Business & Economy

Shumlin cheers private investment in tech companies

Gov. Peter Shumlin
Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks with Ethan Towne of Inntopia, a Stowe company that is working a few days a week out of the VCET incubator space in Burlington. Photo by Carolyn Shapiro/for VTDigger
BURLINGTON — Gov. Peter Shumlin visited a high-tech business incubator in downtown Burlington on Thursday to tout a new round of private investment for a startup company.

Faraday Inc., a three-year-old company that develops number-crunching software to help marketers target potential customers, recently received close to $850,000 in venture capital for an expansion. The company has doubled in size from seven to 13 employees in the past few months and plans to add another 20 workers by the end of this year, CEO Andy Rossmeissl said.

“Tech jobs are incredibly important to Vermont’s future,” Shumlin said to a small group gathered in the modern, minimalist conference room of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, on an upper floor of the Fairpoint Communications network hub on Main Street.

It’s one of the VCET’s three locations, including one on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington and another at Middlebury College, that in all house 90 member startup companies. Membership allows access to office and meeting space, as well as like-minded support and collaboration, plus a ping-pong table and Lego sets for breaks from the brainstorming and a large kitchen where a lunchtime burrito bash took place Thursday.

The state needs more “success stories,” like Faraday’s, that involve “young, ambitious folks who are changing the world right here in the state of Vermont,” Shumlin said.

One of the state’s key economic challenges is “more of us are looking like me than looking like you,” Shumlin said, referring to his age. Young, educated, entrepreneurial types frequently leave the state for work elsewhere.

With the nurturing of VCET and other incubators, Faraday and companies like it give those fledgling innovators more opportunities inside state lines, the governor said.

“As we bring in more technology companies, we’re creating a critical mass,” he said, noting positive changes in recent years. “It was much more difficult, when I was a young Vermonter, to find a good-paying job in this state.”

Faraday focuses on clients who sell home-improvement products and services, primarily solar power systems and other energy-efficiency options, to eco-conscious consumers. It uses big-data analytics to pinpoint those most inclined to seek out such offerings.

The recent round of funding follows $880,000 in seed money that Faraday received in March from many of the same investors, led by FreshTracks Capital L.P., a venture capital firm based in Shelburne. In October, Faraday won a $1 million SunShot grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to encourage projects that make solar energy more affordable and marketable.

The new high-skilled, technical jobs at Faraday pay well over $50,000 a year, Rossmeissl said. They including positions in sales, engineering, marketing and account management.

Rossmeissl and his three fellow Faraday founders started at Middlebury College and spun off the company in 2012 from a similar venture called Brighter Planet. They chose to stay in Vermont because they and their workers want a healthy environment and work-life balance, he said.

“Building a corporate culture is one of the hardest things you do” as a company, Rossmeissl said. “We’re all here because we appreciate Vermont and the community.”

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Carolyn Shapiro

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  • James Mason

    This success story wouldn’t be possible in Calais, Grand Isle, Middlesex, Shrewsbury, and the countless other Vermont towns that have no Broadband (25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload speeds according to the FCC). Most of the state is left to fend with spotty, prohibitively expensive, and slow “high speed” Internet access through Fairpoint DSL, CloudAlliance, HughesNet satellite, or 4G service.

    “‘Tech jobs are incredibly important to Vermont’s future,’ Shumlin said.”

    If tech jobs were so important, you’d think the Governor would be championing full broadband coverage across the entire state instead of shamelessly kissing Comcast’s behind in a letter that was actually penned by Comcast’s lobbyists.