March 8th 2013
By Richard Lee
A year after opening, the Stamford Innovation Center has welcomed three more young companies into its fold.
The center, located in Stamford’s former town hall on Atlantic Street, has added Cashpath Financial, Local Yokel Media and Orthozon Technologies in the past three months, joining Sikorsky Innovations and its first two Entrepreneurial Challenge winners, Pankl Aerospace Innovations and EvoLux Transportation, as well as Personally Cool, a consumer lifestyle products startup, as office tenants.
Led by founder and CEO John Ventura and co-founder and chief technology officer Brian Rowe, Cashpath is a new consumer banking services company that assists consumers in money management.
Ventura, who formed Cashpath out of a consumer banking consulting firm he also co-founded, said the center provides the environment needed during the company’s “critical build” stage.
“It’s important to be in a space with other early-stage companies going through similar activities to get their businesses off the ground,” said Ventura, a Weston resident. “Right now, we are heads down, creating our products and forming key partnerships. We will launch Cashpath later this year.”
Local Yokel Media is a hyper-local advertising platform that gives local, regional or national marketers the ability to reach audiences in their immediate service area on hyper-local websites. Dick O’Hare, founder and CEO, is a digital media veteran with 15 years in senior management roles at DoubleClick, AOL and Yahoo.
“Approximately 80 percent of consumer spending in the U.S. occurs within 15 miles of home, yet there is no efficient, scalable digital solution for a business to target consumers within a service area this size with high relevancy,” said O’Hare, a New Canaan resident, whose business has 10 employees. “We had always planned to locate in Connecticut. This was a no-brainer for us.”
Orthozon Technologies, founded by Joshua Aferzon, a 2011 University of Connecticut graduate, is a medical device company that designs tools for physicians who want to perform faster, simpler and more efficient surgical procedures.
The company will make its market debut this year with the introduction of a minimally invasive surgical retractor that allows faster and less painful recovery time for patients, said Aferzon, Orthozon CEO.
“We are sourcing as much of our product in Connecticut as we can, drawing on the state’s long history as a manufacturing powerhouse,” Aferzon said, crediting Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-governmental agency that provides capital and insight to fledgling high-tech companies, for connecting him with the innovation center.
CI expects to provide a loan to Orthozone to be matched by a financial commitment from the business, said Peter Longo, executive vice president and chief investment officer at CI.
“We closely work with them (the Innovation Center). We share leads and contacts,” Longo said. “It’s a venue where like companies can grow.”
The center, which opened with $500,000 in state support and corporate sponsorship from Stratford-based Sikorsky Aircraft, is focused on provided incubator space for businesses with growth potential. Companies like the three most recent arrivals sign one-year financial commitments, said Fairfield resident Barry Schwimmer, managing partner of the center.
“This is a validation of the model we’ve been building here. Our hope is that these companies outgrow their offices so we can bring in more small start-up companies,” he said.
For a monthly fee, the center also hosts “coworking” opportunities for small operations that don’t need their own office.
“It’s exciting for us because these companies have many options in Fairfield County,” said Peter Propp, marketing vice president. “They want to be in a place that has the energy that we’re offering.”
The premise of the Stamford Innovation Center has taken hold in Danbury, where a similar facility is getting started.
The Danbury Innovation Center, scheduled to open between April and June, is building a space in downtown Danbury that will include a co-working area like the Stamford center and also house a chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives and “hacker space,” a shared workshop area.