By Olivia Just
Just over a month ago, President Barack Obama signed into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, a piece of legislation that Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., helped to write.
Himes came to the Stamford Innovation Center on Thursday to hold a discussion with area businesses, entrepreneurs and investment experts about the JOBS Act and its effect on the local level.
"Jobs and economic prosperity are about the extent to which we create an amenable ecosystem for young companies," Himes said, as the discussion turned to how to create that sort of environment in Fairfield County.
One of the most talked-about points of the JOBS Act, which seeks to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital and expand, is crowdfunding, which allows companies to solicit up to $1 million through the Web from individual investors without going through the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Companies would have work through a broker or "portal," a "trusted venue through which young companies will do this grass-roots solicitation," Himes said.
"If crowdfunding can get some kind of legs in Connecticut, it starts a buzz that there's an interesting, sexy startup environment here," Leonora Valvo, chief executive office of Norwalk-based etouches.com, said.
The Internet platforms through which these transactions can be made will be closely watched, under the regulations, but the companies will not be regulated by the SEC. Himes noted that this aspect of the legislation made him a bit uneasy.
"Crowdfunding grew out of a philanthropic tradition of soliciting funding," he said, "though, I was a little ambivalent about crowdfunding clauses because it could potentially be an attractive avenue for people with less benign intent."
The hope is that Connecticut can, with help from the federal JOBS Act and recent state legislation, build a reputation similar to Palo Alto, Calif., as a hip, startup-friendly area, as parts of New York City, Boston and California have.
Much of this can come from putting the marketing focus on the individual entrepreneurs, like Paul Forster, CEO of the Stamford-based Indeed.com, who are making a success of their start-up companies, said Anton Simunovic, founder and CEO of ThreeJars.com, based in the Southport section of Fairfield.
"When you go into the (Silicon) Valley, the conversations are around entrepreneurs," Simunovic said. You've got to follow the entrepreneurs."