National Startup Analysis Sees Potential, Standout Efforts Underway in Hartford

A new analysis of the status of the business startup community in six American cities – including Hartford – has found that Connecticut’s Capitol City has “strong startup potential,” and in some ways is already standing out among peers and competitors. Startup Genome, with support from the Kauffman Foundation, selected six U.S. metropolitan areas that are not in the top 40 most populous and which have been faring less well economically than the country as a whole for a deeper analysis.  In addition to Hartford, the analysis includes Albuquerque, Fresno, New Orleans, Reno and Springfield, MA.

“In each of these metros, efforts are underway to support entrepreneurs, create more startups, and generate stronger economic trajectories. Like many other American cities (and elsewhere), they’ve been through economic ups and downs and now see startups as their next best hope for sustainable and broadly-shared growth,” the report, released this week, points out.  Startup Genome works to increase the success rate of startups and improve the performance of startups across more than 30 countries.

“Every startup ecosystem shows room for growth and improvement, and Hartford has key strengths to build on. The city's strong heritage in insurance is already being leveraged by many stakeholders and the ecosystem is clearly attracting experienced talent to start and join companies,” Dane Stangler, president & chief policy officer of Startup Genome told CT by the Numbers.

In Hartford, reSET, which specializes in encouraging and assisting entrepreneurship and social enterprise, was among several local partners with whom Startup Genome worked to gather data from more than 300 respondents.  Additional partners were the MetroHartford Alliance, Wesleyan University, UConn’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Upward Hartford,  as well as Launch EZ, the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and others.

“More broadly, Hartford shows greater diversity than peer ecosystems and already has a few hundred startups operating. By continuing to strengthen the local culture and focusing on startup success in key areas, the Hartford economy will enjoy higher levels of job creation and growth,” Stangler added.

Hartford and the other cities were determined to be in the Early Activation phase of the Ecosystem Lifecycle, with a mix of prominent attributes and areas with potential yet to be realized.  In its analysis, the report indicates that “just in the span of a few years the startup scene has exploded,” in Hartford, noting that:

  • investors and experts in Hartford provide more hours of help to founders than in the other cities, and more than the global average. (Experts include university faculty, corporate employees, mentors, and others.)
  • nearly four in 10 founders in Hartford are women, which is twice the global average across all ecosystems in the Startup Genome database.
  • 11 percent of startup founders in Hartford are immigrants, the second-highest in the sample.

“We’re so grateful that Startup Genome was able to include Hartford in its recent analysis of early-stage ecosystems, thanks to support from the Kauffman Foundation,” said reSET Managing Director Ojala Naeem.  “Our great city is too often overlooked, and with local and state funding being what they are, national attention on all of the amazing businesses making an impact here is more important than ever. We have so many smart and motivated entrepreneurs who are worthy of investment consideration. They just need a spotlight.”

The comprehensive assessment of Hartford’s ecosystem also noted that “Hartford’s [startup] founders claim to have the right ambition to go global,” concluding that “Hartford’s startups have more potential to strengthen Global Market Reach and Global Connectedness.” In a number of areas analyzed in the assessment, Hartford is seen as having potential to strengthen the local startup community, its reach beyond Hartford, and the demographic of startup teams.

During the past seven years Startup Genome has provided a way for entrepreneurs everywhere to “tell us about their journeys and their regions - giving their local expertise a voice at the policy-making table.” The organization’s primary research with founders, supplemented with secondary research and data from global and local partners, helps create the world’s most comprehensive research on startups. Approximately 10,000 startup founders fill out global survey providing direct input each year.

“Hartford has some record of successes – generating more will help ecosystem size and performance,” Startup Genome observed in its assessment of Hartford.

Connecticut-Grown Businesses Lead Stand-out Cohort of Entrepreneurial Start-Ups

reSET, the Hartford-based Social Enterprise Trust, whose mission is advancing the social enterprise sector and supporting entrepreneurs of all stripes, has announced the winners of its 2018 Venture Showcase, and three Connecticut-grown businesses took the top awards. The annual event recognizes the talented entrepreneurs and innovative businesses that have just graduated from reSET’s nationally recognized accelerator. This year, 18 early stage enterprises graduated from the most recent cohort, and eight finalists competed for $20,000 in unrestricted funding.  reSET’s goal is to meet entrepreneurs wherever they are in their trajectory and to help them take their businesses to the next level.

