Ask The Expert – Matt Benson

Alliance News |

I am excited to begin my role as Chair of the NH Tech Alliance Board of Directors at such a pivotal time for the organization. Much of the hard work to create a strong foundation to get the Alliance to where it is today and to prepare for our future has already been done. This included growing the membership base, merging in Alpha Loft and Live Free and Start to help cement our role in working closely with startups, rebranding, creating value pillars and hiring in-house, full-time staff. All of this was carefully planned to further position the Alliance as a key influencer for New Hampshire’s tech ecosystem.

As Chair, one of my goals is to continue to raise the profile of the Alliance and to show its importance as a steward of the tech ecosystem. This includes being more actively involved in legislative matters – tracking relevant legislation, determining what positions to take to best reflect our members’ interests, being more proactive with the tech industry to prompt feedback on legislative and policy priorities and more actively engaging with legislators. Additionally – and now that the structural elements for a growing organization have been addressed – we want to more consistently engage with our members, host higher profile events and be a more influential voice for the tech economy and tech members. One of the first steps will be a statewide listening tour planned for this fall for members and nonmembers to help us determine which issues to focus on based on what we hear the tech community finds important.

While we work with the entire tech community, one priority is to recalibrate how we can most effectively serve the startup community. With the absorption of Live Free and Start and Alpha Loft, our startup programming will be carefully reviewed to help ensure that we can effectively support early stage companies in New Hampshire. The Alliance is committed to startup programming and we want to make sure that we provide startups with the resources they need most that they cannot get elsewhere. We must strategize about how most effectively to secure financial and other support that is required to help startups grow because those vitally important members of our tech ecosystem need resources to reach their potential.

Among many issues, having an infrastructure for supporting startups and financing options are critical to keeping these companies local. We have been fortunate at the Alliance to currently provide $600,000 in annual investments through our funding partners – the MillWorks II fund and the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority – for startups through the Accelerate NH and TechOut programs. We want companies to start, grow and stay here in the Granite State and need to develop a refreshed, comprehensive strategy to support them. Helping these companies find the financial and other resources they need is a critical role for the Alliance, and our recently formed Startup Committee is taking the lead in this effort.

While I am new to the Chair role, I have been involved with the Alliance for many years. I have had a chance to work with past chairs’ Paul Mailhot and Toral Cowieson, who were instrumental in helping bring the Alliance to where it is today. In addition, Matt Cookson’s leadership as our part time (but long-term) executive director has been critical to our growth and I want to personally thank him and his team for their support nearly nine years.

Next month, the Alliance will move into its new office space in downtown Manchester (located at 30 Amherst Street) and welcome our first-full time executive director, Julie Demers. She’ll be working with her team, which includes Joshua Cyr and Lee Ann Lewis to lead the Alliance, plan out the listening tours and develop a strategic plan for the Alliance. I invite you to reach out to any of the Alliance team members with your questions and feedback.

Finally, keep an eye on the calendar for the listening tours – I would very much appreciate having as many members (and soon-to-be-members!) attend as possible. You should also be on the lookout for a very active Fall event calendar for events and activities focused on supporting the ecosystem, including our TechWomen Breakfast Series, Speed Venture Summit (a networking event for startups and investors), BioMed|Tech, Product of the Year (celebrating top products developed in New Hampshire), TechOut and more. As a nonprofit that serves New Hampshire’s tech sector, we look forward to being a resource, advocate and partner in continuing to grow this critical component of the state’s business community.