Event aims to help entrepreneurs connect

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New London - No pressure: Just three minutes to tell a little something about yourself and see whether you and a potential partner might find a little chemistry together.

Only this isn't a speed-dating service; it's a new way of business networking called PowerMatch and it was held late last month at Tony D's restaurant, where 14 entrepreneurs took the time to describe their companies and find out more about others in the region.

"You never know where this will lead - but it always leads to something," said Peter Walsh, who attended as business development director at Astor Place Inc., the digital media firm on State Street.

Stephen MacKenzie, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, an economic-development agency that helped coordinate PowerMatch, said he didn't hesitate when asked by the Connecticut Technology Council to help arrange the event. He said he believes strongly in the power of networking to help seemingly diverse companies find ways to grow their businesses.

"You just never know where that synergy is going to come from," he said.

Michael Scricca, director of membership for the Connecticut Technology Council and producer of the event, noted that the local PowerMatch led to several interesting connections, including one between Kevin Logan, president of MACSEA Ltd. in Stonington borough, and Paul Parker, director of the Technology Incubation Program at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus in Groton.

Turns out that Parker's brother Mark is chief executive officer of Nike, and Logan is developing wearable sports monitors in which the apparel manufacturer might be interested.

"These are the kinds of surrendipitous connections you want to happen," Scricca said.

More of these entrepreneurial connections have been happening in New London County over the past two years thanks to the formation of the Southeastern Connecticut Entrepreneur Network & Emerging Business Council, which operates out of SeCTer's offices in New London. The bioscience network Connecticut United for Research Excellence also has been coordinating events that include regional get-togethers, and more entrepreneurial events are expected once CURE opens its business incubator at a former Pfizer Inc. laboratory space in Groton.

CTC holds PowerMatch events around the state nearly every month, according to Scricca, but hadn't held one in southeastern Connecticut for about two years. Scricca said the events here might not be as well attended as in entrepreneurial hotspots such as New Haven and Stamford, but he is committed to bringing one networking event a year to the region so that technology leaders can become educated about what other like-minded businesses in the region are up to.

"There's a lot of cool stuff going on," Scricca said.

He said the speed-dating approach taken by PowerMatch is an efficient way to meet as many people as possible without investing large amounts of time on companies without partnership potential.

Traditionally, the event includes no more than 21 pre-screened senior executives, with seven tables set up to rotate in 10-minute increments. Each person at a table gets three minutes to summarize his or her company's business model before a bell rings and everyone switches seats.

With only 14 people attending last month's PowerMatch,executives had more time to swap information and were provided more opportunities for interaction than at similar events elsewhere. There also was time to connect during a cocktail hour and dinner held earlier in the eventing.

"It's a fun event," Scricca said. "It's guaranteed you're going to meet the people that are in the room."

Eric Breeden, head of new business development for PVI Systems in East Lyme, said PowerMatch is an interesting way to meet different people in various technology fields and see what they are doing.

He was glad to see representatives of quasi-government entities such as SeCTer and UConn's TIP program, but said he was a bit disappointed in the sparse representation from the angel investor community, though Frank Marco of Mystic, a partner with the law firm Wiggin & Dana in New Haven who attended last month's event, has extensive experience in venture capital.

Walsh, of Astor Place Inc., said he enjoyed the format.

"They did a great job organizing it - the participants were all very valued players in the area," he said. "Any of these tech exchanges are just perfect for this area."



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