BY LINDA BAKER | OREGON BUSINESS EDITOR
Oregon may be a startup state, a region that is churning out entrepreneurs at a lightning pace. But increasingly, it’s also becoming the accelerator state. Over the past few years, almost a dozen business incubators have launched, including The Portland Seed Fund, Portland Incubator Experiment, TiE Westside Incubator, Portland State University Business Incubator, Founder's Pad, and the Sustainable Valley Technology Group.
As of this spring, add the following four to that list:
The corporate accelerator: Starting in March, Nike will host its first Nike+ Accelerator program, which will host 10 companies for a three-month immersive, mentor-driven startup accelerator. The Nike+ Accelerator will accept applications from companies aiming to use Nike+ technology to create products and services across a broad range of activity and health goals including training, coaching, gaming, data visualization and quantified self.
The university accelerator: Oregon State University recently launched a Venture Accelerator with $380,000 from the OSU College of Business, Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, and the University Venture Development Fund. It’s designed to identify innovation or research findings that might form the basis for profitable companies, and streamline their development with the legal, marketing, financial and mentoring needs that turn good ideas into real-world businesses.
The signature research accelerator: This spring, the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI) plans to open and operate a 13,000 square-foot multi-tenant bioscience complex in the South Waterfront district. The OTRADI Bioscience Incubator (OBI) will house up to six companies.
The farm accelerator: As the Oregonian reported yesterday, the pending Headwaters Farm incubator is designed to help aspiring small farmers gain skills and experience. It is owned by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, which last May paid $1.5 million for 61 acres of the Schaeffer Nursery to turn it into a farm incubator.
In just a few short years, accelerators have become a inextricable part of the entrepreneurial landscape. But if they are an important part of the mix, their growing numbers also raise questions about overkill. There are now so many business accelerators in Oregon that accelerators themselves might be considered startups. And startups, as we all know, can fail. Already, at least two Oregon incubators have changed business models in the past year.
The proliferating number of incubators also suggests they are becoming either an adjunct or substitute for college or graduate school programs, with accelerators churning out startups much as universities churn out new graduates. Since a successful incubator should be rated according to the success of participating companies, I queried a few managers about the impact of their organizations. I will post responses as they come in.
Portland Incubator Experiment general manager Rick Turoczy provided the following estimates:
* More than 40 startups have come through PIE
* Those startups have generated more than $100 million in valuation
* Those startups have created more than 200 jobs in an industry with one of the highest average salaries
* One company has officially shut down
* Three companies have been acquired
Incubator efficacy is an especially timely issue in light of a recent study showing that venture capital investment in Oregon plunged nearly 50 percent last year to $124 million. Today, more people are going to college and fewer are landing well-paying jobs after graduation. Today, more aspiring business owners are eager to jump on the incubator bandwagon. Whether they will actually create jobs or land capital post incubator experience is the question.
Updated: FoundersPad program manager Molly Mount reports that two sessions of founders have gone through the 12-week accelerator program since the company was conceived late 2011, generating 25.5 new jobs and raising $620,000 to launch eleven new businesses.