If you ask most people to name something that’s never around when needed, responses might typically range from ‘a tissue’ to ‘scissors’ or maybe ‘a plumber.’ But you might also hear ‘software developer’ – especially you are a Connecticut-based entrepreneur.
The relative lack of technically skilled developers in Connecticut is currently one of the pervasive challenges local entrepreneurs face when trying to either start or scale their business.
In recent years, the emergence of state run and funded initiatives, like CTNext, have succeeded in germinating and supporting a host of young businesses looking to solve problems and meet a market need. And because technology is the most common medium used to solve a business problem or meet a market demand, every new business relies on technology and digital platforms in some form.
Our entrepreneurs have the dreams, ideas and domain expertise to generate innovative business concepts, but often lack the technical capability to implement and scale them. At some point, they need to look to the outside for those resources.
At Checkmate Digital, we use our team’s creative and technical talent to build web and mobile applications for startups. We have been able to put together a group of excellent designers and developers, some of whom went to college and acquired their skills right here in Connecticut. Working closely with Connecticut’s network of entrepreneurs, we’ve seen that many have struggled to find their own internal technical talent, which is a key factor success if a web or mobile application forms the core of their business. As such, our role in working with them often extends beyond creating their product, and into providing technical insight and guidance as they on-board their internal talent.
We have found that startups who lack a full-time technical team member on their roster have a decreased chance of success with or without a partner such as ourselves. Checkmate always advises entrepreneurs of early stage startups that a technical co-founder is invaluable if their business will be focused on software.
In Connecticut, these resources are proving hard to find. Young developers schooled in the state’s education system are taking their talents to nearby technology hubs in New York and Boston.
Below you’ll find a pie chart indicating where the alumni of Connecticut four-year undergraduate institutions currently reside as Software Developers in the United States.
Consequently, local entrepreneurs are often left to navigate an increasingly technical landscape without the appropriate expertise to make informed decisions, whether they’re working with a studio, outsourcing, or trying to hire talent to work in-house.
The bottom line is that the absence of a committed technical person and/or software developers is hurting the growth prospects of promising companies and hindering Connecticut’s ability to truly achieve the status of an entrepreneurial hub that we believe it can and should reach.
An effort is now underway to reverse this reality, to address the challenges and foster a culture where software developers have the reasons, motivations, and opportunities to stay in our state. Making Connecticut a state where developers want to live and work requires the formation of an environment where young developers can thrive in a community of their peers and have a hand, not just in supporting existing companies, but becoming co-founders in their own right and bringing a new business to life.
The environment also needs to be one where ongoing education and training can continue and where developers can learn from one another. After all, five months from now, there will be new technologies, techniques, and methodologies that good developers will need to know about to keep their skills relevant.
We hope that DevFest New Haven, supported by Checkmate and other local organizations, will be a step forward in building a stronger and more knowledgeable community of developers in Connecticut. DevFest NH will be the first Google tech conference in the state, and will give developers of all experience levels the opportunity to learn about some of the industry’s most prevalent technologies from experts in the field. Run by Google Developer Groups all over the country, DevFests promote a spirit of learning, sharing, and creating with cutting-edge technologies.
Ultimately, by creating a stronger technology community in Connecticut, we can assist fledgling companies in desperate need of technical support, stemming the tide of departures to competing regions and maybe even becoming an attractive port of call for developers from neighboring states as well.
Don Tirea is Director of Strategic Partnerships for Checkmate Digital, a design and development studio based in New Haven that creates web and mobile applications for tech startups. Checkmate is also co-organizer of DevFest New Haven, a 2-day Google tech conference in New Haven, featuring world experts on Google technologies, Web, Cloud and AI. Registration is now open for DevFest, taking place on November 4-5, 2017 at Southern Connecticut State University.