The entrepreneurs pitched their business models to an audience of founders, investors, and community and corporate stakeholders. The panel of judges included Claire Leonardi, former CEO of Connecticut Innovations; Alan Mattamana, Partner at Fairview Capital Partners; and Lalitha Shivaswamy, President of Helios Management Corporation.

Winning the top $10,000 award was Loki, which was created in a “group independent study” through UConn’s Digital Media and Design program by Andrew Ginzberg and co-founders Jeffrey Santi, Brian Kelleher, and Case Polen.  Described as “a new kind of media company” - a video sharing platform exclusively for smartphones - Loki is “a place where you can watch events through collections of many perspectives, live-streamed through the eyes of people actually there.”  The company’s website is welcoming people who would like to learn more to leave an email address.

Taking the second-place $6,000 award was Florapothecarie, a line of 100% natural + vegan skincare products, “lovingly handmade in Connecticut” by Sami Jo Jensen.  The line of products is certified vegan and cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny and PETA.

The third-place entrepreneurial business was Bare Life, launching a line of crave-worthy food products with the world’s first Organic, Vegan, Paleo, Non-GMO, Dairy Free, Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free Hot Chocolate Powder.  Founded by local resident Ali Lazowski, who was put on a very restricted diet due to numerous medical conditions and learned first-hand how scarce allergen and irritant-free foods are. So, she set out to create them. Bare Life's mission is to make these allergen and irritant friendly foods and recipes convenient for everyone, especially the chronically ill.

The event was held last week at the YG Club at Dunkin’ Donuts Park to a sellout crowd of 225. Before selecting the 18 ventures that would participate in the Accelerator class, officials had reSET had to sift through an applicant pool that was the most competitive yet, with 110+ submissions from all over the world.  Since 2013, reSET has graduated 105 companies from its accelerator program and has awarded more than a quarter of a million dollars to scaling ventures.

The Superlative Award for “Most Improved Pitch” was won by FieldOwler, a new business that provides auditing and risk management software and solutions to help businesses, organizations, and agencies.  Other finalists were CNG Fit, LLC / Fit Party Me, Lioness Magazine, Noteworthy Chocolates, RecordME, and SKYWIREme .

The Accelerator program and Venture Showcase was made possible by reSET’s partners and sponsors, including  CTNext, The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Travelers, The Walker Group, Bank of America, The Hartford, GoodWorks Insurance, and People’s United Community Foundation.  SnapSeat Photo Booths also provided in-kind services.

reSET, the Social Enterprise Trust is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector. reSET serves all entrepreneurs, but specializes in social enterprise ― impact driven business with a double and sometimes triple bottom line. In addition to providing co-working space and accelerator and mentoring programs, reSET aims to inspire innovation and community collaboration, and to support entrepreneurs in creating market-based solutions to community challenges.


Home Grown Start-Up Business Aims to Help CT Grow

“Simply redeveloping economic development.”  That’s how the leadership of Help Grow CT, a fledgling business dedicated to helping other start-up entrepreneurial enterprises, describe their endeavor.  As a playful video summarizes the serious intent driving the effort, “Several years ago, a group of entrepreneurs utterly frustrated with the bad press their beloved state was receiving, just couldn’t accept Connecticut as being one of the worst places to do business in the country.” Christopher Sacchinelli and a handful of colleagues quietly began the venture a few years ago, having spent some time at a Norwalk accelerator program and with a track-record in business start-ups.  They tweaked and revised their business model and platforms, traveling and researching economic development strategies that have been successful elsewhere, and why. About 50 businesses signed on, and helped refine the effort. circular_HGCT

Six months ago they began a public push to grow the business and this month a new member platform is being launched. The immediate goal is 3,000 small business owners, about one percent of businesses in Connecticut.  The company is about one-third of the way there.

“We knew that there had to be a way we could catalyze change via our own actions,” Sacchinelli said, recalling the drive to start Help Grow CT. “The goal is to help and empower Connecticut businesses.  To make it cheaper and easier to grow a business.”

