‘Disruptive’ event seeks to inspire entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is alive and growing in New Hampshire, but more can — and should — be done to incubate the state’s startup ecosystem.That sentiment was the common thread emerging from the business owners presenting at Disruptivate! 2012, a conference held Wednesday at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle.”Many of us are sick of having to travel to Boston and Cambridge for stuff,” said Mark Galvin, managing director of the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center, which presented the inaugural conference. “We think we have it here.”Marc Sedam agreed. Sedam, the executive director of the UNH Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization, said there is “a thirst and a hunger in this area” for an “aggregation of like-minded ideas and people who are interested in entrepreneurship.”But here in New Hampshire, “we are somewhat balkanized,” he said. “(Entrepreneurs are) not focusing on the ‘we.”However, that could change, he said — in part because of events like Disruptivate!, which “are really catalyzing to do things differently.”About 200 people attended the daylong conference, which paid homage to “disruptive innovation,” a buzz phrase that refers to a technological or business innovation that disrupts existing markets and often displaces an incumbent.During the morning session, seven “Disruptivators to Watch” — representing six New Hampshire companies that are disrupting a range of traditional markets – took to the stage to deliver short presentations on how they are bringing their transformative ideas to market.”Being disruptive is not the goal it might have been in 8th-grade lunch,” said Jeff Carlisle of OurHealthConnector, one of the six featured businesses. “Disruption is a consequence of innovation, (and) innovation is a consequence of problem solving.”The problem that he identified and set out to solve with his company concerned electronic medical records, which have long been recognized as essential to improving the quality of health care and driving down its cost. But, he said, slow progress has been made of the records, and they are often not available to a patient’s many specialists.To tackle that problem, his company has designed patient-owned and -managed electronic medical records, which can be accessible to the all patients’ caregivers and can be stored securely and permanently online.Another presenter who is working in the health care arena was Rob Graybill of Compass Healthcare Advisers, a Bedford-based startup that aims to lower health care costs by offering consumers cash incentives for choosing the lowest-cost health care providers in their region.What many consumers may not realize is that costs can differ widely from one facility to another, with hospitals in the state often offering the same procedures that sometimes differ in price by thousands of dollars, he said.But health care was not the only market that these entrepreneurs are working to disrupt.Two of the presenters built mobile apps that aimed to shift both business analytics and fantasy sports.Jeffrey Vocell had the idea to start Trendslide while working as a product manager at Draeger, a large medical device company, where he was “flying blind,” unsure of how the products that he was managing were performing in real time.So he developed an app, which just recently launched in the iTunes App Store, that he said lets business owners “get a pulse on their business in 10 seconds or less.”Using data sets from Twitter, Google Analytics and SalesForce — which will be expanded to include more sites in the future — the app allows users to see both historical and up-to-the-minute graphs showing their business’s performance.Vocell, who is a resident in the abi Innovation Hub in Manchester, said he believes New Hampshire has the right ecosystem to grow more businesses like his own. He was able to find funding locally, raising $100,000 in seed capital from Incutio Growth Engine, which has its U.S. base in Manchester.Other entrepreneurs taking part in the forum included Peter Antoinette of NanoComp Inc. and Doug Clark of New England Footwear Manufacturing.The conference also featured keynote talks from Les Otten, former CEO of American Skiing Company, and University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston, who spoke of some of the challenges facing UNH and higher education in general.Erik Dodier, CEO of PixelMEDIA in Portsmouth, took the microphone at the end of the day’s final audience participation panel and encouraged attendees to “keep this momentum going.””It’s really about building this community,” he said. “A rising tide floats all boats — you need more talent here, you need more funding here.” – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMSPHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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