Welcome to InnovatorsLINK
InnovatorsLINK (IL) is a unique platform for entrepreneurs—one central location for all the resources you need to succeed with your startup or expansion—including some you’ll find nowhere else. IL springs from the vision of Benjamin Franklin who promoted a public library system to access information and a postal service to speed communications. These helped create the unique American opportunity for anyone to succeed.
The InnovatorsLINK platform is a 21st century version of Franklin’s vision, providing a single digital access point for resources that had been scattered all over the internet, and some that are being made available to entrepreneurs for the first time. We are presently focused on helping entrepreneurs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, soon all six New England states, and ultimately nationwide.
InnovatorsLink has created a business enterprise to promote, support and encourage all entrepreneurs and innovators as well as businesses that desire growth. It is the only resource of its kind that is “Linking Businesses and Resources.” Our mission is to provide invaluable resources to save time and money, with the business resources all concisely contained and defined in one website location that will give you all the tools you need to succeed and grow your business.
InnovatorsLINK provides a continually updated database to maintain a trustworthy system with current and accurate information. It is vitally important to us to provide basic learning as well as the business tools and confidence necessary for success. Using business analysis, data management technology, and human intelligence, InnovatorsLINK has created a website and programs to include educational courses, business forums, an event calendar, and a daily Main Street Journal news feed that support small businesses and startups with important information.
InnovatorsLINK is a Benefit Corporation operating with “the purpose to create the specific public benefit of promoting economic opportunity for individuals.” We accomplish this by providing a unique small business resource center to both startups and established businesses looking to recover from the pandemic or to expand in the improving economy.
We believe we can be particularly helpful to entrepreneurs who lost their jobs in the shutdown and now want to go off on their own. We are dedicated to helping ALL small businesses—especially those owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, people of color, women, veterans, and Native Americans.
InnovatorsLINK was founded in Connecticut based on the combined research and efforts of the University of Connecticut School of Business analysis and management Graduates; senior executive and serial entrepreneur Kempton Coady, Cornell MBA, Bates BS; and Peter Legnos, president of the military contractor of LBI, Inc. of Groton. The effort is supported by a team of web designers, business analysis and data management experts, business writers, editors, and business owners. Full descriptions of team members are listed below.
InnovatorsLINK has launched in Connecticut and will expand to the contiguous states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. Each state has thousands of small businesses with similar needs, yet each state has their own unique public and private programs to support small businesses.
InnovatorsLINK consists of both free and elective paid services such as education courses, premium and certified customer referral services, and special online small business services like corporation formation, trademarking, payroll, and others.
The following are provided “Free” to InnovatorsLINK.com subscribers:
- Expert Summaries of business topics
- State, local, federal, and private funding sources
- Main Street Journal – curated news for entrepreneurs and small businesses
- Resource Organizations – a directory of public and private organizations that can support your company
- Events – a calendar of upcoming webinars, workshops, and events on business topics
- Self-Evaluation – processes designed to evaluate your business ideas and find out if being in business is right for you
- BizLINK – a comprehensive directory connecting you to local businesses that can meet all of your company’s needs
- Forums – communicate with others about your specific needs
- Information Library – detailed information and advice on a variety of business topics
The elective Paid services include:
- Premium member monthly subscriptions
- Lead generation for “Certified” vetted vendors for small business, such as lawyers, accountants, contractors, etc.
- Educational courses, starting with a small business bootcamp and advancing to more specialized topics
- Business planning using the advisory program LivePlan
- Online business products like a Myers-Briggs program, self-evaluation, payroll, corporate formation, and trademarking
Evaluation & Opportunity
You just opened a business, or are about to expand one, or just need to improve your business. You have dozens of questions that need answering, but no convenient way to get correct, timely answers. And this is causing you frustration and costing you money.
- How do I evaluate my idea?
- Who can assist me with business planning?
- Where do I find funding?
- Where can we learn about Connecticut state and local support programs?
- How can we get an education on what a small business needs to understand?
- Where can we find “Certified or Vetted” services (specialized lawyers, accountants, others) and products?
