NEW HAVEN — New Haven, meet the Rest of Connecticut. The Rest of Connecticut, meet New Haven.
That’s the idea behind the Startup Roadshow, a new event by the Whiteboard, the online magazine for entrepreneurs (created by local software company Independent Software), to connect the widespread entrepreneurial community across Connecticut.
The event launched in New Haven in April and will continue in a different city each month (it hit Stamford at the end of April) through year’s end to give blossoming startups a chance to tell their story to other aspiring entrepreneurs and, it is hoped, inspire them to stay in Connecticut.
“How can we build cohesion? Building awareness and getting people together so they can build relationships and feel like they’re part of a community,” explains Suzi Craig, director of community development for Independent Software.
“Connecticut is different from other startup communities,” she adds. “It’s not just one scene; it’s a variety of pockets across the state, and each one is different. We’re physically going to each community and getting to know who’s there and what flavors one community to the next.”
Updates along the way will be published on the Whiteboard to keep everyone informed. Craig stresses what many in the startup community stress — that building relationships and contacts is often a critical factor in finding talent or hashing out new ideas and ultimately building successful companies.
An entrepreneurial network has already been established on an official level: the state’s innovation ecosystem, dubbed CTNext, was launched in 2012 to establish “innovation hubs” in five locations statewide. New Haven’s hub is Chapel Street co-working space the Grove.
Craig says the spread of activity in the state both makes it unique and poses a challenge that, in a perfect world could be fixed by efficient public transportation.
“The biggest challenge for us is geography,” she says. “People in Hartford have no idea what’s going on in New Haven, and they don’t come here. It’s a 40-minute ride up and down Manhattan, and it’s a 40-minute ride from Hartford to New Haven, but it doesn’t happen — not as often as it should.
“Putting in the extra effort to be engaged in the community, that’s what leads to opportunities,” Craig observes. “Now that the activity level is so high in Connecticut, it’s important to up the game in terms of community building.”
Locations for upcoming Roadshow events are still being confirmed, but typically are held where activity is already happening; the last event, for example, took place as part of the monthly Stamford Tech Meetup. Ultimately Craig would like the Roadshow to help remind budding entrepreneurs that they don’t have to leave town to make things happen.
“I want people to walk away with compelling reasons to start something in Connecticut and stay here,” Craig says. “I don’t want them to be here because they happen to be here, I want it to be an intentional choice. And ultimately I want people from outside Connecticut to think, ‘Maybe I should move there.’”
The Startup Roadshow will hit Hartford’s reSET Center on May 27, and will return to New Haven in June (date and location TBD). Through December, it will visit Bridgeport/Fairfield, New London/Norwich, Storrs/Windham, Danbury/Waterbury, Middletown/Meriden and wrap up in Torrington. More information is found at TheWhiteBoardct.com.