10 CT Companies Are Finalists at Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, Three Receive Funds to Boost Growth

Fledgling entrepreneurial businesses in West Hartford, New Haven and Marlborough will be getting a financial boost in their efforts to gain a foothold in their respective industries. CTNext, Connecticut’s go-to resource for entrepreneurial support, announced the three winners of the most recent Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA), held this month at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.

The finalists, Connecticut-based companies and entrepreneurs, presented their innovative project ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial experts for an opportunity to secure $10,000 awards to help support business growth. The top winners, to receive $10,000 awards, were:

  • GinzVelo Hybrid Electric Cycles (West Hartford): A personal transportation solution powered by pedaling or the electric motor to effortlessly travel up to 100 miles to and from your destination.
  • Sweetflexx (Marlborough): Resistance technology active wear enables muscles to work more efficiently, resulting in a higher rate of calorie burn.  McCullough Shriver founded Sweetflexx. (see video below)
  • Verb Energy Manufacturing (New Haven): A healthy, caffeinated, energy bar that combines your cup of coffee and an energy bar for less cost. Verb Energy  was founded in 2016 by four Yale students.

The “judges’ favorite” went to Sweetflexx, and the “crowd favorite” was awarded to Verb Energy.  Each business will receive an additional $2,000.

The other finalists included:

  • Global Hydro Pneumatic High Tech Inventions (Shelton) Developing an all-wheel hydraulic power jack system that is safer and less damaging to cars.
  • Loki (Woodbridge) Creating an app that gives users control over their own multi-perspective visual experience.
  • Mobile Sense Technologies (Farmington) Engineering an “off-the-chest” ECG monitor for 24/7 management of cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Obvia (West Hartford) Creating a lightweight, dual-winglet blade for small to mid-sized wind turbines that is both energy- and cost-efficient.
  • Olie Robotics (Manchester) Building a professional robotic vacuum that cleans offices at a third of the cost with no labor hassles.
  • PennSMART (North Branford) Producing a universal retrofit for lighting fixtures that allows surveillance and sends alert notifications.
  • Trekeffect (Niantic) Creating an app that allows individuals to sell their travel itineraries.

“The Entrepreneur Innovation Awards seek to give new and growing companies the support they need to thrive,” said Glendowlyn Thames, executive director of CTNext. “Through these events, we have seen a number of incredible companies that are changing their respective industries and creating a positive economic impact in our state. These grants continue to support companies at the earliest stages of growth and to drive them to the next level of development.”

To be eligible for an EIA, startups must be Connecticut-based, registered as CTNext members, and looking to conduct growth-related activities to help advance their business. Project examples include but are not limited to prototyping, performance testing, compliance testing, product or service development, market research, licensing and more.

A full list of criteria can be found on the application page. For more information on the program or to apply, please visit: http://ctnext.com/entrepreneur-innovation-awards/.  CTNext launched in 2012 and has more than 1,500 members in its network, since initiating the awards program in February 2014 CTNext has awarded $544,000 to 52 companies.

The goal of CTNext is to build a more robust community of entrepreneurs and to accelerate startup growth by providing access to talent, space, industry expertise, services, skill development and capital to foster innovation and create jobs for people in Connecticut.



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, www.helpgrowct.org, 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.”




Award-Winning Start-Up Accelerator to Launch Largest Class of Social Enterprises, Fledgling Businesses

When the Hartford-based Social Enterprise Trust, known as reSET, was among the winners of the U.S Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Competition last year – the only Connecticut organization to do so and one of 80 nationwide – it was not known what earning that designation, and  the $50,000 that came with it, would mean for reSET’s Impact Accelerator program. Now, the picture is becoming clearer – and boosting Hartford’s reputation as a city for socially committed entrepreneurial start-up businesses.  The expanding initiative is attracting not only home grown companies, but start-ups from elsewhere across the country, including as far away as California.

Tailored for impact-driven businesses but available to all early-stage ventures, reSET’s Impact Accelerator, now beginning its fourth year, has as its primary objective to test and hone entrepreneurs’ models, and to connect them to networks, mentors, customers, and resources.

A cohort of 22 businesses have been accepted to the program and most of their models are impact focused, serving the educational technology, health and health tech, energy, and agriculture industries. More than 60 percent of them are already generating revenue.  It is the largest group of companies to take part in the accelerator program at reSET, and the first to include a handful of out-of-state participants.cohort 2016

Running from January 20 to June 2, reSET’s accelerator will feature a more flexible program designed for busy, full-time entrepreneurs, as well as a ‘pay what you can’ model.  Entrepreneurial teams will attend five weekend summits, with 30+ optional workshops, mentor office hours, and consultations with an Entrepreneur in Residence conducted during the week.

