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Doing Business in Connecticut 2019

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72 | DOING BUSINESS IN CONNECTICUT | 2019 The YouCOMM team was recognized by CT NEXT, an arm of the state's venture capital body, CT Innovations. [Photos | courtesy of YouCOMM] CT's 'NEXT' Evolution State venture capital and mentors drive entrepreneurship and private investment By Matthew Broderick As a millennial in his early 20s, Thomas Cotton may not be the most likely candidate to be thinking about senior citizen healthcare or building a business around it, but when Cotton's grandmother fell in a rehab center a couple of years ago and was unable to access her room's push button communication system, the recent UConn graduate not only saw an opportunity to help vulnerable seniors; he saw a market opportunity as well. So during his senior year, in partnership with classmate Dan Yasoshima, whose relative had experienced a similar situation, Cotton co-founded a healthcare IT start-up, Farmington-based YouCOMM, LLC, to enhance the way patients and caregivers communicate. The system uses a personalized tablet-based nurse calling system that can be controlled via touch, voice recognition or head gestures, a capability that supports the needs of motor- impaired patients. "The call bell system that most [medical] facilities use is not much more effective than a TV remote," Cotton said. "Often, these poor communication methodologies are a reason for low patient satisfaction scores in their facilities." Those scores, Cotton noted, are linked to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, which can impact a facility's bottom line. By comparison, in a small prototype trial of YouCOMM's technology, 29 of 30 patients (97%) preferred YouCOMM's tablet-based solution, Cotton said. Cotton and Yashshima, who both graduated with a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering, are not alone in building or supporting innovative business start-ups here. From college campuses to new Innovation Places across the state, Connecticut is building hubs of technology and entrepreneurship, fueled in part by CTNext, an arm of the state's venture capital body, Connecticut Innovations. CTNext is not only recognizing start-ups and leveraging seed money to help promising start-ups through its Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA), but earlier this year also launched a formal mentoring program to address the challenges and support the needs of technology companies in particular. Both opportunities are critical to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, says Michelle Cote, director of the Hartford/East Hartford Innovation Place, which spearheads several ventures to drive innovation for the region's key sectors and anchor companies. "Early stage funding is significant [for start-ups] because a couple of thousand dollars can be critical to developing a prototype or some other type of proof of concept," said Cote. But understanding how to best use the resources of a fledgling YouCOMM developed a tablet-based nurse calling system that can be controlled by touch, voice or head gestures. SMALL BUSINESS

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