NEW HAVEN — MEA Mobile is one of a number of burgeoning startups in New Haven’s already burgeoning startup culture.
Managing Director Bruce Seymour has seen his company grow from a one-man operation to a ten-person team of designers for Web and applications for mobile devices and desktops.
In 2012, the company signed an exclusive agreement with drugstore chain Walgreens for its Printicular app, which allows users to send photos electronically from their phone, computer or social media platforms to be printed and picked up at their nearest store.
Seymour, 38, has been in business for himself since 1997, when he was a 19-year-old marketing student at Central Connecticut State University and opened a chain of Funstuff Video stores (which eventually grew to six before closing in 2008) with a partner to help pay his way through college.
MEA Mobile was founded in 2010 under the auspices of local innovation-management firm Macfarlane Engel & Associates (where Seymour worked at the time) before being spun off as an independent entity in 2012.
MEA both produces its own applications in-house and takes on contracted software development for hundreds of clients: websites, apps, Roku channels — if it involves code, MEA can do it. To date it has produced more than 200 applications (and has had ten No. 1 apps).
The firm’s strategy, Seymour says, was to not spend all of its time focused on one product but a large portfolio of different technologies. He’s ads that he’s been advised many times to build his company around one platform, but the virtual world is far too vast for him to specialize, especially mobile devices that can hold as much data as a computer, but with far greater input sensors like GPS, touchscreens, microphones and cameras.
“I’m a mobile believer, that’s my bread and butter.” Seymour says. “The potential for development is unlimited.”
One of the company’s early successes was the iSupr8 app, which allows users to take high-definition video and process it to look like vintage film footage. Other apps include iLapse (a time-lapse photography app) and Part (a photo manipulation app that uses colors and shapes).
“We love imaging, we love video, and we love working on cool, strange things — and the physical manifestation of the digital,” Seymour says.
An assortment of some of those things lie around the MEA Mobile’s Elm Street office — including Bluetooth-operated train sets and phone-linked proximity meters for the blind that vibrate when an object gets too close.
That physical manifestation of digital is where Printicular comes in. The app has transmitted tens of thousands of images to Walgreens’ servers and, Seymour says, does so faster than the company’s own photo-ordering app. Customers can have printed photos (on photo paper or even on square canvas) held for pickup at the retail location of their choosing or delivered to their homes (a service added last autumn). Seymour says he plans to add features for printing photo books or on coffee mugs.
For New Haven, the fear of “startup flight” — when a locally germinated startup relocates to more fertile environs — has not been unfounded, with those who leave typically citing a lack of available talent to hire. That was a primary reason given by Yale startup Panorama Education, which debarked for Cambridge, Mass., last year. (The fact that it had a $4 million investment from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t hurt, either.)
“Recruitment is a challenge: One of the issues any company struggles with is competing against the magnets of Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley [New York City],” Seymour acknowledges. “If you’re at the top of your computer engineering class, you’re going to be heavily recruited. The demand far outweighs the [number of] qualified applicants.”
MEA Mobile itself has been the beneficiary of the state’s continuing efforts to nurture small business and entrepreneurship. The company received a $150,000 Small Business Express Loan in 2012, which Seymour says had a substantial ripple effect: he could hire new people, which made the company able to compete for and win larger contracts, which accelerated further expansion.
“I’ve been in business for myself for 20 years in Connecticut and I’ve never seen the support at the level it’s at now,” he says. “They want you to start businesses, they want to help you start businesses, and they’ll put their money where their mouth is. It’s awesome.
“We went from just me to ten people in a year and a half, and we can do that again in another 18 months — no question,” Seymour adds.
A Plainville native and current Elm City denizen, Seymour decided not to decamp to a larger city such as Boston or New York to grow the business, opting instead to stay and expand in New Haven (he even called a press conference last fall to announce such), not just for its supportive business environment that includes infrastructure and access to venture capital, but for its “vibrancy.”
“There isn’t another city in Connecticut with the culture [and of course the pizza],” he says. “It’s a quality-of-life issue — and New Haven has an outstanding quality of life.”
CHESHIRE — Alexion Pharmaceuticals is teaming up with a Cambridge, Mass. firm to develop rare disease treatments.
Alexion will pay $100 million to acquire ten gene therapy platforms from Moderna Therapeutics to develop messenger RNA (mRNA), which naturally enables production of proteins within cells and in the bloodstream to restore functions to the body — a process that could accelerate the development of therapies for a host of rare — and presently untreatable — diseases.
