To enhance funding for food and agriculture businesses in the Central Valley, more than 60 people involved in small business finance gathered at the AgPlus Funders Forum Dec. 12 to contribute ideas.
Representatives from financial institutions, economic development organizations, universities, government agencies and innovative funders like community development financial institutions (CDFI) attended. Participants shared innovative financing tools for business and discussed obstacles for people in rural communities to access capital at the forum at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building in Davis.
Two primary challenges faced by people trying to start a new business are figuring out how to get started – such as their supply chain – and gaining access to capital to finance their endeavor, according to keynote speaker Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
“There are actually an array of sources of capital beyond just the traditional bank loan, the problem is people don't know about them or how to access them,” Humiston said. She added that much more capital could be available to Central Valley businesses if residents would invest locally. “If you had brought home just one percent of the retirement accounts held by people in the AgPLUS region back in 2010, you would have had over $1 billion to invest in this region,” she said.
Marc Nemanic of 3CORE, Carrie Ellinwood of U.S. Small Business Administration, Ismael Herrero of Fresno State's Office of Community and Economic Development, and Catherine Howard of Northern California Community Loan Fund discussed some of the challenges for financing new businesses and alternatives to traditional bank loans.
Nemanic noted that many millennials are carrying student loan debt, which may make them averse to taking on more debt or prevent them from qualifying for business loans.
Howard said her organization is creating a tool to help people satisfy collateral requirements for credit.
To build their businesses, entrepreneurs often need technical assistance so Herrera's office pairs young companies with experienced mentors and other services. Herrera said he is working to create public and private partnerships in rural communities, such as commercial kitchens for people to turn farm produce into value-added products to sell at farmers markets.
Panelists pointed out that jobs in the gig economy, such as driving for Uber or Lyft, don't provide the stable income that tradition lenders seek in borrowers so they need to create a flexible product.
In the afternoon, participants split into four groups to focus on identifying opportunities for supporting economic development, supporting small business and microenterprises, effective intermediaries to connect investors with entrepreneurs, and regional finance funds. Each topic was discussed by a diverse group of people as peers and experts, bringing their own expertise to the table.
To address the interplay between higher education, student debt and the structural changes in the nation's economy, Meg Arnold, who moderated the session, said she could foresee policy implications.
“Student debt is not forgivable,” said Arnold, managing director of Valley Vision. “At the same time we are making a four-year university degree both more necessary and less affordable, the economy is also changing, to the point that some graduates may need to think of self-employment or gig economy employment.
“We need everybody who participated today to share those examples of where something kind of unique or innovative is really working,” said Humiston.
Ideas generated during the forum will be used to inform the work of the Central Valley AgPLUS Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, which hosted the AgPlus Funders Forum. The information will also be used by Humiston to update the 2012 Capital Access Report by California Financial Opportunities Roundtable (CalFOR). The report highlights financial needs for businesses in California, reviews financial tools and capital sources and provides policy recommendations. Humiston will also convey the outcomes to the California Economic Summit.
The AgPlus Funders Forum was sponsored by Chase Bank, Valley Vision, the Center for Economic Development, First Northern Bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Employment Training Panel, Blue Tech Valley, Fresno State Community and Economic Development and UC ANR.
UC ANR is a sponsoring partner of The Mixing Bowl's FOOD IT event taking place Tuesday, June 27, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
Participants will explore the different ways in which information technology is being applied to a broad range of food and agriculture challenges.
VP Glenda Humiston will be moderating a panel called “The Deans' List of Food/AgTech Topics” that will feature food and agriculture university deans Helene Dillard from UC Davis, Andrew Thulin from Cal Poly and Wendy Wintersteen from Iowa State.
"Overall, FOOD IT will gather 300 people, from food producers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, venture capitalists, industry executives, researchers and non-profits, representing all aspects of the food system for a highly interactive day," said Gabe Youtsey, chief innovation officer.
Speakers and participants include representatives from food and retail companies including Airbnb, Analog Devices, AT&T, Bowles Farming Company, Forbes, Campbell's, Coca-Cola, Driscoll's, Google, Land O' Lakes, Mattson, Rabobank, Recology, Syngenta, Upfront Ventures, Walmart, Western Digital, Yamaha and many more. You can read more about the event at http://mixingbowlhub.com/events/food-fork-farm.
To register for FOOD IT, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/food-it-fork-to-farm-tickets-30230557411. Use discount code “17STMB" for 70 percent off (just $75 for the day).
The University of California has launched the “I am a UC Entrepreneur” campaign to highlight entrepreneurship across the UC system.
Students, faculty, staff, postdocs and alumni are invited to submit a 30-second video sharing what makes them an entrepreneur to: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/entrepreneurs. The videos will be used to highlight and publicize individual stories, as well as the breadth and depth of entrepreneurial efforts across the UC system.
