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Business accelerator picks local start-ups

Richard Bosenko spent more than a quarter of a century riding the start-up roller-coaster in California's Silicon Valley, performing sales and marketing roles for new ventures that grew into companies with annual revenues running from $100,000 to $500 million.

For all those years, his training as an electrical engineer was primarily a resume enhancer.

Now Bosenko, president and chief executive officer of ICR Systems, along with founder Pat Throop, will get a chance to see what a new invention can do as charter members of the Sustainable Valley Business Accelerator in downtown Medford.

"I think it's an important opportunity for the Rogue Valley," Bosenko said.

ICR has developed a product that provides instant recognition of motorists who are driving while uninsured, unlicensed or with a vehicle-registration violation. It also can be used by the state to track mileage for electric vehicles or by insurance companies selling insurance on a per-mile basis.

Bosenko's company is one of five young firms picked by the Sustainable Valley Technology Group to inhabit the business incubator when it cranks up on April 4, including:

  • REDCloud, developer of a low-cost, electric conversion kit for light-duty trucks and a remote, vehicle-management system for commercial fleets.
  • YogiTunes, a digital download music service geared toward yoga-related music.
  • Cascade Peak Spirits, a certified organic distillery handcrafting artisan spirits from locally sourced products.
  • thedot network, providing school districts and institutions with a Web-based planner that includes a closed social-networking interface.

The business accelerator got a boost last July when Jackson County provided $50,000 in seed funding. Another $50,000 has been raised from private foundations, businesses and other local governments. U.S. Bank has provided 1,600 square feet of space at its downtown office on the corner of East Main Street and Central Avenue.

Jeff Allen, a local consultant whose resume includes a 10-year stint as executive director with the Oregon Environmental Council in Portland and three years running the Crater Lake Trust, will oversee the incubator during its infancy.

"My practice is built around strategic planning — bringing people and money together," Allen said.

He said the Sustainable Valley Board looked for companies that had strong business plans or concepts, solid leadership teams, growth potential and people who were coachable.

Three of the five companies were finalists in last week's inaugural Southern Oregon Angel Investment competition.

"It's somewhat coincidental that we had similar judgments in which companies have the most potential," Allen said. "We went through an interview process, reviewing their business plans during the last month to six weeks.

The five companies employ about 15 people between them, he said. "If all goes according to plan, there will be 25 to 30 employees by the end of the year, with real rapid growth potential to create a lot of jobs fast."

Among the committee members scrutinizing applicants were Don Becklin, president and founder of Motorcycles USA, and Jessica Gomez, CEO of Rogue Valley Microdevices.

"This accelerator will provide mentoring, coaching and other support that will help Rogue Valley businesses grow faster and stronger," Gomez said. "We know there is strong demand for our services; we had 10 companies apply with very little outreach. We expect to consider more applications in the coming months."

A grand opening is slated for late April.

Reach Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com.