In surveying the new business landscape, it became clear to Sacchinelli that “the problem that most small business owners were experiencing was high costs, not enough time and low profits.”   What they did as a result was develop a business that provides opportunities for new businesses to band together to succeed as individual enterprises, and by doing so, “help grow CT.”  It is an endeavor that aims to bring other businesses together as a group to drive economies of scale, reduce costs, increase efficiencies and grow profits.  And in doing so, boost Connecticut’s economy and turn around the state’s less-than-stellar reputation.

“The number one business killer is lack of action.  We focus on solutions,” said Sacchinelli, a Trumbull resident and lifelong entrepreneur born and raised in Norwalk who turned 27 this month.  “Connecticut is my community.  I’m vested in Connecticut.”  A previous venture landed him on the cover of the Fairfield County Business Journal in 2013, soon after graduating college. He has authored a book to encourage young entrepreneurs like himself, and has endeavored to use his expertise to encourage and guide businesses and potential business owners in his home state.graphic

Through Help Grow CT, member companies are able to save up to 30 percent on dozens of exclusives partners, apps and platforms, and participating businesses are said to achieve, on average, 9 percent annual growth.  Individuals, called Growth Analysts, work with businesses to navigate through their specific business needs.

By offering savings on back room operations, such as bookkeeping, Help Grow CT not only allows business start-ups to focus more on their business product or service and less on the paperwork, without sacrificing the important detail that can lead a new enterprise to sink or swim.  They point out that businesses with healthy ledgers are 76 percent more likely to succeed over a 5 year period.

“HelpGrowCT has helped small business owners identify areas in their business where they can cut costs, invest in inefficiencies and grow their profitability,” the company’s website points out, offering support in branding, social marketing, and growth strategy development, responding to what is often new business owners “feeling overwhelmed” as they navigate all that is necessary to propel a new endeavor forward.  “We work with the nitty gritty that can hold a business back,” adds Sacchinelli.

Thus far, the initiative has been self-funded.  As members, who will pay monthly fees for the service, are added, Sacchinelli hopes the venture will be self-sustaining, and ultimately, profitable.  The number of members will largely determine that.  He is also cognizant of the potential social impact of the venture, and aims for it to be a “sustainable, evergreen accelerator program,” that will also deliver value to existing businesses.

In addition to the resources provided directly by Help CT Grow to member businesses, “we can listen to problems and crowd source solutions,” Sacchinelli explains, bringing the power of the network of members to bear on individual business challenges.  “The vast majority of small businesses have some of the same problems.  Together, we can guide a business toward the solution.”  He was encouraged recently by the positive feedback (and new members) from among attendees at the Connecticut Business Expo in Hartford, where he raised the profile of HelpGrowCT with the first visible foray into central Connecticut.

HelpGrowCT is also interested in the opinions of Connecticut's business community as their own business evolves.  A companion website,, includes a brief online survey for start-ups, business owners, investors, residents and students, aimed at propelling the venture and giving voice to the state's growing entrepreneurial community.   And HelpGrowCT continues to seek talent as it grows, actively seeking "energetic, self-driven community leaders who share our passion" and can apply their skills in journalism, event planning, advisory services, or community advocacy," according to the website.

Never too far from the surface is the drive to turn around Connecticut’s reputation as inhospitable to new businesses.  Says Sacchinelli, “After reading article after article about how Connecticut is a poor place to do business, we’re trying to build something that matters.”

New Business Aims to Deliver Science to 8-11 Year-Olds, One Month at a Time

There’s a new Connecticut start-up launching this month, aiming to engage upper elementary school age children with the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through monthly hands-on activities delivered right to their doors.  What began as a response by two college friends to an entrepreneurial start-up challenge is now a full-fledged business, hoping to grow as it excites children ages 8-11 about the potential of the STEM fields. The business, Genius Box, delivers a “monthly STEM adventure to a subscriber’s mailbox, featuring a topic to explore and the tools to do so."  Each box will contain activities or experiments that further illustrate the topic of the month, providing hands on learning opportunities through a narrative “challenge” posed in each box.genius box  horiz

Kate Pipa and Shivangi Shah received second place at Demo Day at Northeastern University a few years ago, and “with much excitement and encouragement,” decided to launch a company based on their idea.  Next was a successful crowdfunding campaign in fall 2013, which led to initial beta testing and feedback collection, including work with students in Connecticut classrooms to obtain reactions from students and their teachers.  Earlier this year, a prototype Genius Box was provided to middle-school age participants at the Connecticut Technology Council’s annual Girls of Innovation program.

