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To grow, perchance to prosper

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Members of the Business Council of Fairfield Council might blush at the thought of how far removed they were from the entrepreneurial community a few years ago. But today the council is a key player in the state’s Innovation Ecosystem, now call CTNEXT.

This month marks the first-year anniversary of the council’s Growth Company Advisory Services, a program that helps startups essentially speed up by connecting them with service providers, funding and mentoring for strategic planning.

CEOs Bret Bader, Dell Hines, Peyman Zamani and Manish Chowdhary represent their companies at a showcase in Stamford.
CEOs Bret Bader, Dell Hines, Peyman Zamani and Manish Chowdhary represent their companies at a showcase in Stamford.

“The Business Council knew little about what was actually happening with startups,” said Chris Bruhl, CEO of the Business Council, reflecting on when the General Assembly first started to pass job growth initiatives in 2011. “But the go-forth-and-learn mantra was instilled and two years later, we’re happy to say that we’re deeply engaged.”

Partnering with CT Next, the Department of Economic and Community Development and Connecticut Innovations, the council’s advisory services supported 21 rapidly growing companies in the first year. Through the program, nine companies have gained access to $2.9 million in funding; 11 were referred to other services programs; and four companies found mentors. The total 21 companies created 24 full-time jobs.

In a growth company showcase at the Landmark Square Conference Center in Stamford Sept. 24, four executives from companies involved in the program expressed their gratitude to the council and to Gary Breitbart, director of the Growth Company Advisory Services.

Bret Bader, CEO of Owlstone Inc. in Norwalk, personally thanked Breitbart for helping him refine and present his message. Owlstone specializes in chemical sensing and detection technology, which could be used within science labs, defense markets and hospitals. The company received a $150,000 grant from Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public funding entity designed to help grow companies in the state. Bader said his company is on track to grow its revenue by 50 percent to 100 percent annually through 2015. Currently he employs 45 people.

Likewise, Dell Hines, CEO of Q-Bank Group in Greenwich, said the advisory services gave him a chance to step back and think strategically.

“So often it’s easy to have tunnel vision,” Hines said. “It was great to partner with a strategic adviser.”

Q-Bank specializes in commercializing intellectual property for businesses and others looking to get a deeper insight into their constituents. The firm holds over 40 IP assets and collaborates with universities such as Oxford and Harvard.

Hines said the group has secured $1 million in Small Business Innovation Research funding and other grants from sources like the U.S. Department of Defense.

While each of the companies is off to a strong start, the CEOs’ lists of needs were lengthy.

The next step for Peyman Zamani, CEO of Logicbroker Inc. in Shelton, is no small task. He said he needs more employees, investors and customers for his e-commerce supply chain software. Through the advisory services he was able to connect with researchers at the University of Connecticut and secure $1.6 million in funding from Connecticut Innovations.

“For the first time I feel being in Connecticut is an advantage,” said Manish Chowdhary, CEO of GoEcart in Bridgeport. “It’s really a great feeling. I’ve had tremendous support from CT NEXT.”

But moving forward, Chowdhary said his needs include improving employee retention and attracting top talent. GoEcart is an all-in-one e-commerce suite that helps companies manage orders, inventory, marketing and warehouse space.

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