At program’s end, a $25,000 accelerator funding pool will be available to the cohort, and they'll have priority access to reSET’s investment fund as well, via mentors and advisors that can help them put their best foot forward with their applications, according to reSET officials.

The 2016 cohort includes: Agyncy (www.agyncy.com), AmRide (www.amride.com), Asarasi (www.asarasi.com), BLT Robotics (www.bltrobotics.com), Doors to Explore (www.doorstoexplore.com), DopaFit (www.mydopafit.com), Enviro Power, LLC (www.enviropowertec.com), Keep Sight (www.keepsight.com), Lion’s Heart (www.lionsheartservice.org), Mivy (www.mivyapp.com), Movia Robotics (www.moviarobotics.com), Muni (www.muni.info), myHomeProNetwork (https://myhomepronetwork.com), Plucked (www.pluckedadmissions.org), RepVisits (www.repvisits.com), ScripFlip (www.scriptflip.org), SnapSeat (www.snapseatbooths.com), Tainted Inc. (www.tainted-beauty.com), Text Engine (www.textengine.info), The TubieGuard (the-tubieguard.myshopify.com), Trekeffect (https://trekeffect.com), and Untapped Potential (www.upotential.org).

“We’ve made a strategic shift with our accelerator model so it can accommodate more participants at one time, which we feel will really encourage more collaboration,” said Rosie Gallant, reSET’s Director of Programs. “The shift will help tee up the accelerator for our annual Impact Challenge as well, since the program will wrap in the spring right around when applications will open for the competition in which participants will vie for this year’s $100,000 prize purse.”

reSET is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector.  Its strategic goals are threefold: to be the “go-to” place for impact entrepreneurs, to make Hartford the Impact City, and Connecticut the social enterprise state.  reSET aims to inspire innovation and community collaboration, and to support entrepreneurs in creating market-based solutions to community challenges.  reSET’s goal is to meet entrepreneurs wherever they are in their trajectory and to help them take their businesses to the next level.

CT Start-Up Wins MassChallenge, Takes Home $300,000 to Advance Work in Glucose Monitoring

Connecticut-based Biorasis, with roots at UConn, was recently awarded the MassChallenge’s top prize at their annual awards ceremony in Boston.  The company was one of only four “Diamond Winners,” receiving a cash prize of $100,000. They were also one of two teams to receive the Sidecar Award, providing an additional $200,000 in non-dilutive funding. Biorasis Inc. is a rapidly growing medical device company committed to advancing the field of metabolic monitoring through development of implantable biosensor platforms and basic research in the areas of drug delivery, nanotechnology and microelectronics.  The company’s goal is to vastly improve the quality of life of diabetics.biorasis-inc-logo

The technology developed by Biorasis, the Glucowizzard™, is an ultra-small implantable biosensor for continuous, reliable glucose monitoring. This needle-implantable device wirelessly transmits glucose levels to a watch-like unit for real-time display, which in turn communicates with personal digital accessories like a smartphone. Continuous metabolic monitoring “holds great potential to provide an early indication of various body disorders and diseases,” the company website explains, adding that Biorasis’ implantable multi-sensor platform is “capable of such real-time, continuous monitoring.”MC

Biorasis is in the business of developing a miniaturized, hypodermic-injectable biosensor for reliable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) with autonomous operation for 3-6 months that requires no user intervention.

Their solution “eliminates surgery for sensor implantation and extraction, restores active life style, enables remote care for juveniles and the elderly, enhances compliance, and saves 50-70% in annual healthcare costs.”

The company’s co-founders and scientific advisors are:

  • Faquir Jaina, a Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He has over 35 years of experience in design, modeling and fabrication of micro/opto-electronic devices, integrated circuits and multiple quantum-well light valves/modulators.
  • Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, a Professor of Chemistry and Associate Director of the Institute of Materials Science at University of Connecticut. He has over 20 years of experience in the areas of polymers, nano/bio-systems and supramolecular assembly of nanostructures.

The company continues to grow, and their scientific team is currently expanding. The Biorasis website indicates that the company is seeking individuals with “a proven track record and experience in the areas of medical devices, electrochemistry, polymer science, pharmaceutics, animal studies, microelectronics and device packaging.” Inquiries can be directed to Biorasis at the UCONN Technology Incubation Program in Storrs.  Additional investors are also being sought.

mass challengeMassChallenge, an independent nonprofit organization, envisions “a creative and inspired society in which everyone recognizes that they can define their future, and is empowered to maximize their impact.” They note that “novice entrepreneurs require advice, resources and funding to bring their ideas to fruition. Currently there is a gap between the resources these entrepreneurs need and the ability of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide them.” To bridge that gap, the organization’s primary activities include running an annual global accelerator program and startup competition, documenting and organizing key resources, and organizing training and networking events.  They “connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch and succeed immediately.”