Claire Leonardi Steps Down as Connecticut Innovations CEO

Share Article

Connecticut Innovations’ board of directors today announced that Claire Leonardi has resigned as chief executive officer of the state’s quasi-public venture capital fund and lender.

Claire’s extraordinary vision and leadership guided CI to its position as one of the most active venture capital investors in the country, and paved the way for outstanding innovations such as the $200 million Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund

Leonardi's last day will be January 8, 2015, which will allow her to assist with the transition and help the board name a successor.

“Claire’s extraordinary vision and leadership guided CI to its position as one of the most active venture capital investors in the country, and paved the way for outstanding innovations such as the $200 million Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund to help commercialize bioscience discoveries, and new investment programs in collaboration with both UConn and Yale to capitalize on each university’s most promising startups,” said Michael Cantor, chairman of CI’s board and a co-managing partner at Cantor Colburn LLP. “Claire did all this while successfully overseeing a merger, assuming management of Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and establishing a number of highly innovative programs. On behalf of the board, I thank Claire for working closely with us and the Malloy Administration to build a stronger foundation for innovation and growth in Connecticut.”

“It has been a privilege to lead this organization through its transition to a larger, more diverse, highly-visible and impactful participant in Connecticut's economic development landscape,” said Leonardi. “We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without the strong support of the Malloy Administration. From the additional $125 million capital allocation provided by the 2011 Jobs Bill, which was earmarked to support increased investment in high-tech companies, to the sponsorship of the Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund as a Governor’s Bill in 2013 to spur commercialization of the exceptional bioscience research being conducted in our state, this administration has stood with us, championing Connecticut’s most innovative entrepreneurs who are doing fascinating, groundbreaking work in our state.”

A Wharton M.B.A., Leonardi is a veteran investment and venture capital executive with more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to joining CI, she advised companies in upstate New York on capital structure and funding, strategic planning and performance improvement. She was a founder of Fairview Capital L.P., and, before that, held senior investment positions at Crossroads Capital, where she managed portfolios for large institutional clients.

In addition to her work experience, Leonardi served as chair of the board of directors of the University of Connecticut Health Center. She also served as vice chair of the UConn Board of Trustees.

Highlights of CI’s accomplishments under Leonardi’s leadership are numerous, and include:

  •     Dramatically increased venture capital investments, more than doubling CI’s annual investment and tripling the number of portfolio companies, which now exceeds 100. CI is now one of the most active early-stage investors in the country with a particular strength in bioscience.
  •     Completed a merger with the Connecticut Development Authority (CDA), including integration of programs, finances and staff.
  •     Developed and launched the $200 million Connecticut Bioscience Innovation Fund, now a major driver of collaboration and commercialization.
  •     Refined the pre-seed program to better align with the venture program, enabling it to become CI’s strongest pipeline for new, high-quality deals.
  •     Rebranded and enhanced the perception and image of CI in the marketplace with a new logo and tagline, new collateral, an award-winning website, a new content marketing strategy, a ramped up social media presence, and a dedicated, customer-focused intake specialist.
  •     On-boarded and consolidated the stem cell research program into CI, broadening its mandate to include regenerative medicine and enhancing processes to increase effectiveness.
  •     Introduced a bioscience-focused website to better serve customers and highlight this important segment.
  •     Developed close partnerships with the state's two research universities, including the Yale Innovation Fund partnership with Yale and First Niagara Bank; the Third Bridge Partnership to help UConn students spin out companies from the School of Engineering; collaboration on the recent REACH grant submission, including both UConn and Yale; and focused outreach such as holding office hours at the universities with our SBIR, CBIF and venture managers.
  •     Introduced additional services to assist portfolio companies, including office hours for marketing help (branding, PR, website maximization); an executive-in-residence to provide strategic, hands-on assistance with product ramp-up, cash flow management and general mentoring; a jobs board for startups to promote open positions and internship opportunities, a STEM internship grant program to assist in hiring and retaining Connecticut graduates, and a focus on strategic partnerships, helping companies connect with customers, suppliers, academics and service providers.
  •     Brought CTNext (Connecticut’s entrepreneurial ecosystem) in-house, providing more focus, emphasizing outcomes and integrating it into CI’s work with the entrepreneurial community.
  •     Launched the Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, a competitive pitch event that provides small grants to help companies propel to the next level.
  •     Developed a focused effort in lending, transitioning the old CDA from the lender of last resort to a valued partner of private sector banks.
  •     From an operational standpoint, strengthened team, updated policies and processes, and implemented technology solutions to better serve customers and accommodate the increase in scale and product breadth.

The board will announce Leonardi’s successor in the coming weeks.

About Connecticut Innovations Inc.
Connecticut Innovations (CI) is the leading source of financing and ongoing support for Connecticut's innovative, growing companies. To maximize the growth potential of each business, CI tailors its solutions and often combines its funds with resources from other financial leaders to provide venture capital and strategic support for early-stage technology companies; flexible loans for established companies with new innovations; grants that support innovation and collaboration; and connections to its well-established network of partners and professionals. Through all these initiatives, CI has helped bring $4 billion in financing to Connecticut companies. The state’s most active early-stage investor, CI has created more than 26,000 jobs. For more information on CI, please visit

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kelsea Michael
Follow >
Connecticut Innovations
Like >
Visit website