Genius Box aims to connect kids with real life examples of science, technology, engineering, and math to further the understanding of these critical subjects “in a way that resonates with upper elementary school aged children.” The topic to be explored in December’s inaugural Genius Box will be Kaleidoscopes.  The company’s website is now accepting one month, three month or six month subscriptions for the monthly deliveries.

“We are excited to staco foundersrt this new chapter,” said co-founder and CEO Kate Pipa, who lives in Shelton. “And we are excited to bring kids a new box each month of hands-on fun that also doubles as a learning opportunity and is making social impact for the kids and for our partner organizations.”

Co-founder and COO Shivangi Shah adds, “We hope that the next generation of geniuses will embrace STEM and apply it to the world around them. We want them to believe they can change the world.”

Each box includes a narrative story and activity cards to explain topic and activities in a fun, engaging way, and three or more activities and experiments in each box.  Each monthly kit is “designed in a way that puts each genius in the driver's seat to solve the challenge at hand, with minimal help from adults.”

Extending the Benefits

Pipa and Shah have also added a social benefit component to their sales. For each box sold, Genius Box Inc. will donate $1.00 to a partner nonprofit. December’s partner organization is Connecticut-based ManyMentors, which connects middle and high schools students interested in the S.T.E.M. fields with near age peer mentors via interactive, engaging workshops and a highly innovative online platform.

Genius Box is also among the first social benefit corporations in the state of Connecticut, allowing the company to pursue an expanded mission that embraces societal good along with profits.  Legislation creating the new designation was approved by the state legislature earlier this year, and took effect in October.

The company’s website explains “We want to provide an experience that inspires, encourages, and empowers kids to think big. To be curious. To experiment. To make mistakes. To explore new topics. Overall, to be the change makers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, today.”  Aiming directly at its target audience, the site invites, “Adventure on, geniuses. Your monthly mystery awaits.”

The company is currently shipping only within the United States, and offers free shipping.  More information about Genius Box is available at

Photo:  Kate Pipa and Shivangi Shah


Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Would Consider Coworking, If Only They Knew What It Was

Good news, bad news. That might be the best way to describe the results of a national survey by CoworkCT into public awareness of, and interest in, coworking. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) said they would consider working in a collaborative work environment once they understood the concept (good news), but 60% said they had never heard of it (bad news). CoworkCT, a network of coworking communities whose members include small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and contractors who share space, resources, and ideas, conducted the national survey to better understand how familiar Americans are with coworking. Answer:  they're not.

A new website will be launched next week at, with more information about coworking in Connecticut.  Additional data, links and information will be added to the current test site, to assist in explaining the coworking concept to what the study suggests will be a receptive public.

According to the survey, the demographic groups most inclined to consider a coworking environment were 18 to 34 year olds (75%) and residents of the Northeast (72%). That is certainly true of ConneCoworkCT-Purple1-513x515cticut, which has seen growth in the concept in recent years, with coworking locations established in communities across the state, including Danbury Hackerspace, reSET (Hartford), the Grove (New Haven), B-Hive (Bridgeport), Stamford Innovation Center and Axis 901 (Manchester).  Each will have a presence on the news website, reflecting their growing community presence.

CoworkCT reports that the average cost of a coworking membership is $200 per month and the average cost of a private desk or office in a coworking facility is $350. The data from the survey showed that on average, people think the monthly cost of an individual coworking membership is $1,300.  Not even close.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Nearly 40% of respondents said that collaboration with other professionals (not necessarily within their organization) was the most attractive feature of a coworking space, followed by 19% of respondents who chose affordability
  • Forty percent of respondents thought small businesses with fewer than 10 employees were best-suited for coworking, followed by 21% of respondents who said entrepreneurs wctnext-logo-finalould be the best fit
  • More than half of respondents (55%) said they thought it costs more than $500 per person per month for an individual space in a coworking environment

CoworkCT is a network of Connecticut coworking communities where members share space, resources, and ideas. The goal of the network is to educate the public on the benefits of coworking and increase general awareness for the collaborative work style.

