The Debrief: David Calone, Jove Equity Partners

Venture capitalist, planning commissioner and congressional candidate David Calone: Little companies become big ones.

Chief executive of Setauket investment firm Jove Equity Partners, founder of the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives … and that’s when he’s not running a Colorado-based healthcare company recently ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing firms. It’s fair to say David Calone has a full plate – but nurturing Long Island’s innovation economy remains a top priority. In his words:

BUSY MUCH? It’s a juggle. Obviously, I have to prioritize my work. My main focus for now is on starting and building companies through Jove Equity Partners. The County Planning Commission has hearings once a month, so there’s one day a month when I just focus on planning issues. There are a bunch of projects we’re working on, but those meetings are scheduled well in advance. I also spend a lot of time on the Emerging Technologies Fund. Those kinds of business activities tend to be the things you react to every day.

QUICK WORK: One of the companies I launched was just named to the Inc. 5,000 – BridgeHealth Medical, which cuts healthcare costs and provides access to high-quality surgical facilities for our clients’ employees. I’m basically the CEO. The business model has evolved since I started the company seven years ago. Now we have major clients including Target, Allstate and Albertsons supermarkets, and that’s what puts us on the fastest-growing list. We have about 50 employees now in offices in Denver and Chicago, and we’re looking to expand. If we do an East Coast expansion, we’d look at Long Island first, but we’re not there yet.

BY JOVE: BridgeHealth is part of the Jove Equity portfolio. When I’m working under the Jove Equity banner, most of my time is spent building the companies we have interests in, and out of that time, I spend the most on BridgeHealth Medical.

EMERGENCE: The Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund has now helped launch nine companies out of research labs here on Long Island, and we expect to make our 10th joint investment (with Accelerate Long Island) over the next month. Our goal when we started was to help 10 new companies get started by providing them early-stage funding they wouldn’t otherwise receive, and helping them with advice and mentoring.

MOVING ON: Once we’ve made that 10th joint investment, we’re going to focus on supporting those 10 companies. That’s going to take plenty of time and effort. We may or may not make additional investments – we certainly will consider making additional investments in the companies we’ve already supported – but the bulk of the Emerging Technologies Fund’s time will be spent getting those 10 companies off the ground.

PROUD PORTFOLIO: The Emerging Technologies Fund has invested in a nice, diverse set of companies … that would very likely not exist without the fund and the assistance of Accelerate Long Island. Our thesis was that every big company started as a small company, and we need to create more small companies to become Long Island’s large employers of the future. Not all 10 of these companies will succeed – that’s the nature of business – but without starting, you’ll never succeed. We’ve seen some of our companies already receive additional rounds of funding, and that’s very exciting.

THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: I’ve been out talking to people about the issues affecting our country, particularly economic development and job creation and how the federal government can be more helpful to the Long Island economy. Our greatest strengths (on Long Island) are our educational system and our research-and-development assets, and the federal government needs to support us in those areas.

HOME SCHOOL: We also need folks in our regional educational system to get students ready for the next generation of jobs in the information economy. I’d like to see more emphasis on preparing students for STEM fields, including emphasis on computer coding and those kinds of skills. Long Island has some great schools, and government can help make sure they’re focused on educating kids for the next-generation workforce.

BEST LAID PLANS: The Suffolk Planning Commission just passed a county master plan, a strategic growth plan for the next 20 years. The Planning Commission led the effort along with County Executive (Steve) Bellone, and it passed the Legislature unanimously. Now we have a strategic plan for how we’re going to move the county forward, protect the environment, make sure we have diverse housing to keep our kids here and otherwise support the innovation economy – particularly, by creating innovation zones with economic incentives and new transportation connections.

FEARS AND HOPES: My biggest fear is the high cost of living here won’t allow us to keep our students. That’s why housing issues are so important, and making sure our young people have the skills they need to get those next-generation, higher-paying jobs. And that’s why supporting the research and development that creates the tech companies that create the higher-paying jobs is critical for Long Island. My biggest hope is we’re creating momentum – taking important strides toward creating a regional innovation economy.

Interview by GREGORY ZELLER