Seven CT Businesses Among 500 Fastest Growing Tech Companies in US

Where in Connecticut are the fastest growing technology companies?  New Haven, Branford, Trumbull, Madison, Norwalk, and Farmington. Seven Connecticut companies earned a ranking rank on the recently released 2016 Technology Fast 500 rankings of the fastest-growing tech companies in North America, compiled by professional-services firm Deloitte.  That’s the same number of Connecticut firms on last year’s list.

Four of the state’s representatives produce software, aligning with the dominance of that sector, with some 58 percent of this year’s Fast 500 companies in software. Two of the Connecticut companies work in biotechnology, which comprised the second-most represented segment on the list, covering 13 percent of

New Haven-based Achillion Pharmaceuticals ranked highest among Connecticut companies, at No. 43, posting 2,436 percent growth. It was ranked #12 among biotechnology/Pharmaceutical companies. Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a "science-driven, patient-focused company leveraging its strengths across the continuum from drug discovery to commercialization to provide better treatments for people with serious diseases," according to the company website.  achillion-color-logo

Following at No. 239, Farmington-based Evariant Software recorded a 303 percent increase. Next came HPOne, a Trumbull health-insurance solutions firm, which recorded 199 percent growth.  Madison's Clarity Software Solutions was No. 385, Norwalk-based software company etouches ranked No. 461, with 132 percent growth.  Rounding out the Connecticut tech firms earning a slot among the top 500 were Branford-based Core Infomatics at No. 469 and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, now headquartered in New Haven, at No. 473.

New York City and California firms accounted for nine of the top 10 companies on the list. By region, the San Franciso Bay area had 20 percent of the companies, New York 17 percent,  Los Angeles 8 percent,  Washington 6 percent and New England 5 percent.

Los Angeles-based Loot Crate, which delivers entertainment and pop culture-themed collectibles, ranked No. 1 overall, with 66,661 percent growtdeloitteh between 2012 and 2015. Founded in 2012, Loot Crate has more than 650,000 subscribers worldwide in 35 countries. The ranking summary points out that "Loot Crate’s position at the top of this year’s list showcases how innovation isn’t always about new technology and invention, but also about ingenuity, the recombining of existing assets, and know-how in new ways to maximize value."

Yieldbot, a New York City-based company focused on media, ranked No. 2.

"Amid a fierce business climate, there seems to be no shortage of new and established companies that are unlocking a seemingly unlimited potential for growth and advancement through technology’s continued disruption and proliferation across industries," said Sandra Shirai, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and US Technology, Media, & Telecommunications leader.

mapThe focus of the Connecticut firms that made this year’s list reflected the overall composition of the rankings, which were based on companies’ revenue growth between 2012 and 2015.  Software continues to have the greatest impact across technology sectors, representing 58 percent of the entire list and five of the top 10 winners overall.

"Combining technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and rapid growth, Fast 500 companies—large, small, public, and private—hail from cities far and wide across North America and are disrupting the technology industry," the introduction to the rankings emphasized.sector


State’s Educational Technology Commission Plans to Consider Changes to It’s Scope and Purpose

The website of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology explains that “as require by law, the Commission “reports annually; on its activities and progress made in the attainment of the state-wide technology goals, and provides recommendations” to the state legislature. At the next Commission meeting, scheduled for next week, the Commission is expected to “take a look at any changes that Commission members feel should be addressed in terms of our scope and purpose.” Nine months ago, in December 2015, the Commission produced an “annual report’ covering the years 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 – somewhat less frequent than “annual.”  The Commission has met twice this year, on March 7 and June 13, and plans to meet again before year’s end on September 12 and December 5.ctedtech-logo

The Commission for Educational Technology was established at the turn of the century.  In 1999, then Lt. Governor M. Jodi Rell submitted to Governor John Rowland the results of a three-month study that she led on computer readiness in Connecticut’s schools and libraries.  The Lt. Governor’s report made nineteen recommendations “to ensure Connecticut’s students and teachers are prepared to meet the information technology needs of the next century.”  Among them was the creation of the Connecticut Commission on Education Technology, which was proposed by Gov. Rowland and became law in 2000.  Lt. Gov. Rell convened the first meeting in August, sixteen years ago.