- Where do we find a comprehensive list of service suppliers (marketing, commercial real estate, HVAC suppliers, others)?
- Where do we find a listing of current state, local, and national events relevant to us?
- What resources are available to me to network with others with the same problems?
- How do I find and hire people?
- And much more
Currently there is no centralized ecosystem to assist existing or prospective small business owners. There is no comprehensive federal, state, or private entity to connect entrepreneurs with the advice, funding opportunities, educational and networking events, and other resources that can help them succeed. This information is fragmented across different silos, and substantial effort, money, and time are required to get answers and support.
In the first quarter of 2020, there were 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S. These small businesses generated $5.2 trillion in GDP, half the U.S. total. Connecticut had 335,000 small businesses. Small business is the country’s business growth engine.
A Letter from CEO Peter Legnos
As an entrepreneur in business for 49 years I have watched the increasing struggles of small business over the past 20 years. I was inspired by not only my own struggles, but the struggles of so many other business owners who came to me for help.
The event that really inspired me occurred in 2014. My company, LBI Inc., had just received a multi-year, multi-million-dollar government contract that required a relatively conservative amount of financing. I applied to four banks. My application was denied by all of them. I wanted to find out why. So I began to research the underlying finance laws that drastically changed the access to capital.
The hallmark change, I discovered, came with the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. This Depression-era law was put in place to prevent commercial banks from engaging in high-risk/high-reward investment banking and other high-risk financial instruments. This essentially removed about 50 percent of the capital that would have been available for small business lending.
This inspired me to apply for a grant from Thames River Innovation Place (TRIP), funded by CTNext, to create InnovatorsLink. The process included research conducted in 2019-2020 by 13 data analytics graduate students at the UConn School of Business. From this research we have created an interactive information system to seamlessly deliver relevant information and resources to our users through a complex back-end system of metadata linking. This is an incredible time-saving resource for overburdened entrepreneurs.
I am passionate about using digital technology to connect, unite, and develop paths to badly needed capital for entrepreneurs and small business owners who have the grit, optimism, and work ethic responsible for employing about half the U.S. workforce, producing half its GDP, and creating two out of three new jobs.
Small businesses need to innovate regularly to adapt, survive, and hopefully thrive. I envision an inclusive community of all small businesses from hairstylists to handymen, coffee shop owners to lawyers. Our small business community ranges from one-person businesses to larger companies employing 100 or more people. They are all part of an important resource that is essential to our national economic ecosystem.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, it was especially devastating to see daily news stories about struggling – and failing – small businesses in our community. I believe that InnovatorsLINK will provide essential services to connect entrepreneurs to customized information, learning, financing – and to one another. Small businesses need to work together to become better business people, improve their finances, attract investors, and find success.
Please look at our partners and resources; you will recognize a lot of them. Join our community today to help strengthen your businesses and our American economy.
Peter Legnos, President & CEO
InnovatorsLINK saves small business owners the one thing they never have enough of – time. How? We gather the most relevant small business information from around the web and package it in a simple, easy-to-use website with two main sections: A feature-rich news feed we call The Main Street Journal and a robust Resource Center, with everything you need to start or maintain your business.
President & CEO
News Writer and Editor
Business Writer and Brand Strategist
Business Management & Data Analyst
Sales & Marketing Manager
Innovation is key to growing the economy, whether the new ideas result in incremental improvements to existing technologies or momentous breakthroughs that affect human society. Most innovations are born in small companies, which are also responsible for employing approximately half of the U.S. workforce and establishing two-thirds of all newly created jobs.
Unfortunately, small businesses are having more difficulty securing the necessary capital and resources to turn their innovations into successful commerce. While the economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic recently spotlighted the financial difficulties of small businesses, their access to capital has been in decline for at least two decades. Since the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, small business financing through conventional banks has been less accessible. Entrepreneurs are often forced to rely on non-traditional or financial technology lenders.
