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Innovators Series — Bio Med and Bio Tech

The Innovators October 2013The Innovators is a monthly networking event hosted by the University of Bridgeport to bring entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and creative minds together. The October 9 event panel discussed how entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are creating innovation in Bio-Tech,

Bio-Medical and Bio-Medical Engineering to bring new products to market, establish new innovative divisions and generate profits in established companies.

The discussion was led by Dr. Gad Selig, Associate Dean, Business Development Director, Technology Management Program, University of Bridgeport. Dr. Selig is also on the advisory council of Connecticut Innovations.

The panel included Prabir Patra, Ph.D., Chair, Biomedical Engineering, University of Bridgeport, Stephan Klashka, Director Global Innovation Management, Boehringer-Ingelheim, and Jarrod Longcor, Serial Entrepreneur, Biosciences.

Innovators Series Bio Tech and Bio Medical

Stephan discussed the outreach Boehringer-Ingelheim conducts to bring independently developed early stage innovations into Boehringer-Ingelheim’s intrapreneurial program. Scanning the incubator / accelerator ecosystem for ideas to corporately nurture with an eye toward Boehringer-Ingelheim acquisition and global commercialization. He has developed a “doorway – pathway – journey” for both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to flourish within Boehringer-Ingelheim. Stephen stressed “it’s not how many ideas you have, it’s how many you make happen’.

Jarrod discussed his multiple startups, beginning with capturing angel investors – “family / friends / fools”, chasing multiple rounds of venture capital, and managing the positioning changes of the business model with stakeholders. Two key issues when pivoting business model, maintaining investor confidence in the management team, and delivering the target ROI. The business survives challenges if your team is fast / nimble / willing to change. Entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial culture imperative – “culture will eat strategy for breakfast”.

 

Pardon Our Dust

exterior
FAME is open for business (almost)

Construction is almost completed for our space!

We have gone from our original floorplan to building walls, setting up desks and soon we will be opening the doors.

Our exterior signage is up and interior space has come together with a great layout for desk work or casual sitting near the window.

We will feature ultra fast internet access, a full white board wall and a great kitchen area (because we know great minds need a snack or two).

A big thank you to all of our sponsors! You helped us get going and we appreciate it!

  • United Illuminating
  • Peoples United Bank
  • Stephan Grozinger, Attorney at law
  • Knight, Rolleri, Sheppard CPAS
  • Cuoco Structural Engineers
  • Encon Indoor Comfort and Energy Solutions
  • Connelly Insurance Agency
  • Coldwell Banker Commercial-Fabbraio Group
  • J.P. Franzen Associates Architects

 

Stay tuned to find out more about our Grand Opening and the announcement of the teams that will be participating in our first program.

Campus Business Plan Competition Kickoff

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Tuesday night we had a packed house at the Fairfield University Business Plan Competition‘s annual Kickoff event. At least 100 students — we lost count at about 85 or so — came to hear about this year’s schedule of events, network with possible mentors and partners, and learn about the new FAME incubator.

The evening started with an award-winning promotional video produced by Casey Timmeny and his crew at the Fairfield University Media Production Group.

 

The video segwayed to a presentation of the Winning Game Plan, a six step strategy to get the best team, best business plan, and best pitch in place for the Finale in April. The presentation was delivered by past student winners, who discussed both the problems they overcame and the opportunities they capitalized on the way to the Finale. The students did a terrific job of showing both the value of participating and the potential for winning the competition. Each got an enthusiastic reception, with applause getting louder as each student completed his or her segment.

With all of this build up, the biggest news of the night was left for the end, with the announcement of the FAME incubator. screenshot-by-nimbus

While the business plan competition is an educational program with a discrete endpoint in April, FAME provides a chance to implement the business plan with the continued support of the university community. The crescendo of the night was the announcement that at least one student team from this year’s competition would be accepted into the FAME, to be fast tracked to starting a real business based on their business plan.

Strength in Coopetition

This past Wednesday morning FAME participated in a breakfast sponsored by the The Business Council of Fairfield County at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together for the first time all of the various business incubators and coworking spaces in Fairfield County to share experiences, relate best practices, and look for ways to collaborate.

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All told, there were 12 enterprises represented, each with its own way of doing things. On the one hand there was the Danbury Hackerpace adjacent to the Danbury Public Library and Comradity in Stamford, community-based efforts that seek to foster creative collaboration in a stimulating communal environment. At the other extreme was ColoDesk in Stamford, which specializes in tech startups and takes a direct financial and operational stake in the small stable of companies it sponsors. In between were various community projects (Norwalk 2.0), coworking spaces (The Hub, the B:Hive, Conclave Labs, and SoNo Spaces), and incubators (The Bridgeport Innovation Center and The Stamford Innovation Center). There was even another university-affiliated effort, The University of Bridgeport CTech IncUBator, which appears to operate primarily like a traditional on campus incubator to supplement faculty R&D projects.

