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October 8, 2019

Stanley+Techstar’s Demo Day bolsters Hartford as a budding venue for tech startups

HBJ Photo | Sean Teehan Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree touts Hartford's growing innovation scene at the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator Demo Day Oct. 7.

A nervous excitement filled the air at Hartford’s Bushnell Theater Monday, as CEOs from 10 startups involved in Stanley+Techstars Accelerator mingled with more established members of the business community, before pitching their companies on-stage for Demo Day. 

The night marked the second year New Britain-based manufacturing giant Stanley Black & Decker partnered with Techstars, a startup accelerator for technology-focused companies, to provide resources and mentorship to the leaders of 10 promising companies. And those companies contribute to a growing tech and advanced manufacturing startup scene in Connecticut’s Capital City, said Claudia Reuter, a managing director for Techstars.

“Being in Hartford is a perfect example of what makes techstars so powerful, because we’re able to partner with corporations, attract startups here,” Reuter said. “Not only do (startups) benefit from the relationships with Stanley and the better parts of the ecosystem, but they actually contribute to the vibrancy, renewed vibrancy of the area.” 

This year, half the companies were in additive manufacturing (or 3D printing for manufacturing), and the other half focused on sustainable packaging, Reuter said. 

Stanley’s partnership with Techstars on the accelerator benefits the company’s short-term and longer-term strategic goals, said Martin Guay, Stanley’s vice president of business development. 

First, it enables Stanley to make ground-floor investments in companies working on innovative technologies or business models, getting their foot in the door of emerging ideas, and possibly leading to licensing exclusivity for new technology, Guay said. Secondl if Hartford becomes a hub for startups focused on innovation, Stanley will have a pool of possible acquisitions and partners right in its backyard.

“It gives us potentially a first advantage, or the ability to see what they’re doing, because we’re closer to (startups),” Guay said. “It allows us to benefit from what they’re working on.”

The Stanley/Techstars team-up is among an increasing number of Hartford-based projects focused on attracting and growing startups, or fostering innovation within an established company. Startupbootcamp launched a second program in Hartford this year, and last year Upward Hartford expanded its incubator and pilot programs with a $4 million investment. Tech giant Infosys established a tech hub in Hartford and promised to create 1,000 local jobs (it hired 125 people in Hartford, and 500 in Connecticut as of August), while companies like Hartford Steam Boiler have expanded their focus on creating new technology.

Stanley Ventures invested in four of the 10 companies from last year’s accelerator program, all of which established a presence in Hartford, Guay said. He declined to say whether the company would invest in any of this year’s companies.

Before pitching his company to the dozens of business people, local and state politicians and others, Riley Knox, CEO and co-founder of Austin-based Accelerate 3D, said he thinks Hartford is catching on as a place to be for manufacturing tech startups. He’s decided to open a permanent operation in Hartford, the company’s second after Austin, where it was founded.

“There’s are just so many companies doing actual, real manufacturing here,” he said, listing several large manufacturers in the Greater Hartford area.

Among the speakers opening the event was Stanley CEO James Loree, who pointed out that half the companies chosen to participate in the accelerator this year are run by or co-founded by women, a departure from the national venture-backed startup scene, in which about 3 percent have a female founder or CEO, he said.

Loree also touted Connecticut’s friendly attitude toward public/private partnerships as a driving force in fostering projects like the Stanley Techstars Accelerator. 

“We have the talent, educational support and resources to once again be a region known for innovation and technology leadership,” Loree said.

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