Gov. Ned Lamont’s choice to oversee economic development in Connecticut is Daniel H. O’Keefe, who left the technology investment world earlier this year and talked himself into a job as the state’s first chief innovation officer.
Administration and business sources say O’Keefe will be introduced Tuesday as the successor to Alexandra Daum, a former real estate executive who is leaving the administration early next year for a position at Yale University.
In O’Keefe, the governor once again is tapping an executive with deep experience in finance: He has 25 years of investment experience, most recently as the managing partner of Apax Digital, a global firm based in New York.
“We get a lot of extraordinary people working in state government. And we’re lucky for the time they are able to serve the state,” Lamont told CT Mirror last week, confirming Daum’s plans to leave.
Lamont’s first commissioner of economic development was David Lehman, a partner at Goldman Sachs who approached the governor early in his first term about a move from Wall Street to government.
Lehman served for four years in the Lamont administration, hiring Daum as his deputy. He is now a managing director of HPS Investment Partners, a New York investment firm managing $104 billion in assets.
Like Daum, O’Keefe has an MBA from Harvard. He joined DECD, answering to Daum, on July 5.
The chief innovation job was created specifically for O’Keefe, who has been working for a token annual salary of $20,000. As commissioner, he will be paid a full salary. Daum is making about $215,000 annually.
In the few months he’s been leading the state’s innovation efforts, traveling around the state to meet with businesses and local leaders, O’Keefe said he’s encountered a lot of skepticism. He wants to see that perspective change.
“So what I decided to do is start talking about reasons for optimism,” he said in remarks at a recent Darien event promoting the efforts of Tidal River Fund, which is raising money to seed startups led by women and minority entrepreneurs.
O’Keefe said he likes to highlight that Connecticut’s economic output and population are growing. He said he sees Connecticut as “the net beneficiary of a more hybrid working environment.”
“Let’s not squander this opportunity,” O’Keefe said. “Let’s look at this as a time when we should be investing.”