An independent group composed of twenty leaders from education, business, information technology, and government, the Commission is empowered by the General Assembly to envision, coordinate, and oversee the management and successful integration of technology in Connecticut's schools, libraries, colleges and universities, according to the organization’s website. Commission members include representatives from the University of Connecticut, Office of Consumer Counsel, Office of Policy and Management, Department of Economic and Community Development, State Library, Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, Connecticut Library Association, Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and Connecticut Council of Small Towns.

reportAs the state's principal educational technology advisor, the website explains, “the Commission works to ensure the effective and equitable use of resources, without duplication, and engender cooperation and collaboration in creating and maintaining technology-based tools for use by all the people of Connecticut.”

The Commission’s “long-range” strategic plan was adopted on December 19, 2002.  Goals and objectives included “communicate the promise and excitement of educational technology to the public,” “implement a development program to secure non-public support for educational technology initiatives,” and “provide educational equity and reduce the digital divide.”

Fourteen members were present at the June 2016 Commission meeting, when it was announced during a 90-minute session that the Connecticut Education Network funding was being reduced from just under $3 million to just over $1 million for fiscal year 2017.  Officials said they were “anticipating that we will ultimately generate enough revenue to match former funding levels.”  The website includes minutes of the meeting, as well as notes from the advisory councils that provide information to the Commission.

The Commission has four advisory councils:

  • eLearning & Content - The eLearning & Content Advisory Council was established to provide to the Commission ideas and information about educational content and services that would benefit Connecticut learners.
  • Professional Development - The Professional Development Advisory Council was established to provide the Commission with a description of options for best preparing teachers and faculty members to optimally use technology in a learning environment.
  • iCONN - The Library Advisory Council provides the Commission with information and suggestions for enhancing iCONN, Connecticut's Digital Library.
  • Network Infrastructure & Services - The Network Infrastructure & Services Advisory Council advises the Commission on matters relating to the Connecticut Education Network (CEN), and suggests technical services and enhancements that might benefit CEN users. Established in 2000, the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) is part of the State's secure "Nutmeg Network", whose purpose is to deliver reliable, high-speed internet access, data transport, and value added services to its members throughout Connecticut.

As part of the advisory council updates provided in June, Commission members heard about a new state law that will take effect on October 1, which imposes requirements on school districts regarding notification to parents about the use of student data, and includes provisions that govern contracts that schools enter into with education technology providers and consultants to ensure protection of student information, records and content.  The Commission also noted that it has established a Twitter account, listserv, and updated website.

The location of the scheduled Sept. 12 meeting is not yet available.

Medical Device Tax Seen as Inhibitor to Innovation, Repeal Sought

Emerging technologies that can develop breakthrough medical devices are at the intersection of innovation and tax policy, and a growing list of businesses and organizations are urging Congress to repeal a tax, instituted as part of the Affordable Care Act, that they say is harmful to industries with the potential to improve lives and boost local economies.  The issue has particular resonance in Connecticut, where efforts to grow technology, precision manufacturing and the medical and pharmaceutical industries have accelerated in recent years. tech Medical technology creates more than two million jobs directly and indirectly across the United States. The industry is one of the few U.S. manufacturing sectors that is a net exporter, and its innovations help reduce the human and economic burden of chronic disease.  Industry officials point out that while U.S. leads the world in the development of new medical technology, the device tax “threatens that leadership.”

Earlier this year, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the medical device tax.  The fate of the proposal in the Senate is unclear.  A growing coalition of research advocates, disability rights leaders, patient groups and others support repeal of the device tax because, they say, it drains critical resources away medical innovation.  According to a 2015 study by opponents of the tax, two-thirds of med-tech companies that were surveyed said they had to either slow or halt job growth at their companies because of the medical device tax.backpain_skeleton-165x300

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of jobs in the Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing industry in Connecticut increased by 10.75 percent, with the addition of about 700 jobs, according to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC).  CERC’s research indicated that jobs in the field were almost twice as concentrated in Connecticut in comparison to the United States, with average wages above the national average, with more than 150 companies in the medical equipment and supplies manufacturing business.

Connecticut’s medical device industry continues to see new entries.  Just two years ago, a company launched by a 2011 UConn graduate, Orthozon Technologies, received local notice for its newly developed “minimally invasive tool for spine surgeons,” which led to the company’s quickly “gaining momentum in the medical device field,” the Fairfield County Business Journal reported that year.

