Since 2010, CTNext partner reSET has been supporting Connecticut entrepreneurs while providing a specialty in social enterprise. From co-working spaces to accelerator and internship programs, reSET has established itself as an invaluable resource to innovators and young companies by creating a strong ecosystem of support in the Greater Hartford region. Managing Director Ojala Naeem discusses reSET’s mission and how it’s collaboration with CTNext is helping drive entrepreneurism across the state.
Tell us about reSET.
reSET is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector. We started back in 2010 to figure out the needs required for social enterprise in the Greater Hartford region to take hold. In 2013, we opened our incubator co-working space in downtown Hartford and have grown from there. Today, we have core programs focused around our business accelerator program and provide office hours for entrepreneurs hoping to get their business off the ground. We just recently launched an internship program, recognizing that there is a massive need in our region among companies for access to talent.
How many companies are affiliated with your programs?
Currently, we have over 100 members. Our accelerator program takes in 20 companies every year and our internship program works with about 8-10 interns and 25 different companies during the summer. Since 2013, when we really got our programs off the ground, we’ve worked with over 700 entrepreneurs and have helped accelerate about 100 companies.
How did your affiliation with CTNext begin?
Up until the fall of 2012, reSET was heavily reliant on volunteers to support 1-2 staff members. Around the time, CTNext was also getting off the ground. We applied for the program and they were interested in what we were doing around social enterprise. We’ve now been working with them for almost five years and it’s been pretty awesome. It’s great to work with a larger entity that’s got more of a statewide focus and it’s helped strengthen relationships with like-minded organizations and build up the entrepreneur ecosystem.
How do the companies that are part of your program ultimately benefit from your affiliation with CTNext?
First and foremost, CTNext is a funding partner of ours. Our programs and services due, in large part, to the support of CTNext. CTNext is also able to offer resources and connections that we might not have built into our programming. Initiatives such as the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards have been awesome – we’ve had 3 to 4 businesses participate and win seed capital from the EIA program each time, and that goes a very long way for early stage entrepreneurs.
What do you think are the greatest needs for entrepreneurs across the state right now?
There is a lack of access to capital. Connecticut companies tend to lose out to Boston and New York when it comes to VC and angel dollars. But I think there’s a great opportunity here. We’re geographically well placed to be able to leverage networks in Boston and New York. We just need to figure out a way to bring more start-up funding to the table for entrepreneurs that are looking to launch their businesses here.
What impact do you think the two organizations, reSET and CTNext, have together had on the state?
Being born and raised in Connecticut, I definitely see catalytic activity increasing rapidly within the state around entrepreneurship and innovation. Five years ago, there really wasn’t much going on. There wasn’t activity, there weren’t co-working spaces and there weren’t programs for entrepreneurs that wanted to get businesses off the ground. Now you’re seeing a lot of it and you’re seeing great quality businesses being turned out as well.