TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, August 7
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
LaunchPad Huntington is gearing up for its biggest event yet: a science fair for adults.
Better known as LI Tech Day, the technology incubator and co-working space located at 315 Main St. is welcoming startups from around Long Island for a day and night of networking and entertainment on Aug. 12.
And it’s got startups buzzing.
“When we do things like LI Tech Day we really just want brand awareness since we’re still in our infancy as a company,” said Chris Monteleone, CEO and co-founder of Sweigh, a social networking startup founded in October 2013 that has office space at the incubator. “You never know who is going to see you. It’s good to be out there and talking since social media and marketing are just one piece of the puzzle.”
Beginning at noon, LaunchPad will turn into an expo center as over 30 startups shake hands with the public, politicians and potential investors in hopes of making connections that might move their companies up in the world.
“The idea is to create a showcase for some of the more interesting startups on Long Island and in the Huntington region, bring them together and then tap the broader business community of Long Island – along with investors – so that they can come here and spend some quality time with these companies,” said Philip Rugile, human capital strategist for eGifter – the company that founded and maintains Huntington’s LaunchPad. “And then we fire up the barbecue.”
From 4:30 p.m. on, LaunchPad Huntington will transition into a party scene as food, drinks and fun flood the space, with over 200 people expected to join in. A finalized list of guests was not yet available, but Rugile was hopeful that there will be appearances from Congressmen Steve Israel and Tim Bishop, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, along with Andrew Hazen, founder and CEO of LaunchPad Long Island.
Like Monteleone, who hopes to improve brand awareness for Sweigh as it prepares for the launch of its redesigned iOS app in September, other startups around Long Island are hoping to utilize LI Tech Day as they further push their startups into the eyes of the public.
“With LI Tech Day we’re hoping to get more people interested in what we’re doing,” said Douglas Schmohl, CEO of FlightPartner – a click-to-book reservation system for private jet travel. “The industry is already very interested. We’re certainly getting people to pay attention, but we’re certainly a service that will be used by a luxury market, so we’re looking to brand the name and bring it forward.”
FlightPartner works exclusively out of the LaunchPad space and, as Schmohl said, will look to utilize its involvement at LI Tech Day as an opportunity to bring along investors and raise capital as the company prepares to lift off into a larger market.
Similarly, the group behind TalentBrowser – whose cloud-based job matching software was originally created in 2003 – hope to generate awareness and interest for the company’s service that will soon launch to public, paying customers for the very first time.
“Working with LaunchPad we’ve met some fantastic people who are helping us prepare for our launch,” said Janet Dwyer, co-founder along with John Harney of TalentBrowser, which began commercializing its software two years ago. “First and foremost, they’re great people, but they’re also extremely knowledgeable and experienced.”
All three of these startups have similar ambitions for their companies as they prepare for the event, and all three showered Huntington with praises as they detailed what it’s like to work in the town.
“There’s really no other place I’d rather be running Sweigh than in Huntington,” Monteleone, of Centerport, said. “There are plenty of towns on Long Island, but they’re tiny [compared to Huntington]. Everything you need is here; it’s almost like its own little city.”
Schmohl agreed, calling Huntington “the best place to be, particularly for younger people,” while detailing the towns attractions like restaurants, music, bars and – perhaps most importantly – “great coffee.”
Dwyer, who grew up in Kings Park but always found herself visiting Huntington, rained down praises similar to those of Schmohl, calling the town a “perfect place for younger people.”
“It’s still commutable to New York City, but there’s enough action and nightlife here to make a home in a place that’s not a suburb,” Dwyer said. “With Huntington, they’re trying to build Silicon Valley on Long Island and, I’ve got to tell you, they’re doing it.”
Rugile, who devotes his time equally as an employee of both eGifter and LaunchPad Huntington, is hoping that all of these praises and more will be able to land the incubator a new startup or even eGifter a new employee.
“Who knows? A talented programmer who didn’t even know that LaunchPad existed might walk through the door and say, ‘Wow, I’d love to work here.’”
Talented programmers or not, admission as an attendee to the first-annual LI Tech Day is free – but space is limited. In order to register, either as an attendee or as a paying exhibitor, visit http://www.LITechDay.com.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills (Thursday, August 7, 2014; A7)