Catching Up with Startup Grind New Haven

On his 25th birthday, Sal Syed decided he wanted work to be fun, so he quit his job as a software programmer for a medical company.

“You only have one life to live, so why not make it exciting?” said Syed, the CEO and cofounder of Arccos Golf, the pioneer and leader of data and artificial intelligence in golf. “Work can be really fun.”

Those are the types of stories we hear most often at the Startup Grind New Haven (SGNH) stage, and it’s why so many entrepreneurs and innovators keep coming back to the speaker series for more.

In case you haven’t checked in with Executive Director Nick Caplan and the SGNH crew in a while, here’s the scoop on the talks they’ve hosted lately, starting with Syed and his golf startup.

Syed’s assent to co-founding the Stamford-based startup company, which uses an app and club sensors to track golf data for players, can be traced back to his childhood.

His father founded the largest telecommunications company in Pakistan, which he now realizes had a much bigger influence on him than he previously thought.

Growing up in Pakistan, Syed focused on education and sports like golf, tennis, squash and cricket. He was really good too, having been named the captain of the tennis and cricket teams at Ohio Wesleyan University.

But he was forced to re-evaluate his career goals while working in software programming—a position he called “boring.” That’s when he decided to quit and join a startup company involved with developing software for electronic healthcare record systems.

Syed said he learned many lessons during his first startup experience—mainly that he needed to learn more and that he wanted his own company one day.

“I learned you have to go all in to make something succeed,” he said. “If you half-ass a startup, it’s unlikely to go anywhere. I think staying positive is really important.”

Caplan and Syed talk at Startup Grind New Haven

Caplan and Syed talk at Startup Grind New Haven

A graduate of the Yale School of Management, Syed used his time attending the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, an eight-week summer fellowship, to create technology that tracks golf ball metrics to improve a player’s scores.

He proposed the idea during the program’s annual pitch day, which was attended by a representative of Callaway Golf, a worldwide leading sporting goods company that designs and sells golf equipment. The representative expressed interest in Syed’s idea, and scheduled a meeting for him to meet the company’s CEO.

Founded in late 2014, Arccos Golf had partnered originally with Callaway, which helped the startup develop its products that use GPS technology and data analytics to analyze a golfer’s scores and improve their decision-making. But Callaway has stopped pursuing the idea, Syed said.

That wouldn’t stop Arccos’ growth, as the company began with a small team of engineers and programmers. Many problems arise when building a startup, he says, which always happens, even when you find success.

“Most of the time things go badly,” Syed said. “Just get it out there and start learning.”

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At a glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell Arccos has had their own share of hardships—the company was even recognized as a Marcum Tech Accelerator Company. The honor is awarded to Connecticut tech companies that exceed $3 million of revenue in less than three years.

That success may be attributed to Arccos getting their product into Apple stores in less than two years. Further growth could be credited to the Arccos technology now being pre-installed into all of Coba Golf’s 2017 drivers.

Syed says Arccos does not spend time worrying about the competition. Instead, they care about improving their products for consumers and what measures they can take to accomplish that. He even encourages his employees to play golf as much as possible—a practice that has greatly improved their products, he says.

“I want every golfer tracking their data, their stats, getting insights, making smarter decisions,” Syed said of his mission at Arccos. “And then beyond that, use this data to make the entire industry get smarter.”

Also recently gracing the stage at Startup Grind New Haven was Bill Moschella.

Moschella wears many hats as the co-founder of Evariant; a company providing a two-way communication healthcare platform designed for providers, patients and community partners.

Caplan and Moschella on the Startup Grind New Haven stage

Caplan and Moschella on the Startup Grind New Haven stage

Moschella works on the Farmington-based company’s corporate strategy and product vision, while also securing major capital funding from investors.

But the Prospect-area native says his keen leadership and negotiation skills were sharpened while jamming at bars in Boston, Massachusetts while attending the Berklee College of Music. His persistence was often tested as he petitioned to bar owners for the band’s payment.

“You have to fight for the money,” Moschella told the crowded audience at The Grove last month. “You can never give up.”

Moschella has led the company, known for providing a SaaS healthcare CRM and big data analytics, since 2008. But according to Moschella, now a resident of Avon, his persistence and problem solving abilities began developing an aspiring musician.

His first business venture came in the form of advertising during the late 1990s. With a highlighter and a Yellow Pages book, Moschella dialed as many numbers as possible, securing meetings with businesses across Connecticut.

The company took on many other forms including digital advertising, media buying for sports organizations, and even recording jingles for commercials. In all, Moschella says that was the beginning of his experience with analytics.

“That is ones and zeros,” he said of analyzing music. “It’s not all that different from computer programming.”

Soon, the opportunity to build a software business, especially in the healthcare sector, became apparent to the founders of Evariant, and the company was established in 1999.

Moschella said at first the company white-labeled the project with startup companies—meaning Evariant produced their products and other companies rebranded it to make it appear as their own.

“It was an amazing time to be in the cloud business,” he said of Evariant’s success in securing capital and rapid growth.

Moschella has helped the company secure partnerships with Accenture, Dell, Cloudera, Informatica and Salesforce, among other leading tech companies. In 2015, he helped the company raise $42.3 million Series C financing to grow its engineering and customer success teams and expand its many provider networks.

Evariant Campaign Center's got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit how about you?! #teamspirit #digitalcampaign #townhall #everydayisgameday

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When asked about the importance of seed funding, Moschella said, “It all depends on how much you know [about] what you really want to do.” He tasked entrepreneurs to truly grasp their level of expertise and “actually analyzing a business opportunity.”

Hopeful entrepreneurs, he says, should collaborate with any person who will hear them out. That includes users, investors, other entrepreneurs, companies and investment companies.

“I don’t care if it takes a year,” Moschella said. “Think that thing to the ground. Really pressure test this and fail fast. Don’t hang onto something that is emotional.”

Moschella often speaks at national healthcare conferences and has published several articles for industry publications to discuss big data, analytics and technology development.

He said that startups should foster an “environment that promotes training and learning” and provide a centralized office where staff can work together.

While he helps lead Evariant to new heights, Moschella is also assisting the Connecticut Technology Council to rethink and promote entrepreneurship in Connecticut. Among the state’s many issues, he says Connecticut must provide more funding opportunities.

“We have to create an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs, but supports the lifestyle and the ecosystem of what a business is run like in the state to compete with that,” Moschella said. “You have to have an environment that promotes training and learning.”

If the 2018 lineup at Startup Grind New Haven is anything like this past year’s, it’s sure to be chock full of valuable wisdom for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

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