The Stamford-based company’s Lumiere™ is a state-of-the-art minimally invasive surgical retractor that provides “access and visibility for physicians as well as faster and less painful recovery time for patients,” according to the company website.  Utilizing a patented technology with powerful unobstructed fiber optic lighting, translucent retractor blades, full medial access, and an expandable field of view, the medical device provides surgeons with a tool “for quicker and more efficient spinal decompressions.”

Earlier this month, when the state’s fastest growing technology firms were honored at the 2015 Marcum Tech Top 40, in partnership with the Connecticut Technology Council, medical devices were among the technologies highlighted. chart

One of the leading categories included “Medical Devices companies manufacturing medical instruments and devices including medical diagnostic equipment (X-ray, CAT scan, MRI), medical therapeutic devices (drug delivery, surgical instruments, pacemakers, artificial organs), and other health related products such as medical monitoring equipment and handicap aids.”

Among the companies selected was Guilford-based Bio-Med Devices, which designs, manufactures, and markets a complete line of critical care and transportable respirators/ventilators, air - oxygen blenders, ventilation monitors,  disposable and reusable breathing circuits, and accessories.

Connecticut Innovations. The state’s leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut’s innovative, growing companies, highlights six Connecticut companies in the medical device industry within its investment portfolio, with some investments dating back to 2007.

Nationwide, an aging population, people with disabilities living longer lives, and chronic disease rates growing at faster rates, lead advocates of repeal say now is the time for more—not less—resources to advance cures and treatments that help people live longer and healthier lives.  The industry survey indicated that 85 percent of respondents plan to reinstate forgone R&D projects if the tax is repealed.

New “Digital Cookie” Program Brings On-Line Sales to Girl Scouts of Connecticut

Another time-honored tradition has transitioned to the digital age.  Girl Scouts are now selling their celebrated line of cookies on-line.  Connecticut is one of the Girl Scout Councils across the country to be participating in the inaugural year of the Digital Cookie program – and the response has been better than expected. The new Digital Cookie program strengthens, expands, and enhances the well-known and highly regarded Girl Scout Cookie Program by “combining the values and lessons of door-to-door and booth sales with crucial 21st century business and entrepreneurial skills,” official say, “continuing Girl Scouts’ long tradition of preparing today’s girls to be the female leaders of tomorrow.”14_GSCP_digital-channel_4C_multi-color

Here’s how it works:  Prospective cookie customers are able to purchase cookies on-line, after having been contacted by a Girl Scout. (Or you can tell a Girl Scout you know that you're interested in becoming a Digital Cookie customer.) Each scout has their own personal page thru which the cookies are ordered, so the scout will receive credit for the sale, just as when the transaction is completed in-person.  Officials say that some girls will market their online cookie business by inviting customers to visit their personalized cookie websites through a link sent via email.  Others will take in-person orders using a unique mobile app designed specifically for Girl Scouts.

pin“We were excited here in Connecticut to give our Girl Scouts the opportunity to participate in a pilot of Digital Cookie, a first-of-its-kind web platform that lets girls sell cookies from their own protected, personalized websites,” said Tiffany Ventura Thiele, Communications & PR Manager for Girl Scouts of Connecticut.

“Digital Cookie represents the next evolution of the iconic Girl Scout Cookie Program, adding a digital layer that broadens and strengthens the Five Skills girl learn, while introducing modern elements like website customization and e-commerce,” Thiele explained.

Those skills haven’t changed:  goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.  With the new on-line system, customers will be able to pay by credit card and have cookies either delivered by the Girl Scout or shipped.Girl-Scout-Cookies-2015-665x385

Sales are running strong thus far.  To date, in Connecticut, nearly 38,000 packages have been sold on-line, with more than 2,500 girls participating.  In fact, orders placed in Connecticut have been shipped to 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as to military personnel.  (If you’re wondering, nearly two million boxes of cookies were delivered this past weekend, based on initial orders taken by Girl Scouts in Connecticut.)

Nationwide, a majority of the 112 local Girl Scout councils are participating in the Digital Cookie program for the inaugural 2014–2015 cookie season, which began in January.  Additional councils expected to be on board by the end of the year, using an updated version of the program, which will be tweaked based on the feedback received from participating Councils.

mtc_raisins_w_backgroundOfficials stress that “because 100 percent of the net revenue raised through the Girl Scout Cookie Program stays with local councils, when you purchase Girl Scout Cookies you’re not only getting a delicious treat — you’re also making an important investment in your community.”