Alexion, which also acquired a $25 million equity stake in Moderna, will lead discovery, development and commercialization of treatments, while the latter company will design and manufacture the treatments.
Alexion receives millions in state funding as part of the Malloy administration’s “First Five” initiative, including a $20 million loan, a $6 million grant for lab construction and equipment, and up to $25 million in tax credits. The company has announced plans to relocate from Cheshire to New Haven in 2015, following completion of the Downtown Crossing project at 100 College Street.
BRANFORD — Those at risk for strokes and cardiovascular events may have more treatment options in the future, as a Branford drugmaker attracts a new round of financing.
New Haven Pharmaceuticals has been awarded a $361,695 follow-on investment from Connecticut Innovations Inc.’s (CII) Eli Whitney Fund to advance development of its drug Durlaza, which is being developed as a prescription anti-platelet therapy for secondary prevention of stroke and acute cardiovascular events.
Acid reflux disease isn’t too far behind, either; the company is also in development of compounds based on Yale research that will lower stomach acid.
The CII’s investment is part of a $1.6 million funding round for the company that included several other investors. CII initially invested $1.5 million in the company in 2012.
Got a problem with Metro-North Railroad? Take a number.
The commuter rail line has had a rough year on the rails, with a long list of setbacks that include technical malfunctions, derailments and even fatal accidents, which have led to delays and frustrated commuters.
The newly christened Commuter Action Group, led by long-time commuter rail advocate James Cameron, has launched a new site and Facebook page that gives riders a direct link to make complaints to Metro-North for substandard service, as well as a list of Connecticut lawmakers and tips for making the most effective complaints.
The site can be accessed at http://ji503.wix.com/commuteractiongroup.
Connecticut’s most innovative entrepreneurs are being given another chance to shine.
CTNext, the state’s “innovation ecosystem” initiative, is launching its Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA; formerly known as the Voucher Program), a competition that will allows small companies and entrepreneurs to compete for awards of up to $10,000 by pitching ideas for initiatives to help their companies grow, such as prototyping, product or service development, market research, licensing and IP assessment.
Companies must be headquartered in Connecticut and registered with CTNext to apply. Finalists will give a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges (made up of CEOs, mentors, investment professionals and the like) at monthly pitch events throughout the state. (The first takes place February 27 at the Bijou Theater in Bridgeport.)
This likely isn’t the only pitch event you’ve heard of; Startup Weekend, an annual event held throughout the U.S. that takes place in New Haven and elsewhere in the state, has potential entrepreneurs pitching startup ideas for cash.
The Connecticut Innovation Ecosystem was launched in fall 2012 to foster the creation and growth of innovative companies in Connecticut, with hubs in New Haven, Hartford, Stamford and Storrs.
ROCKY HILL — The Connecticut Academy of Science & Engineering (CASE) is once again seeking nominations to honor technological achievements.
CASE’s Medal of Technology recognizes innovative work performed in Connecticut that demonstrates achievements in process/product innovation, technology transfer, advanced manufacturing and technology management.
Medal winners are permanently memorialized in a Hall of Fame at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford; other award recipients will have their profiles permanently on display at the center.
CASE awards a Medal of Technology and a Medal of Science bi-annually on alternate years. Nominations must be received by March 14, and can be made through the CASE website at ctcase.org.
NEW HAVEN — Some clever Yale entrepreneurs want to help doctors bust you for skipping appointments. And they’re a step closer to making it happen.
NoShowFix was the name of the team and potential software platform that won a $500 first prize for best business plan at the Connecticut Business Plan Competition last month. The competition was sponsored by the Fairfield-based Entrepreneurship Foundation at Gateway Community College.
Held twice annually, the event has student teams from Connecticut colleges and universities pitching business plans for retail/service or tech startup companies to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs. The most recent event saw four of the 12 teams walk away with $500 awards.
The winning student team came from the Yale University School of Management, led by Suzanne Lagarde of Hamden. Once developed and deployed, NoShowFix would help doctors and other health-care practitioners keep track of patients who skip appointments.
Second prize went to a University of Bridgeport School of Engineering team for its pitch of a sign-language app for mobile phones that converts sign language signals into text messages to help the hearing-impaired communicate with those who don’t know American Sign Language.
MusicVault, a cloud-based music storage system that accepts downloaded music from platforms like iTunes and Spotify, won an award for the best written business plan submitted online. The team hailed from Quinnipiac University; its leader, Nicholas Hakim, won third place at Startup Weekend New Haven in 2012 with “MusiciansVault,” which was developed as an online platform for virtual collaboration among musicians.
