Startup Accelerator Creates Recovery Opportunities, Resources

By Matt Sayre, Contributor The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Matt Sayre is the managing director of Onward Eugene. He shares how economic development done right means inclusive economic prosperity.

Eugene

What do Disney, Airbnb, and Apple have in common? All of these global companies had humble beginnings and all started during times of economic recession in the United States.

Recession is here again. In April, COVID-19 hit the Eugene economy especially hard. According to the State of Oregon Employment Department, the region lost 25,700 jobs and unemployment spiked to an all-time record high of 16.1%.

"COVID-19 has caused a number of crises, including an economic one," shares Brittany Quick-Warner, president and CEO of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. "We believe entrepreneurship is a vital part of the economic engine in our community, one that if supported, has the potential to accelerate our local economic rebuilding efforts."

Startup resources go online Eugene's entrepreneurial ecosystem has for several years been anchored by the University of Oregon building at 942 Olive St., in the heart of downtown Eugene's "Innovation District." The building has served as a base camp of sorts for entrepreneurs, offering educational events and access to business mentors.

In recent months, those resources and in-person events have started to transition online, guided by an advisory board of local startup company founders, with Chris Hazen serving as board chair.

"During times of recession, unfortunately, many existing businesses will fail. One constructive way we can help the community is to support the creation of new businesses here," Hazen says. "We are all learning how to form new relationships and build trust online. Moving these entrepreneurial support programs online is challenging, but part of the necessary evolution for all of us."

Entrepreneurship and economic rebuilding One of the entrepreneurial support programs that is transitioning to be offered online is the ID8 pre-accelerator for startup companies. Startups are different from traditional small businesses in that they are built on scalable business models. Startup companies are also often attractive to investors.

ID8 is a series of live workshops for entrepreneurs, coupled with enhanced mentoring support from experienced founders. The series will be offered online starting Aug. 5.

"There are tremendous resources in this community to help all different sizes and shapes of businesses. Our goal with these programs is to connect founders with the resources they need and maximize the economic benefit to our community," Hazen says.

ID8 presentations expose attendees to important tools and techniques that will allow them to develop their business ideas more quickly. The series will cover topics such as Developing Entrepreneurial Discipline, Building Your Value Proposition, Business Tools (such as the Business Model Canvas), and Market Research.

Jeremy Green has stepped forward to lead this summer's ID8 series, which is being offered for free to individuals who are accepted into the program. (Anyone who is interested in receiving more information about potentially participating in the ID8 program can send an email to [email protected] with "ID8" in the subject line.)

"We are continuing the excellent work of folks, including Joe Maruschak, Shane Johnson, and Kate Harmon, furthering the partnership with the University of Oregon, and ultimately growing the startup community," Green says, referring to other local leaders who have made a positive impact within the regional startup ecosystem.

Green also notes that there is a regional opportunity to better support more female founders. In comparison to other startup hubs, such as Austin, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, he says, "even when you account for the population differences, Eugene-Springfield should have over 250 women-owned startups. If those cities can do it, why can't we?"

Looking ahead For startup companies that find traction in the ID8 pre-accelerator online workshop series this summer, there is an additional resource in Eugene's flagship business accelerator which begins in late September. The accelerator is in its second year as a joint offering with the University of Oregon. Alex Murray, an assistant professor of management at UO's Lundquist College of Business, will lead the program.

Much like the COVID-19 public health crisis needs a vaccine, the economic crisis will need new startup companies to build toward a better economic future. It may be impossible to predict from whom the next great idea will come, but companies starting in Eugene can increase their chances of success by leveraging the many resources available locally.

Matt Sayre ([email protected]) is managing director of Onward Eugene. He believes that economic development done right means inclusive economic prosperity for Oregon. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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