NEW HAVEN — Science Park startup Grey Wall Software, LLC, has received a $150,000 investment from Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII)
A total of $450,000 was awarded to three startups in the state ($150,000 each) as part of CII’s Pre-Seed Fund, and each company has secured matching funds from private investors.
Grey Wall has developed Web and mobile software to help enable effective team response and collaboration during crisis situations, emergencies and disruptive events. The software is designed to be used by municipalities, utilities, airports, schools, and corporations in applications where response to situations such as severe weather, accidents and outages may require a team response.
The program has been in beta testing over several months and has gone through various emergency drills.
Other startups to get a piece of the Pre-Seed investment were C2C, LLC of West Simsbury and Stone Creek Entertainment Inc. of Ridgefield.
• January 31 — Tangoe announces that it has entered into a strategic alliance with HCL Technologies, assuming ownership of HCL’s fixed and mobile expense-management practice, processing centers and support staff located in Alpharetta, Ga. and East Rutherford, N.J.
• March 18 — Tangoe acquires network/IT firm Telwares Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif. for an undisclosed sum.
• March 31 — Tangoe goes global, opening its first European headquarters in Manchester, England.
• August 2 — Tangoe’s initial public offering (IPO) closes. Investors purchased 7.5 million shares at $10 each, raising a total of $88 million for the company. The deal was cited as one of top five IPOs of 2011 by The Street.com in an admitted dismal year for IPOs (330 total deals, down nearly a third from 2010).
• October 19 — Tangoe lands on the Inc. 5000 for the sixth consecutive year, having charted 225-percent revenue growth from 2007 to 2010.
• December 19 — Tangoe acquires privately held ProfitLine Inc., a global provider of telecom expense and mobility management services, for approximately $23.5 million.
How the Elm City’s tech prodigy folded philanthropy into its core mission
Last spring, the IT department at Higher One was alerted to a problem: Some computer equipment wasn’t running up to par. So they used their considerable expertise to get the system running. It was not just another day at the office. On this particular day, the system in need of help was at New Haven Reads, a non-profit group that provides children and adults access to free books and tutoring to increase their literacy skills and academic performance.
Before the tech project, Higher One had focused its volunteer efforts with New Haven Reads on tutoring. But when Higher One’s Pete Boynton, Danielle Sheehan and Matt Desfosses were made aware of the need at New Haven Reads, they drew from the company, personal donations and even outside connections at Cisco Systems to better the non-profit’s ailing infrastructure.
Higher One is a good friend to have. Founded in 2000, the New Haven company provides an array of payment services to institutions of higher education — two- and four-year, public and private. Colleges and universities retain Higher One to disburse money to students in the form of financial aid, payroll and other payments. A payment service helps schools with tuition billing and any inbound payments and payment plans. The company also provides customized financial services — debit cards and full-service bank accounts with no monthly fees — for students on campus.
Founded by three Yale students 12 years ago, Higher One today has more than 200 employees and offices in New Haven, Atlanta, Ga. and Oakland, Calif.
Co-founder Mark Volchek says the idea for Higher One came about after observing that there were no customizable financial services for students and few if any technology solutions for universities and colleges. "So we put those two problems together and found a solution,” he says. “With the Internet becoming more mainstream, we had to start offering Internet-driven financial services.”
Today, Volchek is Higher One’s CFO and works with co-founder and COO Miles Lasater. At the end of June, Volchek will step into the role of CEO as Dean Hatton retires. Today Higher One has 770 college and university clients and more than five million student customers.
The company is based on more than technology, education and a good idea. Volchek credits the company’s core values, which include teamwork and open communications: “That is reflected in the office and is key to the way we do business.”
A committee called Higher One CARES (Community Action for Resources, Education and Service) focuses on identifying opportunities for community involvement and engagement through support of local non-profits. Last year, CARES conducted a food drive for FISH of Greater New Haven, a group that delivers food directly to the homes of those in need. During the holiday season, CARES participated in Adopt-a-Family, working with the St. Vincent’s Day Home.
On March 13, Higher One will host a Volunteer Fair from noon to 4 p.m. at its new corporate headquarters on Munson Street in New Haven. The event is open to the public and will showcase opportunities for individuals to volunteer in the New Haven area.
Higher One’s workspace features an open working environment with few offices and ample open space to encourage engagement between and among staff.
