Top 3 firms tapped for StartUp Bristol competition

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

After sharing their business plans during a live presentation last week, three companies now have the opportunity to receive grant funds from the StartUp Bristol business plan competition.

Movia Robotics, LLC, Farmington River Holdings and Northeast Food Truck Festivals of New England won the competition. They were three out of five companies that made it to StartUp Bristol round three, which was held at Biker’s Edge on July 17.

“The grants have been offered to those companies,” said Bristol Development Authority (BDA) Executive Director Justin Malley. “They haven’t been granted yet.”

Surrounded by city officials and staff, local banks and other community members, the StartUp Bristol finalists presented a detailed business plan during round three of the competition. The live event also allowed finalists to have an in-person dialogue with the StartUp Bristol Task Force, which had questions for each company.

Established five years ago as a research and development entity, Movia took first place for the chance to receive $50,000 in grant funds. Movia is the first company to use robots and interactive software to teach academic, behavioral, and life skills to children with autism. With seven years of research, patented technology and a successful pilot program in West Hartford Public Schools, Movia works with channel partners to offer therapy and technology directly to children in the classroom. This therapy platform is billed to the child’s insurance provider, thereby decreasing the cost to school budgets.

Founded by research scientist Timothy Gifford, Movia hopes to launch regionally in 2018, will use grant funds for upgrades and repairs at Bristol’s historic Walter A. Ingraham Manor where the company recently moved.

Other members of Movia’s team include the founders of Onyx Spirits Co. Adam von Gootkin and Peter Kowalczyk and Victor Lugo, the former owner of Barley Vine.

“It’s changing lives in Bristol today,” said von Gootkin during Movia’s live presentation. “It’s absolutely incredible.”

Currently based in Hamden, Farmington River Holdings took second place for the chance to receive $30,000 in grant funds. Through hands-free team radio communication products, the company hopes to increase productivity while improving safety for industrial, commercial, oil and gas industries as well as the military.

Farmington River Holdings considered Central Connecticut as a prime location for its operations.

“We’ve identified this as a good base for manufacturing,” said Andy Cowell, the co-founder of Farmington River Holdings.

Formed over a year ago, Northeast Food Truck Festivals of New England took third place for the chance to receive $20,000 in grant funds. By organizing festivals throughout New England, the company has formed great relationships with other local businesses since its inception, said Matthew Soulier, managing partner of Northeast Food Truck Festivals of New England. The company not only invites local vendors to its planned events, but also works with the city to take out permits.

“We’re going to bring businesses from all over Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,” said Soulier, adding how his business loves the downtown area.

Other companies that presented during round three include TallyStix and Disability Defenders. Led by Mark Walerysiak Jr., the former brand and marketing manager for Bristol All Heart, TallyStix introduced its concept behind a mobile-app based digital scorekeeping service for business-to-business transactions.

Disability Defenders proposed to launch next year in the West End to represent and advocate for Bristol residents applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

From manufacturing to software development to entertainment, each company came with diverse backgrounds and business plans, said StartUp Bristol Task Force Chairman Erik St. Pierre.

“We’re extremely excited to have this opportunity to bring these companies from around the state, introduce them to Bristol,” said St. Pierre, the chief marketing officer of PartsTech. “We want to bring successful companies to Bristol that will grow, hire here and pay taxes here.”

Launched in 2015, StartUp Bristol encourages small business owners and entrepreneurs to locate in Bristol or existing businesses to expand in the city. Eligible applicants included those who are currently operating in Bristol and those who are operating outside the city, but willing to locate to the city following an award. Startups eligible to compete also may be in the concept stage with no formal operations, but must commit to locating in Bristol following an award and legal business formation.

This year, StartUp Bristol received a total of 30 applications.

Moving forward, Malley said the goal is for StartUp Bristol to become more than just an annual event.

“We want to do things all-year long to assist start-ups,” said Malley. “We should try to be supporting entrepreneurs throughout the year. It creates a pipeline of StartUp Brsitol applicants.”

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.