Four reasons for entrepreneurs to be excited about where the Elm City is headed

Matt-Circle

 

Matthew Storeygard
Senior Investment Associate
Connecticut Innovations

It’s been 11 years since I moved to New Haven from Washington, D.C. with my wife. At the time, we were making the move to further our careers. My wife was pursuing her pediatric residency and I was attending business school.

We were skeptical about the move. We never anticipated staying beyond our respective trainings. However, once we got here, we found a burgeoning small city teeming with culture, great food that has received national recognition, and young, talented people across a variety of industries.

And 11 years later, we’re still here.

People are moving back to the city. Between 2000 and 2010, New Haven experienced the highest population growth rate of any city in the Northeast, even surpassing Boston. A lot of this population growth can be attributed to the growing number of businesses making New Haven their home. It also doesn’t hurt that the city has become a desirable place to live. There are a few compelling reasons for this trend.
 

1. New Haven’s residents are educated

Companies are finding a strong base of talent across industries. The city demonstrated the 5th highest growth rate in college degree attainment between 2000 and 2010. The talent pool includes many graduates from Yale University, as well as other colleges and universities in the region.

Yale

The high number of well-educated residents also means a stronger economy. Those with advanced degrees earn more money, on average, and can afford to spend more locally. New Haven has been seeing this trend for several years now.

2. New Haven has culture

New Haven offers more food, art, and culture that most cities of similar sizes, making it an attractive place to run a business. It has the best pizza in the country (I’m partial to Frank Pepe’s – try the bacon and clam), is home to the world’s first hamburger, the Yale Art Gallery, which is completely free to the public, and the Peabody Museum. Combine this with exciting nightlife and beautiful scenery, and you’ll understand why the city has been getting a lot of attention for its culture in recent years:

Louis Lunch

Louis’ Lunch

3. The region has a diverse industry base

Not dependent upon one large employer or industry, the region’s sectoral diversity has helped it weather economic and social changes. It was even named one of the country’s 20 recession-proof cities during the recent economic downturn. While education and medicine represent New Haven’s core strengths, the city also has a base of talent in finance, IT, manufacturing, and other industries.

4. New Haven’s relationship with Yale has improved dramatically

Perhaps most import of all, Yale and the City of New Haven are working together to move the city forward. The divide between town and gown was previously a wide chasm, with a baseline of antipathy that occasionally erupted into larger demonstrations of tension and differences. By the time I came to New Haven, the leaders of both New Haven and Yale had recognized the symbiotic relationship, and have fostered a much closer partnership. A good example is the New Haven Homebuyer Program in which Yale provides financial incentives to employees and faculty to purchase homes within designated areas of New Haven.

Former New Haven mayor John DeStefano, Jr. on the relationship between New Haven and the Yale University.

 

The Result

The excitement and energy from these positives is reflected in the city’s startup scene. This list of New Haven startups, which was put together by local entrepreneur Miles Lasater (with help from the community) shows just how many startups call New Haven home. The Elm City has become increasingly attractive to companies because it provides access to talent and capital at a cost of living dramatically lower than other hubs on the East Coast.

On top of that, potential connections with Yale cannot be understated. The university attracts many established venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to campus for events that are open to the public, and produces talent to fill the hiring needs of startups. A particularly notable theme within the startup list is the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. The organization was founded in 2007, and ventures emerging from it have raised over $100 million. Many have also tested their visions and products within the city, adding to its vibrancy. A few notable startups in New Haven from this list that illustrate the diversity of thriving sectors include:

  • Arvinas (CI Portfolio Company) – an early stage biotechnology company based on a game-changing technology from Yale that opens new drug target categories for biopharmaceutical products. It is focused on developing new small molecule strategies for degrading disease-causing cellular proteins.
  • Continuity Control (CI Portfolio Company) – provides community banking executives with a smarter approach to managing compliance. The software as a service (SaaS) company provides community banks with a comprehensive platform to reduce compliance burden in the face of the increasing number of regulations faced by these institutions. It has even created the Banking Compliance Index which tracks the total regulatory cost to the banking industry. The Index has been picked up for distribution by the Wall Street Journal.
  • Digital Surgeons – a full service creative agency that provides integrated marketing, brand development, content planning and execution, and website design among other services. Its client list includes Guess, Camelbak, Crossfit, Sephora, United Technologies, and many other large companies. Additionally, the company has been instrumental in helping many local startups with their media, marketing, and websites. As they write on their own website, “We’re headquartered in New Haven, CT. A vibrant city steeped in history with a culture of innovation. We love its energy, independent spirit, and crazy-good food scene. We’re proud to call it home.”
  • Rally Bus – emerged from Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and is a crowd-sourced, on-demand travel company. The company organizes transportation to special events such as political rallies, concerts and sporting events. It provides a cheaper alternative to a taxi, and a more convenient option than public transportation. Thus far, Rally Bus has organized travel for over 50,000 people.
  • SeeClickFix – SeeClickFix provides tools for citizens to report on non-emergency issues, access information and submit service requests. It provides comprehensive back-end solutions for governments to triage these requests, assign service tickets, and close issues, providing increased levels of transparency and communication.

These are just a few of the many companies on the startup list that represent the full spectrum of industries and talent that exists in New Haven.

The Ultimate Startup Weekend in New Haven (Friday, November 14)

If you want a true taste of the great things going on in the city’s startup community, I highly recommend spending the afternoon of Friday, November 14, on the New Haven Startup Tour. You’ll have the opportunity to visit your choice of 10 New Haven-area startups as well as The Grove, a co-working space that houses a number of startups in New Haven, and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.

After that, join Startup Weekend New Haven to learn what it takes to launch a company in New Haven. You’ll meet like-minded entrepreneurs, share your great ideas, and join forces to turn the best ones into companies. It’s 54 hours of exhilarating, informative madness.

It’s clear to me that The Elm City is a city on the rise. What do you think about New Haven? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.