Many CEOs and businesses capitalize on Long Island’s burgeoning innovation economy, but few support it like Mitch Maiman and Intelligent Product Solutions, a Hauppauge consultancy focused on product design. With forward-thinking advances like IPS’s new Internet of Things practice group – it helps manufacturers install interconnected “smart” tech into just about everything – Maiman’s mission is simple: Unite the Island’s disparate enterprises into a single cohesive force. In Mitch’s own words:
COME TOGETHER: We help other companies get their technology into the manufacturing stage and get those products launched. For example, we’re working with a small company that has licensed technology out of Stony Brook University. The company can license the technology but has very limited internal capabilities for designing and engineering an actual product that a person can buy.
SEVEN-YEAR ITCH: We’ve been in business about seven-and-a-half years. When we launched, the recession was just starting. Of course, the economy is better now and a rising tide raises all boats. I don’t think a lot of positive results have happened yet, but there’s a lot more focus on innovation and startups, and I think that’s really important to the Long Island economy.
IDENTIFICATION, PLEASE: Let’s face it: The glory days of the DoD are gone. Long Island needs to find another economic reason for being. A good portion of the population might still commute to the city – that hasn’t really changed – but we need to have our own local economy, and it needs to come from something else.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE: It’s always been difficult to attract companies to this area, but now it’s not as difficult to start new companies here, because we have some not-for-profit engines helping that to happen. There are the LaunchPads and some interesting things going on at NYIT regarding the startup community, but what’s been most impressive is what’s happened at Stony Brook University, where they’ve gone from talking about fostering a new Long Island economy to actually making it happen. Companies incubated at Stony Brook are producing real products. People are licensing technologies and acquiring IP out of [Stony Brook Medicine] and developing potential medical products. These are encouraging signs.
FAVOR THE BOLD: There are still a few things that need to happen, and they’re already happening in other places. First you need smart, young people who are motivated to start their own companies, and they need to be aided by a strong university system in the same geography. You need to create a whole generation of people who have that entrepreneurial mindset and want to take the risk. You also need an infrastructure to support this entrepreneurial environment. Companies like this need to incubate at a relatively low cost, so you need more things like LaunchPad and some of the things happening at Stony Brook University. There’s some interest now in things like this at NYIT.
MONEY MENTORS: One of the most difficult challenges is getting capital from private equity people and angel investors to the people who need it. It’s much easier to get from “I need money” to “I have money” in California, where there’s a pretty big infrastructure of people who know how to do that. They work with entrepreneurs in a sort of mentoring system, so when the startups go to pitch for money they have a much more cogent, believable, well-thought-out plan. We don’t quite have that on Long Island, not to the same degree.
NETWORKING NEEDS: People who have 50 cents and a dream need support to get that dream together. They have ideas about products and where they want to take them, but they don’t have the polish they need to walk into a sophisticated investment community and pursue capital. LaunchPad helps to some degree, and there are other networking opportunities that help these entrepreneurs get their business plans together, but it’s not pervasive enough yet.
GO-BETWEEN: This is why, when we can, we do some networking of our own. We do know people in the investment banking world who trust us and it’s not unusual for me to make introductions between those with a business idea and those with money. I don’t recommend somebody if they don’t have a good idea of what their product is and how they’re going to get it out there. Our credibility is important. But if I see a kid who’s got it together, I’ll definitely broker an introduction with the investment world and get that dialogue going.
IT TAKES AN ISLAND: This is the kind of collaboration that the innovation economy needs. It’s happening a lot in [New York City] and in California there’s already a critical mass, because there are so many people who’ve created startups and raised money and there’s so much mentoring. They do it serially now. Our firm benefits from having a strong technology-based community out there, but until we reach that critical mass – until knowledge is widely dispersed and widely available – it will be hard for companies here to get funding. Not impossible, but hard.
Interview by GREGORY ZELLER