Support for entrepreneurs key to economic growth

The comprehensive jobs bill, signed into law by Governor M. Jodi Rell on May 12, is by far the most aggressive effort Connecticut lawmakers have made to jumpstart Connecticut’s entrepreneurial economy since the recession began in 2008. Not only does the bill provide $5 million in pre-seed capital for those developing new concepts, it also authorizes personal income tax credits for angel investors who invest at least $100,000 in Connecticut start-up businesses in bioscience, advanced materials, photonics, information technology, and clean technology. The launch of these initiatives reflects how important the technology sector is to the growth of our economy overall.

As the state’s quasi-public organization for technology investing, Connecticut Innovations (CI) will be responsible for administering both the angel investor tax credits and the pre-seed capital. Having started three businesses from the ground up in several East Coast states, I can attest to the fact that CI will provide the perfect home for these new initiatives. The capital, expertise and support that CI provides to Connecticut entrepreneurs directly contribute to the success of their businesses, the creation of new jobs and the greater success of our state’s entire economy.

My relationship with CI began in 2008, when they initially expressed interest in my company, Soft Tissue Regeneration, Inc. (STR), which has developed a breakthrough technology for the treatment for ACL injuries. STR was originally located in Charlottesville, VA, but relocated to Connecticut as a result of the funding and support offered by the CI team. CI provided STR with funding in June 2009 and today, thanks to the capital, expertise and guidance I received, my company has reached several milestones in the development of our product. Having successfully completed mechanical, small animal trials and a large animal pilot study, we are now testing our medical device with large animals and will begin human trials in the 4th quarter of 2010. Each benchmark we reach as we bring our product to market can be traced back to CI’s commitment to our development.

Getting access to capital is only the first step for startup companies. Beyond their investments, CI’s expert guidance and patience are also critical to the success of the businesses they support. Traditional venture capital firms have money to lend, but often lack the long-term commitment needed to allow small technology businesses to grow. Most state government entities lack the entrepreneurial mindset which is crucial to helping startup companies expand, thus creating more high-tech, high-paying positions. Thanks in no small part to its independence, CI has spent more than 20 years building a successful track record by helping small technology companies grow, add jobs and attract investment to Connecticut.

A telling indication of CI’s reputation within the venture capital (VC) and technology communities is the flurry of interest STR has received from other VC’s and investors, following CI’s investment. The research CI conducts prior to making an investment is well-respected by VC firms throughout the country and CI’s due diligence often leads to new investments in Connecticut companies, which as any entrepreneur will tell you, is critical to growth and success in the market.

Our state is home to universities and colleges with some of the most talented scientists and researchers in the country, developing exciting new technologies every day. We have startups and entrepreneurs developing innovative ideas and products for the global marketplace. It is imperative that we recognize the importance of organizations like CI, that provide entrepreneurs with the capital and support they need to thrive, grow and create high-paying jobs for Connecticut’s future.

Joseph Reilly is president and chief executive officer of Soft Tissue Regeneration, Inc. based in Stamford.

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