The OSU Venture Accelerator Program launched its first 12 startups this week in OSU’s bid to create 20 new businesses over the next five years, supercharge the local economy by speeding up the process of research commodification, and increase industry funding of OSU research by 50%.
The program, “is designed to identify ideas or research innovation that might form the basis for profitable companies, then streamline their development by providing analytical, technological, legal, marketing, financial and mentoring resources.”
The Venture Acceleration program is focused on accelerating the pace at which practical research is brought to market and connecting OSU startup companies to Angel Investment groups that are focused on niche technologies.
To get these startups off the ground the Acceleration program, in addition to providing funding from a 3.7 million dollar Oregon legislative appropriation to the South Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, connected OSU researchers to investment and gap funding sources like Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center(BEST), Oregon Nanotechnology and Microtechnologies Institute(ONAMI), and the OSU Venture Development Fund(OVDF).
BEST provides gap funding for startups, like MOVE, involved in sustainable and green technology. While ONAMI, provides early stage and gap funding to startups like Heating systems, who are focused on microchannel technologies and nanotechnology related products and services.
The OVDF was also tapped to help fund the program. Theirs is a competitive fund that requires more than just a great idea and solid research. In order to receive funding different startups compete with each other through submitting business proposals and must have compelling realistic business plans to actually bring a product or service to market. The OVDF provide early stage funding for more mature startups.
Mr. Liberman, a Co-director said the acceleration program represents, “Economic development at its best”, and that “entrepreneurialism is the key to economic development”.
“We have a great asset here in the community from the school and research provided and the commercialization of that research is one of the best ways to create local jobs”, he said.
The funding, services, and investment connections provided to these startups is, according to John Turner, another co-director of the program, provided free of charge and is “about creating economic development”.
These first 12 startups that went through the acceleration program did so at no charge, nor with any ownership stake being given to OSU. He did mention, however, that they were “open to different models”, but that it was still too early in the program to know what the future would hold.
This might mean that in the future programs like this could be used to not only spur investment in the community, but also provide funding for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Mr. Turner was quick to point out though that it was still very early in the program and no decisions have been made in that regard.
Mr. Turner and the other directors of program are “very bullish on the economic development potential here in Corvallis.” Mr. Turner pointed out that, “in terms of per capita patents granted, Corvallis is #2 or #3 in the country, this is a very innovative environment and we are excited to be part of it.”
The acceleration program may also be useful in attracting increased funding from industry groups who are focused on investing in scholars who are working on “practical” research.
According to a study just released from Times Higher Education the US is in 14th position, in terms of investment per scholar, “with industry contributing nearly four times less to its academic researchers ($25,800 per person) than in Korea” and 1/2 as much as scholars in China. Given that the acceleration program is focused on startups who are ready to go to market, industry groups may be increasingly attracted to OSU students and that investment will in turn create more local jobs.
The program, while initially funded by a legislative appropriate to OSU, does represent a significant public private partnership. By matching publicly funded research with private angel investors and potentially venture capitalists OSU hopes to spur local economic development. These kinds of programs may well turn Corvallis, and the Willamette valley, into Oregon’s own Silicon Valley.
The Venture Accelerator’s First 12 Startups:
Waste2Watergy – A company that plans to turn todays grey water into tomorrows clean water with the added bonus of providing electricity from the process as well.
Valliscor, LLC – Specializes in a continuous flow reactor systems in place of large batch systems in hope of making large scale chemical manufacturing more environmentally benign.
MOVE – IS a company working to develop a car that can both run on methane and compress the gas on board enabling it to fuel up at home.
Macromolecular structure characterization – Will work to revolutionize the biological research industry with their patented method of rapidly solving the puzzle of protein structures.
Heating systems – Will make use of nanotechnology to radically shrink the size of devices that heat and cool improving efficiency and lowering costs.
Beet – Is working to develop a solar cell that uses super absorbent materials to increase the conversion of sunlight to usable power.
Multicopter Northwest – Has developed a small helicopter drone capable of taking hi-res photos and video from 400 ft.
PlayPulse – Hopes to provide content producers with tools to actually measure the physiological effects of their games.
InforeMed – Is working on gamifying the education process for the healthcare industry.
BuyBott – Is looking to bring the best of social networking and e-shopping together into one simple site.
Bauer Labs LLC – Has developed technologically that will make caesarean delivery easier and safer for rural hospitals.
FanTogether – Will connect sports fans and their favorite teams and players in new and exciting ways.
By William Tatum