With the declining availability of conventional bank financing for small business, and the rise of high interest FINTECH and non-traditional lenders there is an opportunity to create a banking and lending institution that will be very attractive to small businesses and their employees. Of the $1.2 trillion in small business loans annually, conventional banks loan about $600 billion and about $600 billion from FINTECH and non-traditional lenders. Since the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act in 1999, the non-traditional and FINTECH group has grown exponentially to fill the gap created by this deregulation in 1999. They are the only game in town for many small businesses and they charge interest sometimes 30% and higher often with additional loan fees. In Phase II, InnovatorsLINK will establish lending services through alliances with the SBA and institutional lenders.
A spike in new business failures occurs in the second or third year after opening, and there is a strong consensus among economic experts that startups falter at this point due to the lack of “bridge financing,” which can carry them to the next level and help them endure in the market. Entrepreneurs whose ventures fail for this reason are often reluctant to launch another startup, and statistics show that new business originations are at a historic low.
The survival challenges for startups and early stage small businesses have wide-ranging consequences. The decline in small business can be linked to the erosion of the middle class, whose financial well-being is the keystone of the American economy. There is no telling how many startups that faded away in recent decades may have introduced innovations that would have changed the world.
There is an immediate need to reverse the decline in small business commerce, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s crushing blow to this sector of the economy. We must do everything we can to assist our entrepreneurs in bringing their visions to life, creating jobs, and strengthening our economy and the middle class. We must also address the needs of current small businesses who can benefit from workforce training and other opportunities.
One of the most valuable resources available to a small business owner is time, and the speedy delivery of useful information can help them to make the decisions necessary more rapidly for their company to prosper. We believe it is vitally important to create a system that provides entrepreneurs with trustworthy, accurate content as well as access to educational resources, financing, and networking connections to other businesses.
InnovatorsLINK aggregates and explains information and programs from numerous sources, including the Small Business Association, SCORE, and Connecticut Business Development Center. Using data mining and analytics, our content editors make this information available online and deliver customized information to registered users based on their business questionnaires and registration data through metadata links.
Our mission is to constantly update our database to keep users aware of information, programs, financing, and other resources that can aid them in launching and sustaining their business. Our news arm, the “Main Street Journal,” provides a daily news feed of articles and editorial content related to small business trends. The site also features resources such as a comprehensive listing of educational courses, self-evaluation tools, and a collection of specialized forums. For example, the “BLUE LINK” forum connects businesses in the “Blue Tech” sector with resources such as the Naval & Maritime Consortium, the University of Connecticut, Thames River Innovation Center, and Thames River Innovation Place.
Our research at the UConn Graduate School over the 2019-2020 school year concluded that InnovatorsLINK can provide a sustainable, successful, and cost-effective way to support entrepreneurs and small business owners. This pipeline of information and instruction will help stimulate, promote, and maintain small business growth. The site’s design allows it to constantly realign with the needs of the small business community to be as effective as possible.
With the decline in conventional bank financing for small businesses and the rise of non-traditional and financial technology lenders, there is also an opportunity to create a banking and lending institution that will be attractive to small businesses and their employees. In Phase II, InnovatorsLINK plans to establish lending services through alliances with the SBA and institutional lenders.
While the public sector has done an excellent job of establishing government-sponsored incubators, loans, subsidies, and other initiatives to support small businesses, these account for only a fraction of the $1.2 trillion in loans given to small businesses each year. We believe that a more feasible solution is the creation of a public-private partnership that will unite public sector efforts with private resources and capital.
InnovatorsLINK’s mission is to create this type of entity, supported by both public and private funds, to encourage, educate, promote, and support all entrepreneurs and innovators. Anyone with a feasible idea and the necessary work ethic can bring their vision to life. It is vitally important that these entrepreneurs have the basic information and resources necessary to give them the education and confidence to succeed.
InnovatorsLINK was founded in the spirit of Benjamin Franklin, who promoted a library system to provide public access to information and a postal service to improve communications. These efforts helped create an economic vision that evolved into the “American Dream” that anyone can achieve personal success. We seek to restore opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to access an enduring system of information, learning, and capital support.