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MailTribune.com
  • Business-mentoring group refines plans to aid young firms

    Thanks to seasoning, group aims to provide better startup support
  • Sustainable Valley Technology Group went to great lengths three years ago to make startup businesses feel right at home, providing office space and furniture.
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  • Sustainable Valley Technology Group went to great lengths three years ago to make startup businesses feel right at home, providing office space and furniture.
    The eight fledgling companies, however, needed direction, mentoring and, yes, financial help, more than an office with cubicles.
    The next five companies to come under the educational and development group's wing will have more watchful eyes guiding their development.
    "We found they didn't really need an office space as much as other kinds of help," said Jessica Gomez, who chairs Sustainable Valley's board. "Each company will have a shadow board of directors, and the companies will be responsible for updating and keeping their boards in the loop as they progress. We want to keep them accountable and make sure they get the right type of support."
    Sustainable Valley is sorting through more than 15 applications, said Executive Director Heather Stafford, who thinks the number could easily double by the Oct. 1 deadline.
    "We were using a traditional incubation model before," Stafford said. "We realized we need to tailor our program to each individual company."
    The five startup or young companies selected for the accelerator will be eligible to receive $10,000 in seed money along with coaching sessions to prepare them for investment competitions or presentations. "We are looking for companies who need networking and connecting to people at the next level," Stafford said.
    Companies seeking financial backing will go through a 12-week mentoring program, they'll be provided with a temporary board, make board reports, and get help with understanding contract language. The companies will be helped with website, logo, branding, search-engine optimization and legal counsel, if needed. "Our goal is to prepare local companies for the angel conferences held around the state," Stafford said.
    Stafford has secured $30,000 of the $50,000 earmarked for participating companies and is seeking additional commitments to assist the effort.
    Companies will get a partial investment to start, and if the company meets its goals, it gets the complete $10,000 investment, Gomez said.
    Although about half of the original participants, including Cascade Peak Spirits Organic Nation, Yogi Tunes, WillPower Electric and NewFlora, are still in operation, Sustainable Valley's board decided to revamp its approach after former Executive Director Dennis Leidall resigned earlier this year.
    "We tasked Heather with redefining the accelerator, and she decided the participants as a group would benefit from more structure to the program," Gomez said.
    Companies or investors who want to help provide seed money, or businesses interested in participating in the accelerator, should email or call Stafford at heather@svtg.org, 541-414-0000.
    In a separate matter, Sustainable Valley has narrowed its list of Inspiration Grant — or iGrant — competition finalists to three Eastern firms.
    The organization launched the competition to recruit a research team or tech company to relocate to the Rogue Valley in partnership with Rogue Valley Microdevices. The winner will work here to develop commercial applications in the nanotech, Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, biotech or semiconductor fields.
    Gomez said finalists are being reviewed and a company should be selected in October.
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.
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