NH Tech Alliance: Connecting tech companies, students, and entrepreneurs for growth and innovation

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Watch the full episode above via YouTube – highlights from the conversation are below.


On this episode of Get Tech Smart we learn about New Hampshire Tech Alliance, a statewide technology association dedicated to supporting companies at every stage of growth and development. Joining Flo in the conversation are Executive Director Julie Demers and Director of Programming and Engagement Stephanie Baxter.

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Get Tech Smart host Flo Nicolas, left, with guests Julie Demers, center, and Stephanie Baxter.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity

Flo Nicolas:

People always want to introduce me to you guys and I’m like, No, I’m already connected. But they use another name: they call you guys the High Tech. Let’s talk about that history, from the name High Tech to the transition to New Hampshire Tech Alliance.

Julie Demers:

The New Hampshire High Tech Council was founded in the early ’80s, and in 2018 rebranded to the New Hampshire Tech Alliance. The reason for that was because it brought two additional programs into its fold, which were Alpha Loft and Live Free and Start. Alpha Loft was focused on supporting startups through accelerator programs and had a co-working space available to the startups it worked with. Live Free and Start was focused on the evangelism of entrepreneurs in New Hampshire telling their story, talking about what’s happening. So those entities came into the Alliance, and the rebranding was very intentional. At our core, what we are is the connective tissue to everything that’s tech in New Hampshire. So don’t feel bad, I catch myself sometimes still referring to the Tech Alliances as New Hampshire High Tech Council. We’re basically New Hampshire High Tech Council 2.0 – it’s the evolution of the Alliance into who we are today.

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Nicolas

Flo Nicolas:

One thing to know is that NH Tech Alliance is not just for tech entrepreneurs and business owners. Tell us about how you guys are engaging students to be part of this tech ecosystem.

Stephanie Baxter:

All of our events are open to students and we offer free tickets, so there’ll be certain events where we’ll do an extra outreach to get students to come, depending on what we’re doing or where we’re going. In the past we’ve hosted some career fairs for students as well. Our recent power breakfast had about ten different nonprofits that all provide education in the STEM space to students, such as SEE Science Center, Media Power Youth, and FIRST. So amplifying their voices.

Flo Nicolas:

Julie, what is your vision to carry out the mission for the New Hampshire Tech Alliance?

Julie Demers:

Our mission is essentially creating a strong, interconnected community – really elevating ourselves as being that connective tissue to connect technology companies to resources, technology companies to talent, and really telling the story of what’s happening in New Hampshire. When I look ahead a couple years, if we can successfully change the narrative of New Hampshire – one time I heard New Hampshire referred to as the “old and cold state” – and really shift perspectives to let people know that this is a tech hub. There is a ton of opportunity with regards to tech employment. Our students don’t necessarily have to go elsewhere to have the quality of life that you would have in San Francisco, Boulder, Austin. There are a ton of things happening here in New Hampshire, so especially post pandemic we’ve known that our role needs to be focused on telling that story. And also telling the story of our members, being a platform to amplify the good work they’re doing, to each other and to people outside of New Hampshire.

Flo Nicolas:

What type of community engagement activities are you guys rolling out? Because I know I’m seeing events popping up in the next couple of months.

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Baxter

Stephanie Baxter:

I think one of the challenges in New Hampshire is everyone’s still a little siloed. You know, people on the East Coast don’t know what’s going on in the Upper Valley, Upper Valley doesn’t know what’s going on in Nashua. So from a community relations point of view, there are pockets of support for the tech industry all over the place but nobody is talking to each other. So we’re looking to be that central hub where we know what’s going on at UNH, we know what’s going on at Dartmouth, we know what’s going on everywhere. As the staff of the Tech Alliance, we need to be knowledgeable about where people can go to get resources – many who have been on the show. This show has been amazing for us. I share the episodes because it’s just another way of telling the story.

Flo Nicolas:

What are you seeing in terms of technology right now? What’s the buzz, what’s trendy in the tech sector in New Hampshire?

Julie Demers:

I feel like AI has been trendy for years. But honestly, there’s not a single vertical that we’re seeing too much growth in one area. I think tech as a whole is really growing in New Hampshire in a number of different pockets. Of course, everything that’s happening with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester has had a real gravity in terms of attracting companies that are in that space, and then also attracting the technology companies that will be necessary to support the growth of an entire industry. So I think we find ourselves talking about that a lot, because I don’t know that people have caught on to how transformative that will be for this state – an entire industry will likely be headquartered here and well known throughout the world. We have to be able to train a workforce to step into those roles. So that’s definitely one we talk about a lot. But in our day to day, we’re interacting with companies from all over the map. Rogue Space Systems are sending things up into space dealing with space robots; Mikros in Claremont are doing the microprocessor cooling systems for huge names, some of which cannot be named; and there’s dozens of others. I’ll feel remiss afterward for not being able to point to all of it. But there’s growth in virtually every vertical within tech right now, especially in New Hampshire.

Flo Nicolas:

For someone who’s thinking about being a tech entrepreneur, what is the one thing they need in order to get started (other than contact you)?

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Demers

Julie Demers:

I know you said “aside from contact us”, but I really see that as being the first step, because we’re so connected to so many of the resources. I feel we’re a really good funnel to do a handoff and say, Okay, this is what you need to consider. There are tons of resources, which I think Stephanie was just about to speak to, so I’ll let her do that. But I will say if there’s an entrepreneur that doesn’t really know where to start, New Hampshire Tech Alliance is it. That’s not to say we’ll hold their hand through all of their programming, there will very likely be a handoff into another New Hampshire entity that will be able to support them or various entities in the surrounding areas. But I would say the first thing they need to do is contact us.

Stephanie Baxter:

Yeah. We have quarterly office hours, which are free for startups. There’s a variety of different experts from marketing, product development, engineering, legal insurance, anything really. It’s a great resource. The one piece of advice I would give to an entrepreneur, especially if they’re from the tech space: you’ve got to get out and meet people. New Hampshire is so well connected, and everyone’s door is always open. There are so many seasoned entrepreneurs who have decades of experience founding companies, exiting, doing it all over again. So don’t forget you’ve got to get out there and meet people, because there are people that can help everywhere. I find that, especially in the tech space, people are not familiar at all – that’s not what they do, it’s not in their wheelhouse. But there are a million resources out there, and just getting out in the community, attending events, contacting us, will make it much easier.


Flo Nicolas is an attorney, co-founder and COO of DEI Directive, a  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion technology firm that provides a comprehensive DEI Intelligence Platform. She also produces Get Tech Smart and Get Resource Smart, which she shares with partners in The Granite State News Collaborative.

About this Author

Flo Nicolas

Flo Nicolas is a technologist, lawyer, speaker, mentor, writer, tech startup Founder/CEO of CheapCheep and Creator of Get Tech Smart. This article and episode are being shared with members of The Granite State News Collaborative.