Chief Executive Officer
If you keep up with Connecticut business news, you may have heard that Connecticut Innovations, a leading provider of financing for early-stage companies, recently launched a $5 million global venture challenge. Pretty exciting stuff! But you may wonder why we created such an ambitious competition, and what we hope will come from our investment. Applications for VentureClash opened April 28 to early-stage fintech and digital health companies worldwide, so it’s a good time to share our vision, and the three tenets driving our strategy.
One: Early-stage companies need help to thrive
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The most recent data from the U.S. SBA Office of Advocacy show that, in Connecticut, small businesses employ about half of the state’s private workforce. Clearly, these companies are critical to our fiscal health. Unfortunately, for entrepreneurs and for the majority of Americans who work for small businesses, 25 percent of new companies don’t make it past their first year, according to Inc. magazine. The upside? Of those companies that make it to year five, 90 percent survive. Ninety percent! I think that’s impressive—and I’ve seen it firsthand.
At Connecticut Innovations, we know from 20 years of successful investing that early-stage funding along with the advisory services and introductions to critical networks are crucial to startup survival. Some of today’s industry powerhouses, including Alexion, Achillion, Cara Therapeutics and Proton, were once CI-backed startups. Today they employ thousands of people worldwide while delivering groundbreaking innovations in their respective markets. It is the success of companies like these, and the growth that we witness when sufficient funding and mentoring are in place, that led us to believe a competition like VentureClash would make a meaningful impact on promising young startups. This, in turn, will help Connecticut’s economy. With investment awards large enough to fund significant initiatives—$1.5 million for first place, and $1 million for second—and with mentoring and other tailored services on offer along with the investment awards, these companies, handpicked from among the best in the world, will have a solid chance of making it past the perilous early years and becoming the Alexions and Caras of tomorrow.
Two: Health tech and fintech show tremendous promise
The decision to limit VentureClash to startups focused on breakthroughs in digital tech and fintech was a strategic one. Digital health promises to play a considerable role in transforming health care. The industry is rapidly “going digital,” and is ripe for disruption. Too, Connecticut is home to prominent research universities, world-class biomedical research institutions, first-tier healthcare providers, data-rich health insurers, and leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Attracting the next generation of digital health innovators is of critical importance to these players, and to our state.
Another industry undergoing significant disruption is fintech. Fintech startups, like PayPal, Affirm, Betterment and others, are rapidly transforming the way we view financial services, including wealth management, lending, payments and secure transactions. Home to leading financial services companies with more than $1.5 trillion in assets under management, all of which are looking to better manage their business for greater return, efficiency and safety, Connecticut is the place to be when it comes to resources for this industry.
By inviting the best digital health and fintech startups in the world to compete at VentureClash, we know we’re betting on not only two of the biggest industries spawning the most exciting startups, but also two of the best industries for Connecticut.
Three: Connecticut’s entrepreneurial scene is gaining momentum, and we want to keep it that way
Connecticut Innovations has been around for 20 years, but it’s only recently that buzz about the state’s entrepreneurial scene has gotten loud. With the state’s investment in and support of CTNext, the entrepreneurial ecosystem managed by Connecticut Innovations, we have introduced the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIAs), funded co-working spaces and built an arsenal of mentors throughout the state. All of these initiatives are causing entrepreneurs both in- and outside our border to see the potential our state has to offer.
With VentureClash, our mission is simple: To expose entrepreneurs worldwide to what Connecticut startups already know: That the state is a fantastic place to grow a technology business.
Ready to get involved? Learn more at www.ventureclash.com.