Tech start-ups and University of Bridgeport innovators come together at the CTech Incubator.
One of the University of Bridgeport’s newer innovations is the creation of CTech IncUBator, UB’s first ever high-tech incubator, located on the Bridgeport campus. The incubator is a partnership between UB and Connecticut Innovations, Connecticut’s quasi-public authority for technology investing and innovation development. It’s also Fairfield County’s first and only university-based incubator for high-tech start-ups. The CTech IncUBator’s purpose is to assist and facilitate the growth and commercialization of both private-sector and university-based research technology companies. Currently, tenants include start-ups for biotechnology and medical devices, software, and computer and cell phone forensics.
Dr. Gad J. Selig, Associate Dean, Business Development, and Director of the Technology Management Program, explains, “The University of Bridgeport has a long tradition of supporting the state’s entrepreneurs. The CTech IncUBator provides entrepreneurs an excellent opportunity to benefit from the expertise available on campus and through our large network of partners and advisors.” Selig co-manages the incubator with Charlie Moret of Connecticut Innovations.
The opportunity to rent space in the incubator is vital for tech start-ups. It means that an array of pro bono or low cost services are available, and at UB, it means that a strong cadre of world-class faculty and students in engineering, business, design and other academic programs are at the start-ups’ fingertips. Couple this with the incubator’s location, minutes from the train station and the I-95 corridor, and you can understand why Connecticut Innovations jumped at the chance to establish the incubator on the UB campus in Bridgeport.
Case-in-point: Carissa Ganelli, CEO and founder of Commerce Drivers, recently moved into an incubator office and is looking forward to the possibility of hiring UB interns as part of her strategy to secure and grow her business. Her mobile commerce platform, LightningBuy™, enables merchants, advertisers and publishers to monetize mobile devices. At a time with over 200 percent increases in web site traffic and ecommerce sales coming from mobile devices, it makes it as easy as possible for consumers to purchase from mobile devices and makes it as easy as possible for merchants and advertisers to sell from mobile devices.
Like other entrepreneurs, Ganelli left the security of full-time employment but understands that you can’t always pursue your dreams in the comfort and refuge of someone else’s empire. According to Ganelli, “The incubator at UB enabled me to test the waters of entrepreneurship without making a huge financial commitment. The cost-effective rent, pro bono legal and accounting services, and access to student interns were a huge help as I was already foregoing a steady salary. I wasn’t able to also spend tens of thousands of dollars just to get set up.”
The incubator is as its name implies: a controlled environment with special services designed to help launch a successful, new enterprise. But it’s not just about business for business sake. It’s about start-up businesses that can become a primary engine of job creation. In 2010, when CTech IncUBator was launched, then Governor M. Jodi Rell supported its creation for that reason. She explained that “small businesses account for eight out of 10 of our state’s new jobs every year.”
The growing interdisciplinary collaboration between UB’s Schools of Engineering, Business, and Design will further spur potential new student-initiated businesses, while continuing to support start-ups housed in the incubator. In addition to office space and services, last year the incubator started a monthly brown bag lunch. Topics to date have included investors and investing, insurance and asset protection, and early-stage capital. UB and Connecticut Innovations are confident that despite these difficult economic times, successful tech-focused entrepreneurs will emerge, some of whom will have been “hatched” right here, on UB’s own front doorstep.