There are two new cookie options locally this year:  Rah-Rah Raisins, an oatmeal cookie, and Toffee-tastics, a gluten-free butter cookie with toffee pieces.

An informal poll on the national Girl Scouts website asks visitors to vote for their favorite Girl Scout cookie.  The top three thus far:  Samoas (30%), Thin Mints (27%), and Samoas (13%).

If you’ve yet to place an order, there’s still time if you have a sweet tooth for Samoas, Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos, Savannah Smiles, Trefolis or the two new offerings.  The Girl Scouts of Connecticut’s cookie program will continue with booth sales through the month of March, so there’s still a chance to fill the cookie jar.


Middle School Girls to Focus on STEM Fields at Annual Innovation Event

Connecticut’s drive to promote the development of the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – to boost Connecticut’s economy and create sustainable jobs includes women and girls as essential to the efforts’ success. girls of innovationThat aspect will be front and center on Saturday, June 7, when the Connecticut Technology Council sponsors the annual Girls of Innovation program in Hartford, geared specifically to middle school age girls, entering grades 7 and 8, “to experience science and its challenges in a fun, interactive way,” according to program organizers.

Girls of Innovation “inspires today’s middle school students to consider careers in science and technology-related research, health services and business areas.” During the day, volunteers drawn from the Connecticut Women of Innovation program and CTC membership meet and work with the girls. They talk with the students about their experiences and careers and guide them through the challenges created by the Staff Scientists at the Connecticut Science Center.GOI-LOGO-crop-web

Hank Gruner, Vice President of Programs at the Connecticut Science Center, which hosts the program, understands the need to develop programs that will bring more middle school girls into science and technology fields. “The Connecticut Science Center feels strongly that this type of project is essential for Connecticut’s future science and technology workforce,” says Gruner.

Officials point out that although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM related careers. A key message from the Girls of Innovation program is to show participating middle school students real scientists who are “like me” and to inspire girls with the confidence, enthusiasm and persistence to continue pursuing their scientific interests. The program achieves that by bringing the girls together with women working in STEM careers who can talk with the girls about their own career path and interests and choices they made while growing up. The program sponsor is Covidien. New this year, and as a thank you to the girls participating in the science challenge, program sponsors will be coordinating a hands-on activity and distributing Genius Boxes at the conclusion of the event. A Genius Box is a do-it-yourself, boxed project containing all the necessary materials a child needs to complete the challenge inside. genius-box-287x300

The Genius Box co-founders will be distributing their prototype Circuits Genius Box to the middle school girls at the event, completing a Flying Saucer circuits activity in small groups with program participants and then presenting each girl with a box to take home containing two remaining Circuits activities - a DIY Circuit Board to light up an LED and sound a buzzer, made up of a 3 volt battery, paper clips, and fasteners, and also a Pop-up LED Circuits card made from a 3 volt battery and copper wire.

A new entrepreneurial start-up developed as part of a college challenge by students Kate Pipa and Shivangi Shah, Genius Box delivers a monthly themed box of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experiments “right to your door, packed with projects and learning opportunities.” The drive behind the business is clearly stated: “We empower the changemakers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, today.” CTC logo

The mission of the Connecticut Technology Council is to build an interactive community of innovators and their supporters that can leverage these great advantages to create a thriving economy, job growth, a global reputation for entrepreneurial support, and a lifestyle that attracts the best and brightest people to come here and retains the young people who have grown up here. The CTC recently hosted the 10th annual Women of Innovation awards, which recognized 59 women from across Connecticut for their innovation and leadership contributions in the STEM fields.

New Technologies to Assure Safety Provide Challenges, Opportunities for Law Enforcement

New technologies are being designed and implemented in Connecticut and across the country aimed at ensuring safety by improving the effectiveness and speed of police operations. Two of the most fascinating systems, and probably the most advanced, are next-generation 911, which support text, data and video from any device, and drones, which are aerial vehicles that act as watchdogs of the sky, according to the website StateTech.

Recent news reports, however, are raising questions in Connecticut regarding at least one of the new technologies, now on the ground here.  In 2011, the city of Hartford introduced a technology to boost public safety that was ushered in as a way to respond to  Hartford gun violence, FOX Connecticut recently reported. It’s called the ShotSpotter system, built to detect gunfire and it is also used in New Haven and Springfield, Mass.

