BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A Bridgeport startup hopes that today is the day it becomes the first-ever Artificial Intelligence application in history to be 100 percent funded within 24 hours.
At 12:01 a.m., HelpGrowUSA, which is run out of a former firehouse on Clarence Street, officially launched its Kickstarter page seeking $15,000 for the project.
“Our goal is pioneering how AI will grow small business,” said Chris Sacchinelli, the company's CEO who has been working on idea since 2013.
HelpGrowUSA is a rapidly growing company built around a core team of serial entrepreneurs, economic advisers, small business consultants, data scientists and cognitive engineers striving to empower entrepreneurship and small business growth in Connecticut.
Since partnering with IBM’s Watson Unit, HelpGrowUSA has secured its position as one of the pioneers in the Artificial Intelligence space by developing what may become the "world’s first Watson-powered AI business adviser." Using an AI-based model, the team would be able to deliver business decision support at a larger scale than thought impossible.
In short, HelpGrowUSA is redeveloping economic development by building America’s small business engine, providing the resources and tools necessary to move business forward.
Born and raised in Norwalk, Sacchinelli is using the experience he gained in building some Boston startups and the launch of a Norwalk-based accelerator program to help build his latest endeavor.
The concept is simple, he said. Many small businesses could benefit from a consultant’s advice on savvy decision-making and marketing, but few can afford a top adviser, some of whom charge about $500 an hour.
HelpGrowUSA, formerly HelpGrowCT, believes it can harness technology to provide the same sort of personalized consulting, just not from a living, breathing advisor.
While it’s a for-profit business, Sacchinelli said he and his core team thought their combined know-how could have a positive, socially responsible effect on state businesses.
After two years of market research and product testing, the company was ready to go. In the last few months, it has stress tested the system with 200 companies, said Chief Marketing Officer Scott Merritt.
If it all works as planned, HelpGrowUSA will have the first IBM-accredited AI accelerator program in the world, Sacchinelli said.
“I think we can truly, truly have an impact,” Sacchinelli said.