Central Connecticut State University student Ryan Piraneo won the Best Oral Presentation award for the pitch for his plan to develop a hockey-themed sporting goods store in his school’s New Britain home.
Several other “in-kind” awards were conferred as well, including from a Housatonic Community College team developing an automated robotic lawn mower that stores grass clippings as it mows; a U.S. Coast Guard Academy team developing a rubber golf club; and a Manchester Community College team developing garden designs consisting of medicinal plants, herbs and vegetables.
The next Business Plan Competition will take place in late April.
NEW HAVEN — New Haven is among 126 Connecticut municipalities that will split a $24 million state grant to introduce more computers into public-school classrooms and improve Internet connectivity.
The grant was announced by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state Department of Education to help schools transition to the Common Core standards and administer computer-based assessment tests.
New Haven will receive the largest single share of the grant (which totaled $24,401,841) with $2.6 million; the next highest sum ($899,797) was awarded to Bridgeport. As for other area school systems: Hamden was awarded $674,278, East Haven received $603,875, West Haven got $446,969, and Milford received $230,474.
Proposals were sent to the state in July and the total value exceeded the originally allocated $10 million. The Common Core Standards were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010 to re-align expectations of what students should know by a certain grade.
For the 2014-15 school year, schools in the state will do away with the paper-and-pencil Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) for the math and English subjects in favor of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, which will be given on computers, hence the need many school systems discerned for more hardware and better Internet. The CMT and CAPT tests will still be used to test science.
NEW HAVEN — Connecticut’s bioscience industry conferred its inaugural Entrepreneur of the Year award to a doctor with years of experience in the local startup culture.
Craig M. Crews, a professor of biology, chemistry and pharmacology at Yale, received the award from Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) for his dedication and for translating research to new medicine.
Crews founded Science Park pharmaceutical company Arvinas in 2013; the company develops therapies for cancer, pro-inflammatory, autoimmune and rare diseases. His 2003 startup, Proteolix, developed the FDA-approved multiple myeloma drug Kyprolis before being sold for $851 million in 2009.
The ten-year, $200 million Connecticut BioScience Innovation Fund (CBIF) was created last fall, and now as its 13-member leadership board is in place, it’s looking for a few good ideas.
The fund was signed into law last September to provide financial assistance to startups, early-stage businesses, non-profits, and accredited colleges and universities statewide. It’s seeking projects in development that will lead to commercial products or services that will improve health-care quality, coordination or efficiency, reduce costs or stimulate job growth.
An open period for applications began January 2, and there is no deadline date at present. Applicants must be based in Connecticut and operating in fields including bioscience, biomedical engineering, health-information management, medical care, medical devices, medical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, personalized medicine or related disciplines.
Applications may be for projects of no more than three years’ duration, should not exceed $500,000 and must demonstrate a quantifiable return on investment.
Thirteen individuals were named to the Bioscience Innovation Advisory Committee last month to administer and supervise the money. The panel is chaired by CII CEO Claire Leonardi, and includes state Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen, and Department of Economic & Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, the latter two serving as ex-officio voting members.
The 10 appointed members of the committee make up a who’s who in Connecticut’s medical and bioscience sector, venture capital groups, and even the gaming sector. They include Peter Farina of venture capital firm Canaan Partners; Steven Hanks of Hartford HealthCare; Joseph Kaliko, CEO of Gaming Innovations International; Marc Lalande, Health Net professor, chair of the Genetics and Developmental Biology department and executive director Genomics and Personalized Medicine at the University of Connecticut; William LaRochelle of Roche 454 Sequencing Solutions International; Charles Lee of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine; Alan Mendelson of Axiom Venture Partners; Edmund Pezalla, medical director for pharmaceutical policy at Aetna; Carolyn Slayman, deputy dean and professor of genetics, cellular and molecular physiology at the Yale School of Medicine; and Novatract Surgical device startup founder Eleanor Tandler.
HAMDEN — If you ever considered taking a graduate program in business without leaving your computer, Quinnipiac University seems like a good place to do it.
The university was ranked in the top ten — No. 9, to be exact — for the Best Online Graduate Business Programs in the United States for 2014 by U.S. News & World Report. The ranking was based on factors including student engagement, admissions selectivity, peer reputation, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology.
The QU School of Business employs the same faculty online as in the classroom, and offers online graduate programs for master’s degrees in business administration and master of science degrees in information technology and organizational leadership.
A new master of science in business analytics will be introduced in the autumn 2014 semester.