“Employees are encouraged to interact with different departments and even folks within their own departments,” explains Volchek. “It not only makes for a better business, but it makes for happier employees.” Other Higher One core values include integrity, creativity, stellar service and focus.
Lasater says it is adherence to those values that have driven the company’s success.
“We’ve heard overwhelmingly from our employees that volunteering is important to them,” Lasater says. “We think it helps set us apart as an employer of choice in attracting new talent. It’s increasingly important. Customers want to feel good about working with a company that has a mission that’s broader than purely a profit motive.”
The company co-founder knows the value of hard work and remaining humble.
“Personally, to a large degree, my volunteer time is work that I’d be doing anyway,” he says.
That’s no idle boast. Lasater sits on the board of directors of Yale-New Haven Hospital and has served as a member of the Port Authority of New Haven and Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. He is a past recipient of an Elm-Ivy Award, cited by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Yale President Richard C. Levin for strengthening partnerships between the New Haven and Yale communities. Lasater and Volchek also co-founded the Yale Entrepreneurial Society.
Volchek is chairman of the board of directors of Tweed-New Haven Airport. His past civic activities include positions on the New Haven Economic Development Commission and the Regional Growth Partnership Strategic Planning Committee.
“The airport is an important economic development driver,” says Volchek. “It’s a thankless position, but focusing on any means of transportation is going to be very important for the community.”
He sets a good example for Higher One employees, who are encouraged to serve on boards of non-profits in the local area.
“From the beginning, we’ve been focusing on what will make the company grow and what will make it successful, so internally we spend a lot of time on goal-setting and making sure all company goals are aligned with department goals and individual goals,” Volchek explains. “We drive the culture toward making people accountable to their goals rather than specific hours of sitting in the office or being in a specific place at a specific time.”
The company recently moved into new headquarters at New Haven’s Science Park in one of the old Winchester Repeating Arms Co. buildings. But the relocation didn’t take place without some soul-searching.
“Since we renovated the building from the ground up, it’s much more functional and really supports the values and the cultural aspect of the company,” Volchek says. “We focused on providing great things for our employees like a gym and a cafeteria.”
“Downtown office space is corporate and expensive, so many companies move out of New Haven to a [suburban] office park that is less expensive and easier for parking,” Volchek says. “We decided to stay in New Haven. We liked the culture here more than an office space surrounded with a thousand parking spaces.”
To make the financials work, Higher One worked with the state, the city and Science Park and essentially designed a building with the tax credits they received from the state.
“It was competitive with moving to an office park outside of New Haven and now we get the benefit of the character of Science Park and being a few blocks from the Yale campus,” Volchek says.
City Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy is pleased Higher One stayed.
"Higher One was one of the first companies to relocate to Science Park as a small start-up,” she says. “Since then, the company has grown to employ more than 200 people, many of whom have been actively involved in the community, including serving on numerous city boards and commissions. While Higher One had cheaper options outside the city, we are fortunate they chose to grow here in New Haven and invest in the renovation of the old Winchester factory for their new office space.”
Volchek is also pleased with his decision, but admits to wishing that there was better public transportation in the city and state.
“That’s a problem we have in Connecticut in general,” he says. “Keeping that in mind, we put our bike rack indoors to make it more convenient than a parking lot. It’s important for businesses to work with New Haven to make the city a better place.”
Last year, the Higher One CARES committee focused on corporate and employee engagement with the communities its workers live in, work in and serve. The group focuses primarily on education, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
“We want to make it easy to give — not necessarily monetary, but also for people to give their time,” Volchek says.
The company also awarded $50,000 in college scholarships in 2011.
“I think our university clients appreciate that level of support,” Lasater observes. An additional $30,000 was granted to campuses as part of the company’s Financial Literacy Counts program.
Last spring, Higher One also awarded scholarships to New Haven high school students. Kathy Flores and Jeffrey Kosko, seniors at Common Grounds High School, received awards during the Rock-to-Rock bike ride in April that began at Common Grounds High School. Matt Desfosses, who chairs Higher One CARES, personally raised $1,000 that went directly to a scholarship. The third scholarship went to Aloysia Maria Jean, a Hillhouse High School junior.
In addition to the scholarship donations, members of Higher One CARES participated in the Rock-to-Rock bike ride to show support for the many environmental organizations that benefitted from the event.
