn on August 4, 2017 4:47pm

3/5,

My view of Newhallville is that a lot of hard working blue collar homeowners there have tried really hard to take care of their houses but there are unfortunately, too many absentee landlords who have caused neglect through neglect (which I wouldn’t call benign either)
Me and you went down this road before.The blame for absentee landlords fall on the city..The city should enforce the law on the books.

On that subject BTW, your repeated use of “gentrification vampires” or “hipsters” appears to be a dog whistle saying “young white middle class people” (who have every right to buy houses that are for sale.) This gives people the impression that you yourself are racist.

Let us look at what the term racist.is.

Showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another: So show me were the word gentrification vampires” or “hipsters are racist.You have gentrification vampires and hipsters of all color.I have never use the term White gentrification vampires or White hipsters.

Just saying. My point is that a better neighbor is a better neighbor, period.

What does that have to do with gentrification.Does gentrification give you good neighbors?

My bad. Hot off the press.

Tell me if this is not displacement of the poor.

Hotel Duncan Evicting Roomers To Make Way For Sale, “Boutique” Renovation

Occupants of the storied Hotel Duncan — downtown’s last low-cost lodging and single-room occupancy rooming house — have 90 days to leave so a new owner can transform it into an upscale “boutique” hotel.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/hotel_duncan/
.

posted by: wendy1 on August 4, 2017  7:38pm

I met Mr. Grewal.  He’s sexy.  Glad people are working on emergency/ disaster stuff.  I just wish they would include homelessness on the list of catastrophe.

posted by: robn on August 5, 2017  9:17am

3/5,

You got me there. Somebody wants to convert a fleabag SRO in prime downtown space into something more profitable. But those 90 rooms that lack even a bath are a tiny, tiny fraction of the many 1000s of units in the recent projects I’ve noted to you that displaced zero housing. Gentrification myth!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 5, 2017  7:17pm

posted by: robn on August 5, 2017 9:17am

3/5,

You got me there. Somebody wants to convert a fleabag SRO in prime downtown space into something more profitable. But those 90 rooms that lack even a bath are a tiny, tiny fraction of the many 1000s of units in the recent projects I’ve noted to you that displaced zero housing. Gentrification myth!

Flea Bag SRO? Like I said.There are laws on the books to to deal with this.