DEN panel discusses New Hampshire businesses

by Savannah Eller | 10/5/18 3:05am

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth

A forum hosted on Wednesday at the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship showcased opportunities for New Hampshire’s expanding entrepreneurial network to a small crowd of about 25 Dartmouth students and members of the public. The event, entitled “NH Entrepreneurship: Best Practices for Starting or Expanding Your Business in NH,” was organized in concert with the New Hampshire High Tech Council, a statewide business organization promoting technological innovation.

The forum brought together a panel of experts with experience in entrepreneurship from across New Hampshire to discuss the challenges and opportunities afforded to new businesses in the state. The event also hosted Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the New Hampshire department of business affairs, as keynote speaker. During his address, Caswell spoke about the state’s efforts to attract companies from high-tech industries.

“We’re finding all sorts of new opportunities and ways to collaborate,” he said.

He also discussed the state’s workforce recruitment shortage — currently sitting at a 2.7 percent unemployment rate, the economy of New Hampshire allows from 15,000 to 18,000 jobs to go unfilled at any time, Caswell said.

He added that his office, which includes the state’s travel and tourism department, was working diligently to entice more people to live and work in New Hampshire.

“We continue to see huge growth in companies that are located here and that are relocating here, and there are all sorts of challenges that go along with that,” he said.

Caswell’s target groups included New Hampshire-born millennials who have since moved out of state and might want to return, as well as commuters who might wish to live in the scenic, low-cost New Hampshire and work in neighboring states. He noted that his department wants to encourage diverse hiring practices and the recruitment of a more diverse workforce.

“That’s a continual challenge for the state, not just in New Hampshire, I think, but throughout Northern New England,” he said.

As part of that effort, Caswell emphasized the department’s new “Live Free” campaign, a long-term promotion meant to show out of state residents what New Hampshire has to offer. He showcased the campaign’s website and promotional video during the address.

After Caswell’s presentation, a panel of four entrepreneurs from the Upper Valley region assembled to discuss their experiences forming and maintaining companies in New Hampshire. Moderating the discussion was Phil Ferneau ’84 Tu’98, venture capitalist and founding executive director of the Tuck School of Business’ Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship.

On the panel was Errik Anderson ’00 Th’06 Tu’07, CEO of Hanover-based Ulysses Diversified Holdings and biotechnology companies Adimab, LLC and Compass Therapeutics. The panel’s second biomedical company founder was Thayer graduate Lidia Valdez ’14 Th’15, co-founder and CEO of Lodestone Biomedical. Julie Coleman, grant program manager for Lebanon-based Celdara Medical, rounded out the group.

The panel discussed their own experiences working in the biotech and medtech industries in the area. Valdez, whose company engineers medical technologies that help clinicians better monitor tumors, runs her company out of the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center, a Lebanon-based nonprofit incubator for startups. She said that her Dartmouth undergraduate experience prepared her for a career in entrepreneurship, starting long before she graduated.

“This is where you have a safe space to start experimenting with ideas,” she said.

The panel was one of the first events held at the newly rebranded Magnuson Center, formerly known as the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network Innovation Center. Receiving over $42 million in new funding, the College’s entrepreneurial program became endowed last year. The program has since embarked on new, lasting entrepreneurial education and venture creation programs, according to DEN director Jamie Coughlin.

“What it allows us to do is create permanence in serving the students, faculty, and alumni community,” Coughlin said.

Harshit Yadav ’22, who attended the Wednesday forum, said he found the panel inspiring as a student interested in pursuing entrepreneurship.

“Some of these people have been in our shoes before, so they exactly know how to pursue it,” he said.