03 Jun IN THE NEWS
Business feature: “At COMRADITY, building creativity and community.”
JUNE 3, 2016 – Stamford Advocate
By Alexander Soule
If Mike Critelli could be considered a corporate refugee, there is no shortage of executives who would not mind tracing his trail as the onetime CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Pitney Bowes and more recently the executive producer of a feature film.
As Jim and Kathy Kern see it, there will be more than a few corporate refugees to come in Fairfield County as major local corporations slim down even further — and they will be ready to greet them at their Comradity in Stamford, and possibly more locations down the road.
In its second full year of operation on Canal Street above Dinosaur BBQ, Comradity has carved out a distinct niche as an office suite attracting “creatives” from the corporate sphere who are starting up new ventures, with the facility outfitted with a small, high-definition video production facility. Jim Kern said the company expects to achieve profitability this year, with Comradity holding a 10-year lease with an option for an additional 10 years.
“In this corridor there are about 150,000 … creative professionals,” Jim Kern said. “We’re in it for the long run.”
The Kerns have sought to distinguish Comradity from other co-working centers in several ways (Workpoint in Stamford offers a full TV production studio, while Serendipity Labs is readying to open on Canal Street with a concept emphasizing the vibrancy of the co-working environment). As an example, Kathy Kern cites Comradity bringing in artists from Hamden-based Arts for Learning to help break the ice for brainstorming sessions, having participants team up to create a sculpture, act out improv skits or other ploys to unleash creative thought.
The Kerns started Comradity from backgrounds in marketing, and say they foresee a future in which corporations will increasingly rely on external consultants and agencies for creative services.
“We’ve had people who have walked in here and who have worked for corporations — they say to us … ‘If I want career security, I need to start taking care of that myself,;” Kathy Kern said. “I think what we’re building here is a community.”
The Kerns are working to integrate Comradity into the Stamford community, as well, placing five teens this summer with companies under its roof through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program.
Startups in residence include Fit Fight, developing an online-based fitness competition for military members; Blissful Media Group, a social media influence agency; and Multilot, which has technology allowing fans at stadium events to send selfies to be shown on jumbotron screens.
Also in residence is Connecticut Innovations, the state-backed venture fund that has invested in many Fairfield County startups over the years; and Critelli’s From the Rough Productions, through which he produced the feature film “From the Rough” chronicling the true-life story of a woman coaching the first men’s golf team at the historically black Tennessee State University. Striding energetically to his office on Tuesday with a messenger bag over his shoulder, Critelli enthused about the Comradity space.
In addition, Comradity signs up “mobile” members who come through to tap into the vibe without committing to permanent office space, including Bryan Mattimore — who makes a living helping people brainstorm ideas through his Norwalk firm The Growth Engine, including at Startup Weekend Stamford at the Stamford Innovation Center.
“The place is great,” Mattimore said.