CoworkCT is coordinated by CT Next, Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem supporting the success of companies and entrepreneurs by providing guidance, resources and networks to accelerate their growth. The statewide network “connects promising companies to mentors, collaborative work spaces, universities, vendors, suppliers and other like-minded entrepreneurs to help facilitate the growth and scalability of their business.”  CT Next is a program of CT Innovations, the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies.

Among the other coworking sites in Connecticut that are expected to be invited to the new CoworkCT website are SoNo Spaces in South Norwalk, Group 88 in Simsbury , and The Soundview, Colodesk and Comradity, all in Stamford.

The national data in the report was based on an ORC International telephone CARVAN® Omnibus survey conducted among a sample of 1,006 adults 18 and older living in the continental U.S. Interviews were completed from April 24 to 27, 2014. coworking

Who Knew? Northeast is Hotbed of Entrepreneurial Activity, For Some More than Others

Takes one to know one. Or, more accurately, know one and you may become one. That’s the bottom line of an exploration into entrepreneurship by a Kauffman Foundation researcher, who found that the Northeast is the best place to catch the entrepreneurial bug. As Connecticut sinks increasing dollars into initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship, develop jobs, and turn ideas into businessentrepreneurses (often with state financial incentives) the report offers guidance of factors influencing the frequency of entrepreneurial launches.  Connecticut Innovations,  established and supported by state government,  helps Connecticut businesses grow through creative financing and strategic assistance,  and is the nation's sixth most-active early stage investor.

The survey indicated that the likelihood of a person knowing entrepreneurs varied widely by location, income, gender, and age. Respondents were much more likely to know entrepreneurs if they were male, had modest income, or were middle-aged. And they were much less likely to know entrepreneurs (or be entrepreneurs) if they were female, had a higher income, or were located in the Midwest or South.

The study suggests that there could be “material increases in entrepreneurship simply through doing a better job of exposing people to existing entrepreneurs, especially peers or contemporaries.” Entrepreneurship grows, the study found, where it is planted.

Key factors to consider when attempting to encourage entrepreneurship, according to the study:

  • Women have less exposure to growth entrepreneurs than men
  • The young have much more exposure to growth entrepreneurs
  • People in lower income strata are much less likely to be exposed to growth entrepreneurs

The study concluded that “In all cases, an individual’s exposure to entrepreneurs—and to growth entrepreneurs in particular—may increase his or her likelihood of being one. Entrepreneurship can be viral, but must be introduced early and often in environments where it is least often seen.”

The study distinguished between entrepreneurial companies and “growth entrepreneurial companies,” those companies growing more than 20 percent a year and with more than $1 million in sales, generate more employment and contribute more to wealth and GDP than do slower-growing ventures.

The likelihood of a respondent reporting knowing an entrepreneur by Region in the United States was 36.7 percent. The likelihood of knowing a growth entrepreneur was considerably lower, at 15.4 percent.

When broken down by gender, the likelihood of males knowing an entrepreneur was 39.9 percent, females 35.8 percent. For growth entrepreneurs, the gender gap was considerably wide, 24.8 percent to 12.1 percent.

A year ago, CTNext, Connecticut’s innovation ecosystem managed by Connecticut Innovations (CI), announced the launch of the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA), a competitive pitch process that provides awards up to $10,000 to entrepreneurs in Connecticut for growth-related activities. CI helps innovative companies in four key ways: by offering equity, debt, grants and strategic guidance.

A month ago CTNext announced the winners of the latest round of EIA awards; Connecticut-based companies and entrepreneurs, received $10,000 for their project ideas. CI also selected David Wurzer, formerly a senior managing director at CI, to be chief investment officer and executive vice president. As part of his new role, Wurzer will be responsible for the management of the investment function, staffing needs, portfolio and risk management, outreach to stakeholders, budget planning and performance measurement.

The study “Getting the Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious?” was conducted by Paul Kedrosky of the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation, and is aimed at providing data to guide efforts across the country to grow entrepreneurship. The survey, which categorizes responses of 2,000 individuals by age, income, gender, and location, was done via Consumer Google Survey.