As is common at such meetings, each participant was given a few minutes to introduce themselves and expound on the background and operating philosophy of their enterprises. No one was shy about sharing what they knew, with an hour passing by before the last people had their say.

The diversity of interests and potential for collaboration was striking, often making it hard to sit quietly and not play matchmaker with people who had only just been introduced. While one group specialized in creative design and promotion, another was devoted to technical innovation and research, with a third having access to funding sources needed for implementation. If we all just shared the load, it seemed like we could really make a difference.

But of course it doesn’t always work out that way. It was certainly not lost on any of us that our client companies would ultimately be competing with one another for press coverage, access to funding, technical resources, talent, etc. Thus to some degree there is a classic zero-sum game (Startup Poker, anyone?) playing out in our little corner of the Fairfield County business community. We are all startups and not everyone will be successful.

Unless … we could bring more opportunity for everyone by working together. If we could bring more money to the startup ecosystem, then everyone could get funded. If we could promote every company, then the entire region could become a celebrated business corridor with a cachet of its own. If we could refer potential client companies to one another based on fit and opportunity, then everyone could benefit accordingly.

In essence, what we need is an open market for startup services, where service providers both compete to provide the best service for their clients and cooperate to expand the market for everyone. It’s called coopetition, a strategy found in any industry with a shared infrastructure (transportation, energy, telecommunications, commercial banking, etc.) but not commonly found in the venture capital markets where so many startups find themselves.

Coopetition works but you’ve got to be smart about it. Now that we have been introduced to our peers, we plan to work with the others when we can, starting with Stage 1 of our open application process. If we find that we are not a good fit for a given company we will try to refer them to another service provider that may be a better fit. If one of our Stage 2 or Stage 3 clients needs a service that we can’t provide then if possible we will refer them to companies housed at one of our peers.

That sounds a lot like what FAME was founded to do in the first place.

Starting Up

Welcome to the new FAME blog, which will chronicle the hopefully long and accomplished history of the Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise (FAME). This first post is a bit of pre-history of what motivated us to start FAME in the first place.

The Fairfield Store, Borders Books, etc.

FairfieldStore

While FAME may be in its infancy, with yet another month before we welcome our first client companies, the idea of having a business incubator here in downtown Fairfield has been discussed on and off for decades, at least since the Fairfield Store closed in 1996. For much its 75-year history, the Fairfield Store at 1499 Post Road was the anchor that brought people and business to downtown. Thus many people saw its departure as a major blow to the Fairfield business community. Others, of course, saw it also an opportunity, with many thousands of square feet of prime commercial real estate available to attract new and different businesses to town.

After a major redevelopment effort the Fairfield Store building was subdivided into multiple retail outlets and office space, with Borders Books as the anchor tenant. This then led to a decade of relative prosperity, bringing with it a variety of successful eateries, shops, and other businesses.

FairfieldUniversityBookstore

When Borders Books closed two years ago, Fairfield University stepped into the void, partnering with Kleban Properties (the property owner) and Follett Higher Education Group (the bookstore operator) to open the Fairfield University Bookstore in the former Borders location. While some people at the time were skeptical of the idea, the partnership has been good for both the town and the university, and everyone involved is proud of how well it has worked out.

The Founding of Fame

With that success behind them, the Town of Fairfield, Kleban Properties, and Fairfield University began in May to discuss how they could further their partnership and bring even more life to an already vibrant downtown. One idea that naturally came about was to start a business incubator that would benefit everyone in downtown Fairfield. The idea was to ‘raise the tide’ and elevate all the (metaphorical) boats.

FAME_Logo_Short

Thus FAME came into being in June, with each of the three partners making a unique and significant contribution. Fairfield University would provide access to its extensive alumni network and educational resources. Kleban Properties would provide 1300 square feet of state-of-the-art office space and day-to-day operational support. The Town of Fairfield would work with local business leaders and seek out potential grant opportunities.

FAME_Floorplan_SmallThe weeks and months since have been a blur, with each partner challenged to meet a very ambitious goal of starting up the enterprise before the end of Summer. Design and construction of the office space started almost immediately, after a frenzied survey of successful incubators and coworking spaces. Meanwhile, we collaborated on a variety of business decisions on everything from branding to funding models to the composition and role of FAME’s advisory board.

Today marks one month until we expect to officially open our doors, and there is still so much left to do. It seems that every day we hear from someone else who wants to get involved. Each one helps us build our team but also makes us think a little harder about what we want to do next. There are just so many good ideas that we can’t follow through on even a tiny fraction of them all.

Come to think of it, we are just like every other startup, with more than we can possibly do today but we still have to find a way to do it all anyway. And we could not be happier about that!