Home Linda Baker's Blog Business accelerators grow outside Portland

Business accelerators grow outside Portland

| Print |  Email
Linda Baker
Thursday, February 02, 2012

Oregon has business accelerator fever. In the last two years alone, Portland birthed The Portland Seed Fund, Portland Incubator Experiment, and the TIE Westside Tech Incubator, among others. The business models vary, but the common goal is to provide early stage companies, mostly in tech sectors, with small amounts of funding and access to mentors, workshops and angel investors.

Now rural areas are part of the contagion. VentureBox, a for-profit tech accelerator in Bend, will debut its first class of seven companies on Feb. 15.  An initiative of EDCO, the program also grew out of discussions with the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, which landed a $75,000 grant to create a series of Accelerator Boot Camps in Central and Eastern Oregon. Founded in 2010, the nonprofit Sustainable Valley Technology Group in Ashland just hired its first permanent executive director and is seeking start up companies that aim to increase efficiencies or decrease consumption.

The sluggish economy helped catalyze VentureBox, says executive director Jim Boeddeker. “It grew out of an organic desire to replace the [area’s] intoxication with real estate,” he says. Aiming to grow a technology cluster in Bend, VentureBox provides participating companies —which pay $1,500 for a 12 week class in addition to putting up 2 percent equity in their companies — with volunteer mentors and project coordinators. Participants develop their business skills and improve efforts to attract investors and secure angel capital.     

I asked Boeddeker why, as he puts it, accelerators are “the hottest topic in the country.” Credit the “dramatic drop” in the cost of starting up companies, he says.  In “the old days,” launching a new company cost about $3-$10 million  and required a lot of hardware. Today  $150,000-$300,000 can realistically fund a web or mobile application company "and it can often happen inside of a four to six month period," Boeddeker says. That range is a good fit for angel investors, who don’t have the resources of a venture capital team to evaluate bigger deals.  “So they are more interested in companies with an accelerator model.”

Funded by the city of Medford, Jackson County and several foundations, Sustainable Valley charges companies $200 a month for access to space, mentorship and angel investors.  “The public sector is looking at how to stimulate business development in communities,” says Dennis Leidall, the organization’s executive director, who came on board two weeks ago.  The real advantage of accelerators is they “force regions to map their assets,” he adds, noting that an incubator’s board members, typically retired or semi-retired from successful companies,  play a critical role in supporting young emerging companies.

The Bend and Ashland entities differ from some (better funded) Portland accelerators such as the Seed Fund, which provides participating companies with $25,000 in addition to mentors and workshops.  Still, Leidall, who came to Ashland from Santa Barbara, where he ran the technology commercialization program at UC Santa Barbara, said he was impressed by Southern Oregon’s efforts to nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem. “A lot of communities with population ten times this size don’t have these resources,” he says, citing the Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network as another example. “It’s commendable.”

The proliferating number of accelerators raises the question: Can a city or region host too many incubators?  Are we witnessing an Oregon accelerator bubble?  It's worth noting that outside of the tech world, several incubators, including the Portland Fashion Incubator and Souk have folded over the past few years.   “Accelerators are startups themselves" Leidall notes.  "So some will be successful and some won’t.”

In a competitive entrepreneurial environment, the measure of a good accelerator is the financial backing it attracts.  “The best accelerators select good companies and develop them into the best led businesses," says Boeddeker.  "A successful accelerator should have range of investors circling around them waiting for the class to graduate.”

Linda Baker is managing editor of Oregon Business.

 

Comments   

 
L. Naerheim
0 #1 why are they always focused on techL. Naerheim 2012-02-11 09:44:42
there's a lot of great non-tech companies in Oregon as well. And speaking from experience, it's extremely frustrating when everything is geared toward tech. I own an emerging cpg company that is built on the triple bottom line philosophy of people, planet, profit, & it's been amost impossible to find the right "mentors" in these seed funds because lack of interest in the segment. I'm all for supporting new business but stop excluding non-tech from these opportunities as well. If Oregon wants a diverse culture of successful small businesses to grow their economy then they need to start broadening their scope & interests! enough with the tech!
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


Read more...

How to help your staff solve their own problems

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 21, 2014
03.21.14 thumb coxcoffeeTOM COX | OB BLOGGER

During a recent talk to HR Directors, I asked if they saw leaders trying to solve every problem, instead of delegating to and empowering staff. Every head nodded. Every single one.


Read more...

Powerlist: Meeting perspectives

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BY BRANDON SAWYER

A conversation about the event-planning industry with sales directors from McMenamins and the Portland Art Museum. 


Read more...

Branching out

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
DSC04185BY LINDA BAKER

A blueberry bush is a blueberry bush — except when it’s a blueberry tree.


Read more...

The 2014 List: The Top 33 Small Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.

 


Read more...

The future of money

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY JAKE THOMAS

An ancient institution moves slowly into the digital age. 


Read more...

How to boost web traffic

News
Thursday, April 10, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY  | OB WEB EDITOR

04.10.14 thumb seo-trafficSEMpdx hosted a workshop this week for entrepreneurs, website developers and others interested in search engine optimization (SEO).  Here are a few tips and tricks aimed at bumping up your search engine rankings.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS