March 6, 2018

Health tech hub set to open in New Haven

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Sri Muthu

After arriving at Yale School of Management to earn an MBA, Sri Muthu quickly found that his background as former head of innovation and R&D for Wells Fargo made him popular among budding on-campus entrepreneurs.

"People kept saying to me, 'I've got this great idea. What do I do next?'" said Muthu, who received his Yale MBA in 2016.

Muthu immediately recognized a need – and a business opportunity. New Haven was teeming with great ideas, especially in biotech, but the city lacked the innovation infrastructure to realize them. As a result, potential products were floundering or falling by the wayside, he said.

"I come from the West Coast," Muthu said. "When someone has an idea, it gets launched very quickly. It's harder to do here because we don't have the ecosystem — yet."

Muthu is about to take a major step toward creating that ecosystem. He and his venture capital fund, HealthVenture Labs, plan to launch Haven Health Hub in 6,300 square feet at 195 Church St. just off the New Haven Green at the end of March. The undertaking, partially underwritten by the state through the Elm City Innovation Collaborative, is focused on fostering development of medical devices and technology.

"There is a pent-up demand for this," he said. "I think it's high time we have something like this in New Haven."

The health hub is one of New Haven's first projects under the state's new Innovation Places program, created to help cities become magnets for talent and high-growth companies.

Under the program, the Elm City Innovation Collaborative and winning teams from Hartford-East Hartford, New London-Groton and Stamford will share $30 million in grant money over the next five years after beating eight other cities in a fierce competition last spring.

The collaborative is holding a free open house from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight at Bar in New Haven to showcase the program. Muthu and heads of other participating organizations will give short give presentations outlining New Haven's strengths as a place for innovative companies.

In addition to entrepreneurs, the health hub's tenants will include Muthu's HealthVenture, which invests in medical products using computer technology, and other entities to help guide the fledgling entrepreneurs. Those entities include Bridge Innovations, a medical devices incubator, and Origami Innovations, a project run by Yale School of Medicine students to promote the use of technology in health care, Muthu said.

The result will be one-stop shopping, with financing, technology, expertise and other services available under one roof, Muthu said. The idea is to get everyone working together to move ideas swiftly from concept to reality, as happens in Silicon Valley and other innovation centers, Muthu said.

One way the hub plans to jumpstart innovation is four-or-five-day "boot camps" during which innovators will meet with everyone from technical experts to accountants in an effort to dramatically accelerate development of their ideas, he said. It will offer two models: one that provides investment and another offering all the services needed to get a fledgling company off the ground.

"If you have an idea and you would like to find a team and find people to work on it, we can provide that," he said.

The effort isn't just aimed at Yale students. The hub will also reach out to and welcome students from Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University, Muthu said.

"They will have some place where they can come to talk about their ideas," he said.

The Elm City Innovation Collaborative is providing $100,000 of public money, said Elinor Slomba, the collaborative's innovation manager, while Muthu said HealthVenture and other entities have put in the remaining $200,000, to get the venture off the ground.

Slomba said the collaborative was impressed by the hub's focus on biotech, its downtown location and collaborative approach. "When you look at New Haven, biotech stands out," she said. "It's really about leveraging and making sure the dollars count."

Slomba and Muthu both described the hub's goal as creation of a pipeline for the development of new ideas and products that eventually yield successful companies and jobs.

Even though it's not officially open yet, Muthu is already thinking bigger. He is in negotiations to co-locate two major biotech players at the hub, he said. As word of the hub has spread, he's already received enough new inquiries to contemplate future expansion.

"The other side of the floor is available," Muthu said.

Christopher Hoffman can be reached at news@newhavenbiz.com

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