It sounds like a tech version of those Russian nesting dolls: starting a start-up whose goal is to create more start-ups.
That’s the best way to describe the Stamford Innovation Center. And — in a city known more for high finance than high tech, and a county filled with corporate commuters — it’s already made its out-of-the-box mark.
Westporter Peter Propp is the SIC’s vice president for marketing. He’s a passionate advocate for the organization, whose cooperative workspace, creative programming, networking opportunities and educational events offer entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups a place to gather, collaborate, and innovate.
Peter has plenty of experience in the tech world. Much of it came at IBM, where he was a global marketer in charge of, among other products, the WebSphere Application Server and Studio.
IBM is to start-ups as GM is to Tesla. But Peter has leaped into his new role with gusto — and many good ideas.
“I like starting things,” he says. He points with pride to FairCo TEEM (Fairfield County Tech, Environment, Entertainment and Marketing) meetups. He helped grow the group from 4 people gathered above Bogey’s in the summer of 2010, to nearly 400 members. Events are held throughout the area.
“There are so many smart, accomplished, experienced people here,” Peter says. “A lot of them would like to reduce the hours they spend on the train every day.”
But they need a different set of skills to bring their ideas to reality. They need angel investors. They need developers to help them build prototypes.
The Stamford Innnovation Center helps. Housed in a beautiful 1907 Beaux-Arts building — the city’s old Town Hall — across from the mall, its high ceilings and marble somehow help nurture 21st century ideas and contacts.
Right now, a start-up is building a platform for lawyers doing due diligence on acquisitions. Two women from Wharton have created a business that helps students manage their education debt.
In addition to workspace, SIC hosts events. Nine are scheduled for January, including discussions, presentations and meet-ups.
Peter calls the Stamford Innovation a “meta-startup.” That’s not a term he was likely to hear at IBM.
He enjoyed his work in corporate America. But, he says, in that world “you need permission and consensus for everything.”
The start-up world is all about “how much you can do, and how quickly.”
At the Stamford Innovation Center, the answer is: “lots, and real fast.”