Stamford Innovation Week aims to galvanize startup community
STAMFORD — Last year, some 3,000 people attended the inaugural Stamford Innovation Week. Its organizers are expecting the turnout to grow by two-thirds for the sophomore edition.
With 25 events lined up throughout the city from Thursday through Sept. 27, Innovation Week aims to draw a diverse audience of more than 5,000, including entrepreneurs, investors, other professionals from a range of industries, public officials and students. With their participation, Innovation Week wants to raise awareness of the local startup community and fuel its growth through greater investment and year-round support.
“Bigger-scale events is the theme this year, and we’re focusing on quality over quantity,” Jonathan Winkel, founder of Innovation Week and managing partner at Stamford-based marketing agency SquareWheel, said in an interview. “We want to continue to focus it around different industries or themes, per event.”
FastFWD, an innovation and technology-focused conference on Sept. 27 at the University of Connecticut’s downtown campus, will be Innovation Week’s marquee event.
An all-day gathering, FastFWD will feature speakers, including Shawn Nelson, founder and CEO of Stamford-based furniture startup Lovesac; Amanda Slavin, founder and CEO of marketing firm CatalystCreativ; Tim Kane, president and CEO of Stamford manufacturer Goodway Technologies; Matt McCooe, CEO of the state-chartered investment agency Connecticut Innovations; Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and Connecticut Economic Development Commissioner David Lehman.
Among other events, a blockchain-focused gathering will take place Friday at Beta Climbing and Fitness, at 45 Harbor Drive. It succeeds a half-day blockchain summit that was held last year.
Stamford Innovation Week will be held at venues throughout Stamford, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 27. For more information, visit siweek.org.
On the same day, UConn-Stamford will host a digital media summit.
“Our mission is to give the opportunities to learn and make connections, so they can be more successful,” said Shannon Malkin Daniels, Innovation Week’s board chairwoman and founder and CEO of presentation-software startup Encaptiv. “There are a lot of opportunities for us to help each other out and partner with universities and large corporations to drive innovation forward and make Stamford and the whole area an innovation hub.”
The state-backed business-development group CTNext is Innovation Week’s top funder, contributing $60,000 in matching funds.
A number of companies with local headquarters or offices are also backing the series through sponsorships and partnerships.
After Innovation Week ends, the organizers are planning follow-up events in the city in the coming months.
“The goal is eventually having any one of those (Innovation Week) events becoming a standalone, recurring thing,” Winkel said. “It’s like trying to be an event incubator is how I see the evolution coming along.”
Officials in Mayor David Martin’s administration are also keen to see the series grow further.
“Innovation week is a great event that features the start-up ecosystem in Stamford and allow participants to see how their company could become part of the growing innovation community or for the job seeker and talent recruiter to see the workforce that is attracted to Stamford through the events,” said Thomas Madden, Stamford’s economic development director. “I would love to see this weeklong event evolve in a ‘North by Northeast’ festival similar to (Austin, Texas’ festival) South by Southwest.”
The trajectory of Encaptiv shows the potential of collaboration among local entrepreneurs and other professionals.
Encaptiv recently completed a 12-month residency at the downtown offices of intellectual-property law firm Whitmyer IP Group, which helped Daniels’ business to secure the U.S. Patent and Trademark’s Office approval for three trademarks and file two pending patent applications.
At the start of this month, Encaptiv relocated to offices about a mile east, within the co-working center at 750 E. Main St.
“People ask me, ‘How do you have time to run a startup and be chair of Innovation Week?’” Daniels said. “For me, it’s because I need to make the time. Other people, like the WHIP team, have helped me and my business, and so I’ve got to step up, too. When we rise as a community, it helps all of us.”
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