Cascade Peak owners Diane Paulson and David Eliasen. Cascade Peak was one of the first five companies selected by the Medford incubator. // Photo courtesy Cascade Peak Distillery.
“We take a pretty broad view of both of those terms — technology and sustainability,” says Jeff Allen, who had previously served as the executive director for the Oregon Environmental Council and is adamant about integrating sustainable practices through the incubator. “Part of where we see value is in helping companies hardwire sustainability into their operations early on,” he says.
The first five companies selected were YogiTunes, a digital download music service for yoga-related music; Cascade Peak Spirits, the Northwest’s first organic distillery; ICR Systems, which links cars with online databases; TheDot Network, which provides schools with a web-based planner on closed social networking platforms; and REDCloud, which is developing an electric conversion kit for commercial vehicle fleets.
“My big vision for the business in the valley is to become a center for electric vehicles,” says Melissa Brandao, CEO of REDCloud, formerly Ambiente Motors. Brandao cites Oregon’s early adopting of electric vehicles, the valley’s proximity to California and Washington, as well as the relatively inexpensive cost of doing business there as advantages for the area.
Diane Paulson of Cascade Peak also sees the potential. The company sold close to $200,000 of its organic gin and vodka last year but is struggling to raise money for advertising and expansion. Paulson hopes the accelerator will help them navigate the funding terrain. “There are a lot of hurdles, because it’s such a new industry,” she says of micro-distilling.
“Every startup thinks that what they need is more money,” says Allen, stressing the importance coaching and networking to “avoid some of the early mistakes.”
“We’ve been moving very quickly,” says Allen, citing the $50,000 Jackson County gave to seed the project along with another $50,000 from other public and private donors.