Virtual Wedding Planning Website Wins Top Prize in Entrepreneurial Competition

The entrepreneurial spirit of a Connecticut-based business was the big winner as Voncierge, a virtual wedding planning start-up seeking financial resources to expand its innovative services nationwide, earned the top prize in a “Shark-Tank”-like competition at the Western Mass Business Expo in Springfield, MA. 

Founder and CEO Mee-Jung Jang impressed a panel of expert judges and an enthusiastic audience of business professionals in her spirited “pitch” highlighting the fledgling company’s business plan and growth-to-date.

In winning the First AnVoncierge Logonual Pitch Competition – besting nine other entrepreneurial companies – Voncierge won $1,500 to assist the company and one year’s worth of free space at the Business Growth Center at Springfield Technology Park.  

The company is striving to change the way brides plan their wedding. Jang, a Harvard undergrad and Yale Law School graduate, was working as an intellectual property attorney in Manhattan when she got engaged, and her wedding-planning experience proved to be a challenge – and thus, Voncierge was born. 

On the Voncierge website, brides can search for vendors — bridal salons, florists, stationers, bakeries, officiants, photographers, venues and planners — in their city and schedule appointments with them.  They can also view a list of all confirmed, requested and past appointments – and also keep track of favorite vendors and wedding dresses. To aid their searVoncierge_MeeJung Jang_Photoch, they can submit their wedding date, budget and dress size. Voncierge has a unique search and tag feature where every image is tagged with the relevant vendor.

“In this modern day and time, brides still need to sit by the phone all day to book their bridal appointments. How annoying! We decided someone had to do something about it. So we built Voncierge,” the company’s website explains. The start-up was initially named Little Dress Book, but has since been renamed as Voncierge (for “virtual concierge”). It was launched in New York City last year, and Jang has since relocated to Hartford as she continues to grow the business from Connecticut.

The company is expanding its site and services city-by-city, with a smattering of listings in distant locations from Las Vegas to Dallas to New York – and more in-between.  Even at this early stage, more than 100 wedding vendors are already listed. 

“The plan is to make Voncierge available to people all over the country,” Jang explains. “We are talking with salons, venues and vendors across the country, and are continuing to add to the site.  It is tremendously well-received wherever we go, and we’re confident that the site will scale effectively and bring brides and businesses together in mutually beneficial ways.”

To participate on the site, vendors pay a fee for every appointment booked. The service is free for brides. Each vendor has a profile on the site displaying relevant information and photographs that brides can review before booking.

“When I started planning my wedding, I was still working as an attorney at a cBusiness Expo pitch winnersorporate law firm, which meant I barely had time to sleep or eat—so sitting by the phone playing phone tag with vendors did not make me happy,” Jang said.  “I knew there had to be a better way, so I set out to create it.” 

In her formal pitch presentation, Jang said she was seeking to have the Voncierge site become “ubiquitous,” with a strong presence on social media.  Joining her in developing Voncierge is chief technology officer Morry Belkin, a Carnegie Mellon graduate with more than 15 years of business experience ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. 

If the successful pitch in Springfield is any indication, prospects for the start-up appear promising.  To build a sales and marketing team and advance product development, Jang is currently seeking investments in the company. She is also looking to hire a sales associate to join her team.

The Business Growth Center at Springfield Technology Park – where Voncierge now has a year’s worth of free business space – offers a range of business services, including access to the Small Business Development Center Network, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Business Growth Center Affiliates Program, all aimed at supporting and assisting start-up businesses.  Center Director Marla Michel was on-hand at the Business Expo November 6 to congratulate Jang and personally extend the free space offer. 

The entrepreneurial competition at the Business Expo was coordinated by Valley Venture Mentors, which provides a range of mentoring services for start-up businesses, including the ten companies that participated. They offer support to the entrepreneurial ecosystem by uniting carefully selected startups together with high quality business mentors at structured monthly pitch and planning sessions.

The other start-up businesses recognized by the judges and audience as the top presenters were Celia Grace, Kloudbook and PeopleHedge.  The Western Mass Business Expo was developed and coordinated by the publication Business West, the business journal of Western Massachusetts.  It was produced by Connecticut-based Rider Productions.