Higher One’s founders believe that students can learn financial responsibility and, when given the proper tools, can successfully live within their means. To that end, the company has dedicated resources to financial literacy including its Financial Intelligence online financial literacy course, the “One For Your Money” blog dedicated to the fundamentals of finances for college students.
The CARES committee was formed five years ago and focuses on helping the community through education, literacy, entrepreneurship and, according to Volchek, “We think it’s key to share our expertise with the community.”
“We’ve been criticized for not hiring more local folks, but we hire the best people who apply,” Volchek explains. “We don’t care where they live. We don’t discriminate, pro or against anybody. It’s about hiring the best people and the way to get the best people in New Haven is through education to qualify for the jobs that we and others create.”
There are no requirements placed on Higher One employees to volunteer or donate, but there are incentives in the form of matching programs with the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and a paid day off in exchange for a day of volunteering.
Higher One offers a flexible work environment, so employees can come in late, leave early and tend to out-of-work responsibilities — as long as the goals associated with their assigned job are met.
One such way employees can earn a day off is by volunteering on Junior Achievement Day each spring in New Haven public schools. Louis Golden, president of the southwest New England division of Junior Achievement, says Higher One employees provide a valuable resource to students each spring.
“Higher One is a true example of the power of mobilizing volunteers in the community,” says Golden. “They go into a school, spend their time working with young people, and in our case, inspire and prepare children for business.
“There are many companies that care about the communities and they do it by focusing on ways they can connect with the community better,” Golden adds. “They are very focused on working with the young people on JA Day. Those people have other jobs and other demands and they’re leaving all of that behind to help young people. To do that, each one of those people have to go back to the office and catch up. They’re giving up hours to be in the school, and for those students, it can change their lives. It’s very important.”
Consistent with the core mission of their company, Higher One employees tend to become involved with giving projects that focus on education and technology. For example, last summer, Higher One partnered with the Community Foundation to launch Give Greater, a website for online giving. Through the site, 165 non-profits in Connecticut can accept donations at any time of day or night.
“Our employees were among the first to give through the site and we gave a company match for the first givers,” says Lasater. “It provided a nice platform to raise awareness about many of our local organizations. It’s driven by individual donors who want to play a more active role in giving, rather than turning it over to a organization to make grants.”
Lasater encourages Higher One employees to join organizations such as All Our Kin and LEAP at the board level: “Doing hands-on project-based work with an organization provides one type of reward for people, but serving on the board also gives you a unique perspective on these organizations and the issues they face,” he says. “It helps build leaders here.
“You gain perspective about strategic issues and you learn more about your own personal ability to contribute,” Lasater explains. “Being able to step into another organization and play a different role can help grow your talents and understand where you can get things done based on what’s coming from within, not just an exterior title.
“Every little bit adds up,” he adds. “It’s the ripple effect of setting an example, encouraging our employees to take it seriously and make time for it. It impacts their families and other places of business, and hopefully that ripples out in a positive way. It’s not just about what we’re doing directly.”
NEW HAVEN — MassChallenge will hold an information session for budding startup companies looking to enter the competition to gain access to resources and financing.
The info session will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. February 21 at co-working loft space La Bourse, 839 Chapel Street.
Those who enter the competition will have the chance to pitch their startup companies, and if they become a finalist, will enter MassChallenge’s accelerator program in Boston for three months where they can further develop their business with access to industry resources.
The top ten startups will finally be judged to win $1 million in award money.
The competition seeks early-stage startups from any location and in any industry. MassChallenge media coordinator Jodi-Datiana Charles says applicants come from all over the world to compete, and around 80 percent end up staying in Massachusetts with their companies.
The competition will start with the application process March 1.
HARTFORD — Females working and studying in technology fields will be given their due by Connecticut’s technology community.
The Connecticut Technology Council (CTC) announced 53 finalists for its eighth annual Women of Innovation Awards Program, which recognizes women in the state as innovators, role models and leaders in the science, engineering and technology fields. The awards include females in the workforce as well as students.
The 53 nominees are spread across eight categories, and were peer-nominated based on experience, innovation, creative thinking and problem solving, and leadership. Students were judged on inventiveness, accomplishments and academic achievement.
The 2012 nominees include those in industries such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, software, computer hardware, medical devices and information technology.
