By Bill Fallon
The Stamford Innovation Center has partnered with The Shippan Institute to offer a four-part course this summer designed to demystify the hash-tag/search-engine-optimized world of modern media.
A person might cherry-pick any course, but those who complete all four will have a certificate validating their effort to present to prospective employers.
In another effort, Stamford-based Shippan, which offers training software and has run innovative tech forums nationally, and the SIC will launch the Stamford Hack-A-Thon Sept. 18-20, using previous Shippan-run Hack-A-Thons in New York City and San Francisco as the template.
Shippan founder and Stamford resident Hugh Seaton, dressed in jeans and seated in the cooled marble confines of the SIC on Atlantic Street, said of the Hack-A-Thon, “It’s a chance to work through new technologies, to learn by doing. Hacking means finding creative solutions to problems. In the developer community we use the term to mean a smarter way to do things.” He expects 150 to180 software developers and hackers to attend in September and to produce a first-of-its-kind 3-D map of Stamford that will serve as a springboard for local apps.
The social media and Hack-A-Thon efforts fit well with the SIC’s education-themed ethos. “Our approach is to be cheerleaders and supporters and to help when asked,” said Peter Propp, the SIC’s chief marketing officer. “We’re not a rigid incubator and one reason for that is the people of Fairfield County are really accomplished and really smart. You don’t have to be a social scientist to know that.
“The barriers to success are education and experience,” he said. “What may be appropriate for one is not appropriate for another. It’s really a style of doing things — to get to know startups on an individual basis and attract broad support for what they’re doing.
“Is there as much angel investing or venture capital as we would like?” Propp asked. “The answer is no.”
Calling the relationship an official partnership, Seaton said, “They’ve essentially contracted us to build on their education successes and explore new ideas.”
A different instructor leads each class, sharing best practices and walking participants through steps necessary to build a social media presence.
“One thing that makes us unique in the startup system is the support here — they hear yes,” Propp said. “That’s the tone here. And the general tone they hear elsewhere is, You don’t have it. Here, on Tuesday you can stand up and say, I need this. And Wednesday you have help.”
“You can stay focused here and not get discouraged in a lonely office,” Seaton said.
The media classes began July 16 with a seminar titled “Get Found on Google” July 23 will see “Stand Out on LinkedIn” with Sandra Long, consultant and instructor at Westport-based Post Road Consulting LLC; July 30 is “Build Your Business on Facebook” with Claire Schwimmer, senior content analyst at New York City-based SimpleReach, which analyzes and directs market content; and Aug. 6 is “Create a Breakthrough Digital Marketing Plan” with Keith Reynolds, managing editor at ChiefPackagingOfficer.com, an arm of Kodak. Classes run 6:30 to 9 p.m. The cost is $50 per class.
“We recognize that being part of a community is important,” Propp said. “It’s planned serendipity. You can’t do it at home and if you try to do it in a coffee shop you’re told to shut up.” The SIC offers a sliding fee scale for participants and also rents spaces for general use or functions, and on Tuesdays are reserved for SIC Hacker Night, which is run by entrepreneur Alex Virvo.
SIC Managing Partner Barry Schwimmer said, “There’s a lot going on here.”
“Peter (Propp) and Barry (Schwimmer) really know the talent community,” Seaton said. Noting Propp is a former IBM worker and Schwimmer’s background is finance, he said. “You name it, they’ve done it. They know how to build on an idea. One thing you don’t do is hit the market with 15 things at once.”
The SIC, which dates to November 2012, boasts a number of startups gaining traction. Propp said they are responsible for 100 local jobs and include four hits: Stamford-based Arccos Golf, which makes golf club sensors and smartphone course applications and is sold through Apple, Amazon and other online venues plus hundreds of retail stores; Media Crossing, a Stamford digital media company that unites buyers and sellers; Tru Optik, which helps brands publishers and advertisers monetize consumer screen-viewing habits, especially the habits of millennials; and It’s Relevant TV, which creates specialized TV stations for public spaces and which is based in Greenwich.
“We understand the corporate world and the startup world,” Propp said. “Playing that intersection is one of our great strengths.”