Keeping Entrepreneurs In Idaho: Boise State’s College of Business In Partnership with VentureCapital.Org

In 2017 the College of Business and Economics entered into a partnership with VentureCapital.Org resulting in the Strategic Growth Capital Partnership led by our Executive in Residence, John Williamson. Through this partnership, we deliver a venture accelerator service to Idaho that enables innovative entrepreneurs a much higher probability of success in raising the critical investment capital necessary for them to grow their businesses here in Idaho. In doing so, the emerging companies can increase their impact on the Idaho economy including job creation including jobs for our Boise State University College of Business and Economics graduates. The principal product offered to the entrepreneur is access to a world-class mentor team of professionals with a rich background from the investment and entrepreneurial communities, as well as from exceptional service providers who specialize in working with early-stage emerging companies. This mentor program known as the Venture Cooperative Funding Program (VCFP) helps the entrepreneur navigate the “Valley of Death.”

Valley of DeathYou need to look no further than the thriving economy in Utah as evidence of the potential impact of the VentureCapital.Org. Founded in 1984 as the Wayne Brown Institute, the Utah based non-profit organization has mentored more than 800 companies in the Utah market. Seventy percent of those companies were successful in raising money from angel and venture capital investors.  In fact, eighty percent of the businesses funded were still in business ten years or more after the initial investment event, and alumni companies from this program have created or assisted the economy of Utah in retaining more than 75,000 modern industry and high tech jobs.

In 2014, VentureCapital.Org brought their programs to the State of Idaho, and between 2014 and June of 2017 they mentored 18 companies and featured 16 companies that went on to raise $32 Million in early-stage investment capital. Since the inception of the Strategic Growth Capital Partnership, the venture cooperative funding program has gained substantial traction in the marketplace. In the past seven months alone our program has mentored 10 Idaho based companies and 13 companies in total. Through these joint efforts, a healthy cohort of 12 companies will attend the 2018 Investors Choice Conference – the signature event which often results in funding opportunities for our alumni companies. Over the next 12 months, many of these companies will find success in their efforts to build productive investor relationships that will enable these businesses to realize their potential and unleash their impact into the Idaho economy.

In addition to the venture cooperative mentor program available to entrepreneurs, our executive in residence is working with local investors to establish an Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund (EDRLF). This facility is anticipated to be available in the 2nd quarter of 2018 and will provide an additional source of working capital for emerging Idaho companies to grow and scale their operations as they work to attract more significant investor relationships. When completed, this fund will enable Boise State’s College of Business and Economics to create a unique student experience in venture banking, as operational aspects of the loan fund will be administered by our finance students. This practical, hands-on experience will become invaluable for students seeking careers in finance and banking.

A cornerstone of the Strategic Capital Growth Project is the student experience available to our interns. Since 2014 COBE has had students participate in VCO intern programs, but since June of 2017, the program has risen to new levels of engagement and participation. In total, seven interns (six from Boise State and one from Idaho State) have worked with the 2018 cohort of VCO companies. As we host deal forum events throughout the year, we build awareness within the business community for entrepreneurs. It is anticipated that between the VCFP and the EDRLF we will be able to provide between 10 and 15 internships each academic year. This is a volunteer internship it is an experience rich in opportunity. The student will graduate having developed a broad network of contacts from within our mentor program, many of whom may be potential employers or significant references. Students from all fields of study may participate, and they will gain a practical understanding of how a business strategically aligns their value proposition to attract investment capital.

The Strategic Capital Partnership has also provided new opportunities to enhance engagement between Boise State University, entrepreneurs, students, and industry stakeholders. We have initiated several referrals to University partners including BSU Tech Help, the SBDC, other colleges at Boise State University, and numerous outside organizations. In 2018 the Strategic Capital Growth Partnership will host a stakeholder steering committee comprised of representatives who support an agenda of providing entrepreneurs with better access to capital – both treasure and talent. This committee includes the Idaho Technology Council, Keiretsu Forum, Boise StartUp Week, Boise City, Trailhead, Trolley House, The Idaho Department of Commerce, SBDC, Idaho Capital Connect, Venture College, and members of the Boise Angel Network. Through this collective group of stakeholders, we will look to offer Idaho Entrepreneurs and Idaho Investors a series of content-driven events and seminars that will focus on aligning capital resources with innovators in in the Idaho market. The intended results of these collective efforts will be to establish a robust capital network to help drive flow and opportunities for all within the network.