The Youth Innovation and Leadership category winner will receive a scholarship from Covidien Medical Devices, which has an office in North Haven.
Nominees include employees from Covidien; Mauro Sheridan Magnet School; Yale University; United Illuminating Company; Sikorsky Aircraft; Pratt & Whitney; Hopkins School; and Eli Whitney Museum.
The awards dinner will be held March 1 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington, and a keynote address will be given by Alicia Abella of AT&T Labs. More information and a complete list of nominees can be found at ct.org.
ROCKY HILL — Connecticut is on the hunt for technology companies.
Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII) will dole out $250 million over five years to recruit early-stage companies from other states while attracting outside investments to expand and bolster the state’s technology sector.
The plan is to give $50 million per year, half coming from CII, with the other half coming from the state. Gov. Dannell Malloy’s October 2011 jobs bill included $125 million in tech funding, which CII plans to match each year for the next five years both from its own reserves and from investment returns.
The new state funding includes:
• $4 million per year for CII’s pre-seed program for investing in new tech companies;
• $22 million annually for seed stage Series A investments to help entrepreneurs grow existing businesses;
• A $6.5 million annual loan program;
• $7 million per year for recruiting emerging tech companies nationally and internationally;
• $4 million per year to help state companies capture more Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funds, and increase industry partnerships; and
• $4.8 million per year to: 1) establish three technology business accelerator hubs to provide support to startups; 2) launch a university-based proof-of-concept center; 3) create a corporate technology-transfer initiative.
NEW HAVEN — Antibiotics developer BioRelix Inc. has received a $500,000 investment from state technology authority Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII)
BioRelix is developing antibiotics using a new riboswitch drug discovery program (riboswitches are small bits of RNA that bind small molecules and control genes), which was first discovered in a Yale University laboratory.
The company’s most advanced project is creating an antibiotic to treat hospital-acquired infections, and is involved in research with a subsidiary of New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.
BioRelix has former Yale and Bayer Pharmaceuticals scientists working on the drugs, and the group has secured technology licenses for its work.
The CII investment was through its Eli Whitney Fund, and is part of a $4.24 million round of funding for the company.
NEW HAVEN — Local startup company Triplefy was spotlighted on Massachusetts High Tech’s weekly Startup Watch on January 17.
The Startup Watch highlights five companies each week, which are selected through the website’s online poll. Founded in 2011, Triplefy provides small businesses the means to offer eGift Cards.
Norwalk-based Smart Health & Fitness, which makes wireless health monitoring devices, was also listed.
ORANGE — Software developer Tangoe continued its streak of absorbing companies by acquiring Montreal-based Anomalous Networks, a designer of cloud-based Real-Time Telecom Expense Management (rTEM) software.
Anomalous creates rTEM software for smart phones, tablets and computers to help companies manage and predict costs and receipts. Tangoe creates Communications Lifecycle Management (CLM) software, which aims to handle the entire lifecycle of an enterprise’s communications.
The acquisition is expected to broaden Tangoe’s CLM coverage to include machine-to-machine communications, as well as expanding its expense-management capabilities, asset tracking and usage control to wireless devices.
The acquisition is not expected to impact 2012 revenue forecasts. Tangoe most recently acquired telecom expense management software maker ProfitLine in late 2011 for $23.5 million.
SHELTON — Medical software company Sectra has signed a multi-year deal with Nashville General Hospital at Meharry.
The Tennessee hospital enlisted the company’s software to automate workflow and increase efficiency.
Sectra creates Web-based RIS/PACS software for radiology, breast imaging and orthopaedics. The RIS/PACS systems also feature embedded speech recognition, and online image access will be used by medical staff to train students.
Sectra also will develop bi-directional interfaces from its RIS/PACS solutions to the hospital information, order management, billing, electronic medical record and lab systems, as well as a data migration of up to 170,000 patient records.
TOLLAND — Ubiquitous underwear and activewear maker Fruit of the Loom (FOTL) has picked the fruits of Gerber Technology — specifically the company’s YuniquePLM product lifecycle management software.
Fruit of the Loom will use the software to integrate its other divisions — Vanity Fair, Russell Athletic and Spalding — under one system to increase office efficiency, as well as “for the creation and communication of product tech packs,” according to a statement. FOTL already uses Gerber’s webPDM data management system.
The company employs nearly 34,000 people at 50 locations worldwide.