October 16, 2017
Startups & Entrepreneurs

CT Innovations gears up for second VentureClash

Photo | HBJ File
Photo | HBJ File
CI CEO Matt McCooe at the 2016 VentureClash.

A $5 million pitch contest that's helped raise the profile of the state's quasi-public venture investment arm is coming back for year two with a strictly international field.

Connecticut Innovations' VentureClash, to be held Oct. 20 at Yale, drew 270 applicants this year — 100 more than last year. Over the summer, CI whittled that number down to nine finalists in the digital health, financial technology, insurance technology and internet-of-things sectors and they all hail from outside the U.S. (six different countries total).

Two of those companies are currently trying to raise venture funding, an indication they could be hot prospects.

This year, CI has tweaked its prize structure slightly. The top prize remains at $1.5 million, but there could be as many as two second-place, $1 million prizes, up from one last year. There will be as many as three third place awards of $500,000 each.

"The reason is that if you're asking a company to set up an office over here, $1 million is probably a better number for them to scale up faster," McCooe said.

Last year's winners, which included first-prize recipient Dream Payments, have all gravitated toward the Stamford area, McCooe said.

Each has an agreement with CI regarding how many employees it will have located in Connecticut. For example, Streamdata.io, a French software company, relocated its CEO and head of business development to Connecticut, McCooe said.

CI ended up signing deals with four of last year's six winning companies. The deals take a while to complete, McCooe said (the final contracts were wrapped up in June, eight months after the inaugural contest).

McCooe said CI is also pushing to get more Connecticut corporate players involved in the contest.

"Last year it was more like 'please just come,' " McCooe said of CI's message to area companies. "We just said 'please come, we want you to see what we're doing.' "

This year, property-casualty insurer The Hartford is dangling $25,000 if it sees something it likes among the insurtech competitors.

McCooe said that's proof companies are looking for access to innovation.

"They're buying into the vision we have for ourselves," he said.

The finalists this year include: Bought By Many (U.K.); Buzzmove (U.K.); Davra Networks (Ireland); EarTex (U.K.); FRISS (Netherlands); Peek Health S.A. (Portugal); SCADAfence (Israel); Tellspec (Canada); and Vouchr (Canada).

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