Michelle Cote, a relentless advocate for innovation in Hartford, and an instructor at the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, will be honored with a Top 25 Women in Business Award by The Hartford Business Journal.
Cote is the director of Launc[H], where she leads growth of the city’s innovation ecosystem by convening key partnerships. Her work has elevated Hartford’s connections and its prestige. In 2021, the city was recognized by Inc. magazine, which ranked Hartford as #5 in the U.S. among cities with the highest growth in tech talent.
In her role at UConn, Cote has supported more than 150 startup teams on their journey from concept to market. Many have gone on to commercial success.
Cote, who has both a bachelor’s degree and MBA from UConn, said her career began in Greater Hartford and it is still the place she calls home.
“There’s an incredible community here,” she said. “People make the place. I tell entrepreneurs all the time that access to expertise and decision makers is unparalleled here. If you are willing to reach out and ask for help, there are tremendously generous and talented people that will make themselves available to you.”
Cote joined the School of Business as an employee in 2014. Today she leads programs that help students and faculty analyze the market opportunity for new products and technologies and create the business models needed to launch and grow their companies.
In 2016, she was asked to lead the development of a strategy to make Hartford a visible and vibrant hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. In pursuit of that goal, she created a coalition of more than 30 local corporations, colleges and universities, and community organizations, that now operates as Launc[H]. The group works together to make Hartford the best place on the East Coast to start or scale a business.
In the process of founding Launc[H], Cote has helped convene partnerships between Hartford’s largest insurers, which resulted in the creation of the Hartford InsurTech Hub the Nassau Re/Imagine Program, and much of the InsurTech activity now present within the city. Using lessons learned in that endeavor, Cote helped to support the creation of new startup support programs focused on Digital Health and Health Equity, pulling together experts from Hartford HealthCare, Trinity College and UConn.
Launc[H] also has supported the growth of several other innovation communities such as Upward Hartford, MarkerspaceCT and the Stanley+Techstars Accelerator. As a result, more than 100 new tech companies, from around the globe, have come to Hartford to work with, learn from, and develop business relationships with Connecticut companies.
“I’m really fortunate because so many parts of my job are incredibly rewarding,” Cote said. “Teaching gives me the opportunity to watch emerging entrepreneurs develop the skills and the confidence that they need to help lead the next wave of innovation. And the partnerships that I am part of in Hartford allow me to learn something new every day, and contribute to creating a healthier, more connected community.”
She has also encouraged local college students to participate in the robust innovation in the area. UConn, Trinity College, University of Hartford and Goodwin University are active partners in Launc[H], which offers students additional resources and opportunities beyond their campuses, whether starting their own businesses or pursuing internships or jobs in tech.
One of her strong beliefs is that encouraging partnerships that foster sharing of ideas and assets, challenges everyone to “dream bigger.” Aside from her career enjoyment, Cote said the work that she does also has profound personal meaning.
“Becoming a parent has definitely shifted my perspective,” she said. “We have four children in our house, and seeing our community, and the rest of the world through their eyes has deepened my commitment to making Hartford a great place. When I first started my career, I was motivated to create a community where there would be more available to people like me. Now, I concentrate on helping to build opportunities for them, and their peers, and that is so much more rewarding.”
The Hartford Business Journal ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. May 4 at Farmington Gardens event facility.