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State-Run Venture Capital Fund

State-Run Venture Capital Fund

By Claire R. Leonardi

Empowered with access to capital and strategic resources, Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public organization, is in a strong position to help start-ups in our state. We provide equity, loans and grants to support innovation, and through our venture capital arm, make investments in pre-seed, seed and early-stage companies. Capitalizing on Connecticut's strengths, we invest primarily in the areas of information technology (IT), bioscience, medical devices and clean tech. These investments not only help grow highly sought-after tech jobs in our state, but they also provide a significant ROI for the risk we take. The ROI benefits Connecticut Innovations, the State of Connecticut and Connecticut residents.

Connecticut Innovations is a venture capital firm with a few notable differences. CI operates like any other venture capital firm in that we invest on the same terms, are involved in the governance of our portfolio companies (of which there are currently about 100), and focus on returns. Now, here are some of those notable differences. For one, we will take on more risk than a typical VC, often investing at the earliest stages of a company. In these deals, rather than partnering with institutional investors like a traditional VC would, we're working with angels. We also have what we refer to as a double bottom line; instead of focusing solely on returns, we also consider the potential impact our investment will have on economic development and job growth. And finally, unlike a typical VC fund, Connecticut Innovations' funding does not have a shelf life. We are "evergreen," meaning our investment funds come from our investment returns and through capital contributions from the State of Connecticut. Every year we invest in new companies and make follow-on investments in our existing portfolio companies.

A focused approach

Connecticut Innovations has a thorough vetting process to ensure we are investing wisely and in the right companies. We support innovation and are always on the lookout for entrepreneurs with great ideas. And as I mentioned, we also play to our strengths, such as our state's world-class universities and large, innovative industries, which is why we invest heavily in IT, bioscience and clean tech. To use biotech as an example, Connecticut has a strong bioscience infrastructure that includes research facilities at the University of Connecticut and Yale University; operations of major pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer; and more than 35 private and publicly held, emerging bioscience companies.

Impacting the state's economy

Connecticut Innovations has made a substantial impact on Connecticut's economy. Over the years, we have co-invested with more than 60 different venture capital funds from all over the country, earning returns consistent with other venture funds, and have helped more than 170 emerging companies research, develop, and market new products and services. This activity has attracted more than $1 billion in additional investments from private equity providers and resulted in significant job creation - both with the companies themselves and with service providers and manufacturers.

We're proud that by investing and growing our portfolio companies, we are not only impacting the individual companies but are also making an investment in the economic well-being of the state as a whole. To contact us about co-investment opportunities, please visit our website at ctinnovations.com.

Claire manages Connecticut Innovations' full array of business start-up and growth initiatives, which include diverse lending programs, venture and equity investment funds, and programs to support innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration and commercialization. Claire is a veteran investment and venture capital executive with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. She earned an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with an emphasis on finance and entrepreneurship, and a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a dual major in business administration and economics, from Rutgers University.

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