IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Connecticut Works to Connect Startups with Investors

Connecticut’s venture capital and growth financing bounced back in the second quarter after scraping against a record low of under $30 million for the first three months of the year.

(TNS) -- There may be no better barometer for how venture capitalist investments can affect the economy than the website of Connecticut Innovations, which invests small amounts across many companies alongside venture funds — and which also lists the job openings made possible by those investments.

For his own company’s 10 postings, Etouches CEO Oni Chukwu promises it is only the start of big things to come.

Etouches $20 million funding round in May helped push Connecticut’s venture totals back to nine figures in the second quarter, with more than 20 companies statewide reporting a combined $102 million in growth capital financing in filings to the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Only South Windsor-based Oxford Performance Materials reported higher figures than Etouches, with nearly $42 million in two separate June infusions, including $15 million from the Stamford-based reinforced materials manufacturer Hexcel. OPM gained fame for using 3D printing to craft synthetic bone designed from scans of a patient’s own body.

Other significant financing during the quarter included Spine Wave, a Shelton-based developer of spinal implants; Thetis Pharmaceuticals, listing its headquarters in Westport and developing a technique to develop a range of drugs from fatty acids; and Tru Optik, a fast-growing Stamford startup that already lists a dozen jobs as it develops systems to measure audience metrics for Internet video and social media.

On the Rebound

Connecticut’s venture capital and growth financing bounced back in the second quarter after scraping against a record low of under $30 million for the first three months of the year. That was down from $230 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, which included $75 million for the Norwalk-based data backup provider Datto that gave the company a valuation of $1 billion.

Chukwu is familiar with laws of big numbers — before joining Etouches in 2013, he was executive vice president of Triple Point Technology, which fetched $900 million that year in the Westport firm’s sale to Ion Investment Group.

Whereas Triple Point built out a suite of software for commodities traders, under Chukwu Etouches is doing the same with a platform for those who run events, with the company having expanded from its startup roots under founder Leonora Valvo. More than 1,200 companies use Etouches software today, with large corporations like Coca-Cola, MasterCard and Dell an increasing part of the mix by design.

“Part of my decision coming to (Etouches) is it has the things I need to build up and make it a great company,” Chukwu said. “When I came in, we had all sorts of customers — tiny, big. Our concentration now is on enterprise customers that need event-management software. … We have moved significantly upstream.”

Etouches’ niche is producing big numbers; Vista Equity Partners is spending nearly $1.7 billion to acquire Tysons Corner, Va.-based Cvent, one of Etouches biggest competitors, with Vista already owning Lanyon, another event-management software company based in Dallas.

Close Proximity

Etouches occupies The Brewery building at 13 Marshall St. in Norwalk. It’s across the street from the headquarters of LogicSource, which recently received a $9 million commitment from the state of Connecticut for its own expansion. LogicSource in turn subleases space to HealthPrize Technologies, which itself raised nearly $3 million in the second quarter as it sells an app to help people stick to medication regimens through games and quizzes.

It amounts to a tech cul-de-sac of sorts in Norwalk, which happens to be home to two of Connecticut’s most successful startups of the Internet era in Priceline Group (Nasdaq: PCLN) and Datto. With an eye on encouraging momentum in the startup community, Connecticut last week unveiled an “Innovation Places” competition that will award several grants of nearly $5 million to institutions or communities with the best ideas for spurring the formation of successful startups through entrepreneurs rubbing elbows in close proximity while cementing ties with others like financiers.

Etouches is a case in point. Even as Chukwu attempts to match Triple Point Technology’s success in part with the help of “a bunch” of his former Triple Point colleagues now with his latest company, Etouches founder Leonora Valvo has since moved on to her own startup in Westport called InsightXM. That company raised $350,000 last fall as it touts software and data-science experts to help companies extract as much analysis as possible from the information they are accumulating.

And Valvo is a director of Swoogo, whose founder Tim Cummings is the former chief software architect of Etouches, with Swoogo developing what it promises will be a powerful new application for event planners. Unfortunately for Connecticut, any success of Swoogo appears that it will benefit the United Kingdom, where Cummings and his development team live.

Still, whether the cross-state partnership formed by Hexcel and OPM or the intertwined associations of Etouches with Insight XM and Triple Point, Connecticut continues to work to connect its growth companies. Chukwu, who has done it before, maintains Fairfield County is a great place to take a small company and accomplish big things.

“I spend my days concentrating on building a strong company,” Chukwu said. “Build the product, go to market the right way, be very opportunistic … and get the right people.”

©2016 The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.