The City of Stamford hopes to attract high-tech entrepreneurs with a new initiative to convert its Old Town Hall into a business incubator.
Stamford’s gracious, marble-lined Old Town Hall occupies some prime real estate in the center of town, but it hasn’t served as a hub for the town since the 1960s. Now it’s bustling once again.
“It’s a center of gravity and it works for the whole community.”
Patty Meagher is one of the founders of the new Stamford Innovations Center, a business that will occupy 16,000 square feet of the Old Town Hall offering space and services to startup companies.
“It’s easy for everyone to get here, and it says something. It’s a hundred year old building. I like that part. We’re taking something very old that used to be the center of Stamford and creating the new center of Stamford.”
Meagher says one of the key tasks of the Center will be to connect entrepreneurs with funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. Stamford’s Mayor Michael Pavia told the assembled crowd at the official opening that the center is a natural development for this city.
“Stamford and Fairfield County has been the power location for venture capital, for investment banking, and for the kinds of entrepreneur development, small business development throughout the state of Connecticut, and we have the opportunity to make it even better right now, here.”
Former mayor and now governor, Dannel Malloy was also on hand. The state of Connecticut funded this center with a $500,000 interest free loan – Malloy says it’s part of a new culture of innovation he wants to promote.
“We are creating a new innovation ecosystem where small high tech companies and entrepreneurs can take their creative ideas and build successful businesses right here in Stamford, Connecticut.”
The center also attracted a partnership with Sikorsky. The company has sponsored space in the incubator where it will mentor innovators who might produce new technologies that can be used by the helicopter maker. Chris van Buiten heads up Sikorsky Innovations.
“We collaborate with enormous businesses in this country and around the world, and we collaborate with very small ones. Today we’re starting the process of collaborating with companies that don’t even exist yet.”
The Innovation Center already has five potential new tenants. Asmau Ahmed will bring her company, Color Modules here. She’s developing a visual search technology that matches colors and patterns. She says companies like hers survive and thrive on community.
“It’s one thing to have an idea, it’s another thing to develop that idea and bring it to market. So having the support of the Stamford Innovation Center, having the support of the government, having the support of the investors and other entrepreneurs – I think it’s critical.”
The Center hopes to host some 20 new companies by the end of its first year in business. It will also stage Stamford’s first Startup Weekend in March.