San Francisco, New York City, and Boston dominate the popular perception of where tech companies are born. But in the 21st century, it is no longer inevitable that a startup will only gravitate towards one of those states. Other states are wooing startups. Connecticut is leading the digital charge to become another center for innovative tech companies.
When people think of Connecticut, what immediately comes to mind are insurance companies (such as The Hartford), great micro beer breweries, UConn basketball, and New Haven’s famous, ultra crispy pizza. Another claim to fame is that Connecticut boasts one of the highest densities of college graduates in the US, not to mention having one of the crown jewels of higher education: Yale University. The state also provides tax incentives for industries such as manufacturing and digital media to help offset the cost.
Connecticut Tech Companies
In 2016, seven Connecticut tech companies were named in the Technology Fast 500 rankings which list the 500 fastest growing tech companies. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Connecticut as the 12th best state to live in (even beating out neighboring New York). The same report also listed Connecticut as having the 4th best educational system. Yep, the Constitution State has a lot to offer for entrepreneurs and businesses looking for a place to call home.
There are dozens of other companies spread throughout the state that are making a splash in the tech world. Located in Norwalk, Datto, whose technology protects business data for thousands of companies throughout the world, is valued at over $1 billion.
New Haven: a Startup Destination
Though companies are springing up throughout the state, the startup core of the Connecticut is located on the southern coast. New Haven is the heart of Connecticut’s startup scene. For several years, the city has been cultivating a reputation as boasting a tech scene in a league of its own. The greater New Haven area is home to global giants like pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb and medical technology manufacturer Medtronic. More recently, it has been the birthplace of the coworking space The Grove, Tangoe, a global provider of IT Expense Management (ITEM), as well as software companies Continuity and Square 9 Softworks.
Among the innovative startups forming in New Haven, SeeClickFix is transforming the way citizens and cities collaborate to improve the urban environment. Through its app and website, citizens report non-emergency issues to their local government (such as a pothole in the street). Over 25,000 towns participate in its platform. The startup is a great example of how New Haven startups are driving innovations that are having a ripple effect far beyond the borders of Connecticut.
New Haven’s innovative reputation goes back to the 19th century when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin there. Since then, more innovations have arisen in the city. For example, Louis’ Lunch is credited with introducing the hamburger to America. Two scientists at the Yale Medical School invented chemotherapy in the early 1940s. In fact, one of America’s favorite pastimes, the frisbee originated in New Haven as well!
Whether a business is B2B, B2C, DTC, or CPG, New Haven’s central location has made it a prime spot for startups to thrive. Nestled between New York and Boston on the Amtrak/Metro North line, it is easy to hop on the train and head towards either city. This is vital for young entrepreneurs since access to angel investors and venture capital (VC) funds is the lifeline for many startups. For more established tech startups, marketing assistance is not problem since there are no shortage of Connecticut marketing agencies. The greater New Haven area is home to a number of marketing agencies.
The city has all the amenities a young business needs to accelerate. As the home of Yale University, Quinnipiac University, and Southern Connecticut State University, there is a steady supply of undergraduate and graduate student brainpower churned out every year. These graduates are realizing that New Haven has everything a large city like San Francisco, New York, or Boston has to offer but at a far more reasonable cost of living.
Yale University has been fostering a culture of innovation in New Haven. For example, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) offers grants and work spaces for innovation-minded undergrads who want to transform their ideas into viable products and services. The Yale Medical School produces cutting edge research every year. Quinnipiac University’s political poll is one of the most prestigious in the country.
For these reasons, it’s no surprise that in Verizon’s list of best cities for tech startups, New Haven received the top honor. It beat out cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, and Orlando for the top spot. With a standard of living far more affordable than in places like Boston and New York, it’s a good bet that the tech scene will continue to expand. Additionally, the city has excellent transportation resources: two major highways, I-95 and I-91 converge in New Haven; the Metro North and Amtrak railroads stop there; and Hartford’s Bradley International Airport is located less than an hour away.
The city itself continues to create a culture that attracts startups. Young adults will find plenty to do in this city filled with restaurants, museums, and outdoor activities. There’s no shortage of stellar restaurants such as Barcelona, Union League Cafe, and Kitchen Zinc. Pepes Pizzeria and Modern Apizza consistently rank in the country’s list of top 100 pizza restaurants. The Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art are two of the finest art museums in New England. For dinosaur enthusiasts, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History contains dinosaur skeletons, prehistoric fossils, dioramas, as well as a vast array of natural history specimens.
Located on Long Island Sound, the greater New Haven area is full of state parks, public beaches, rivers, and picturesque meadows. Hikers will find plenty of trails at East Rock State Park, West Rock State Park, and Sleeping Giant State Park. Sunbathers, paddleboarders, and kitesurfers will have their pick of miles of sandy beaches and coastlines.
District-New Haven: a Startup Hub for the Future
The city’s reputation as a tech startup destination will make a huge leap next year. In 2018, District New Haven, a 100,000 square foot-plus tech innovation campus, will open. District will be the only place of its kind in all of Connecticut. It will have coworking spaces and multiple office spaces in which startups can grow and mature. Outside of Metropolitan New York and Boston, this will be one of the largest tech startup zones in all of New England.
The state offers young companies plenty of business incentives to help them grow. From marketing companies to IT services businesses, expect more startups to make Connecticut their home in the years ahead.
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