In an investigative story on the technology, FOX Connecticut reported that during an analysis of ShotSpotter in spring 2012, police records show that out of 60 total alerts, only six were confirmed, meaning the system was only 10 percent accurate. Nearly a year later, an interdepartmental police memo shows the system’s accuracy on 27 alerts was even lower, at just eight percent. Two of those 27 alerts were labeled as gunfire but really weren’t, including one which was just noise from a snow plow.sound

Additional assets are being sought, and received, by Connecticut municipalities, using both local and federal resource to boost efforts on the ground, in the air, and in the water.

The Stamford Advocate reported earlier this year that a plan to purchase a new high-tech public safety boat capable of detecting an arsenal of hazardous materials took another step forward, when the Board of Finance agreed to spend $610,000 to purchase the vessel.  The boat will ultimately be paid for by the federal government, according to the report, which noted that the federal government is also paying for other boats delivered to, or on order from, Greenwich, Norwalk, Fairfield and New Haven.

Last September, Fairfield took possession of a $488,000, 34-foot police boat paid for by the grant, the Advocate reported. In June and July, New Haven expects to take possession of a $1.1 million, 39-foot fire boat paid for by FEMA with two fire nozzles capable of spraying a total of 4,000 gallons per minute. That boat will be operated by the fire department, but the city's police department will have access to the vessel for its dive team.  And Greenwich is expecting delivery of a 38-foot, $600,000 boat to be paid for with a Port Security Grant. The police department will have ownership of the boat, but fire and EMS will have access to it.

In Bridgeport earlier this year, what ultimately proved to be an innocent wind-driven error brought a response by local police and the FBI when a drone crashed near a waterfront power plant, the Connecticut Post reported.  Among the other technologies in use around the country are automatic license plate recognition and wearable cameras, which the Hartford Advocate has reported are being used by officers in Branford.  The high-tech license readers, now mounted on 87 police cruisers statewide in Massachusetts, scan literally millions of license plates in that state each year, not only checking the car and owner’s legal history, but also creating a precise record of where each vehicle was at a given moment, according to the Boston Globe.


Virtual Technology Drives New Collaboration to Respond to Achievement Gap Challenges

A persistent academic achievement gap, determination to advance an effective response and the emergence of a cutting-edge technology are driving a new collaboration that is aiming to improve education opportunities for students in underserved communities and strengthen connections among students, teachers, parents, and the community. The first steps of the initiative – which brings a leadership donation by the Travelers Foundation together with the just-formed Connecticut Technology and Education Collaborative (CTEC) and the Hartford Public Library – will lay the groundwork for the introduction of “desktop virtualization” technology to support education for Hartford students.

The Travelers Foundation is providing no-longer-needed computers and financial support to CTEC, which includes The Walker Group, Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), GreenShare Technology and SpaceFitters. The CTEC initiative marks the first time that such an effort has been undertaken in Connecticut - designed specifically to bring an evolving cutting-edge technology to K-12 students in the state.  A pilot project launched by CTEC began earlier this year in Windham schools.

The donation by the Travelers Foundation will support repurposing and installing the computers at a number of Hartford Public Library locations. In turn, they will be designated for student use and connected to the Hartford Public School network. This will give HPS students after school access to the applications and files they’ve used during the school day from reconfigured PC’s that operate better than new ones.  Access to their classwork offers the students the means to spend additional time reviewing material, working on assignments, and reinforcing lessons.

The technology enabling these donated computers to perform so well is known as desktop virtualization, which shifts the more intensive processing from the computer itself to a specialized server running in a secure data center in East Hartford, part of a previously established and underutilized state network that was developed to advance educational purposes.

The desktop virtualization technology enables students and faculty to access their school network from anywhere, anytime, using any type of device. It is a transformational technology in education, giving students a new way to access technology and opening up extended learning options for disadvantaged schools and communities.

“Virtual desktops hold tremendous potential for enabling under-served students to gain access to school technology," commented Tony Budrecki, Virtualization Services Director at The Walker Group in Farmington. “Our repurposing of legacy machines donated by Travelers into high performance systems wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. It’s a great example of creative philanthropy helping to solve a big societal problem.”

The Connecticut Technology and Education Collaborative is made up of Connecticut-based for-profit and non-profit organizations. The group’s goal is to help level the playing field for access to high-quality, affordable technology in school and from home, through creative public-private collaboration.  The initiative also offers the potential of cost-saving benefits to local schools, as computer network capacity is used more efficiently.