Everyone who submits a video will receive a "UC Entrepreneur" T-shirt. In addition, one eligible student from each campus will be selected at random to attend a special lunch with Christine Gulbranson, senior vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship, and UC President Janet Napolitano.
“This campaign is about celebrating and recognizing the creativity and passion that makes UC an innovation powerhouse,” Gulbranson said. “Entrepreneurial activity is booming across the UC system. I can't wait to see everyone's stories.”
The campaign launched during Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 14-20), an annual celebration in over 160 countries that aims to inspire people around the world to explore their entrepreneurial potential. In the United States, Global Entrepreneurship Week has fostered more than 2,000 local events.
UC has a growing focus on entrepreneurship, with more than two dozen incubators and accelerators across the system and myriad student clubs devoted to the topic. Student entrepreneurship groups and clubs are encouraged to promote the campaign, host video parties and assist budding UC entrepreneurs in making their 30-second video.
Videos submitted as part of the campaign will be featured on the website. Participants who want to be in the drawing for lunch with Gulbranson and Napolitano must submit their video by 11:59 p.m. PST, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. The site will continue to accept and feature video submissions through 2017, however, with participants continuing to receive T-shirts.
“If UC ANR isn't an incubator, I don't know what is. Furthermore, I would argue that the partnership of our land-grant university system with Cooperative Extension is the original and most productive incubator that the world has ever seen,” VP Glenda Humiston wrote in the October-December 2015 issue of California Agriculture.
Since joining ANR, Humiston has been working to expand UC ANR's incubation activities by joining with diverse partners to develop a much broader innovation infrastructure specifically designed to support intellectual property, innovation, entrepreneurship, tech transfer, startups and commercialization aimed at agriculture, natural resources and rural communities.
“A lot of people have ideas, but they don't know how to be business leaders. An incubator connects them with the things they need to be successful as new entrepreneurs,” said Gabe Youtsey, chief information officer.
To kick off development of such a system, Humiston brought together 40 people on Aug. 30 with a wide range of expertise and representing a variety of sectors: agriculture, banking, business, government, technology and higher education – including leaders of several successful incubators. The purpose of the meeting, held at the ANR building in Davis, was to engage the group in developing a comprehensive strategy to nurture new technologies and innovative businesses for agriculture and natural resources.
“We're not looking to reinvent the wheel or duplicate existing efforts,” Humiston said, explaining that she hopes to support and leverage the strengths and efforts of partners.
Christine Gulbranson, UC senior vice president of research innovation and entrepreneurship, and Reg Kelly of UC San Francisco, who created QB3, – one of UC's best performing incubators – participated in the session. The quantitative biologists at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC Santa Cruz who comprise QB3 take on challenges in biology using physics, chemistry, and computer science. QB3's Startup in a Box provides legal and grant-writing help for biotech startups.
“We want to take the QB3 model and modify it for ANR,” Humiston said. “But we don't have the resources to build a statewide system by ourselves so we're catalyzing like-minded partners to jointly develop the needed statewide innovation infrastructure.”
Such an innovation system could benefit a wide array of entrepreneurs in rural areas and help to commercialize ideas generated by UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors.
“Over the past eight years, ANR researchers have filed 148 patents,” Humiston said. “However, it is unclear if many of those had the support they needed to go the next step.”
At the meeting, the group divided into five tables of eight people. Each table had representatives of UC ANR, various UC campuses, state and federal government, funding institutions, incubators, and different industries. They discussed issues around innovation, place, talent, stewardship and engagement, answering the following questions:
- What exists now?
- Where are the gaps that need to be filled?
- Which of these gaps could UC ANR help catalyze and fill, either with partners or on its own?
- How could this work to fill the gaps be funded?
- How do we measure success?
Conversations were lively and many ideas were brought forth for specific projects and other implementation. “It's really exciting,” said Humiston. “People were jazzed. Virtually all of the participants said they want to work with us on next steps.”
In addition to Humiston and Youtsey, AVP Wendy Powers and UCCE advisors David Doll and Andre Biscaro participated for ANR. Consultant Meg Arnold is writing up a report, which is expected to be released in early October.
Startup companies from the University of California are invited to compete for a total of $300,000 in award money during the first primeUC competition, part of President Janet Napolitano's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, it was announced today (Aug. 4).
In what is hoped will be the first of several such competitions designed to help the most promising UC-associated startups obtain seed funding, primeUC is collaborating with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC to give one $150,000 award and three $50,000 awards to companies with early-stage innovations related to therapeutics, consumer health, medical devices and diagnostics.
Selected companies in the life sciences field – all with founders or other members from any of UC's 10 campuses or three national labs – will compete in a semi-final pitching round after applying online. Twenty applicants will then be chosen to participate in the final round on Dec. 2 at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus.
“The University of California, with its three national labs, is a huge but underappreciated engine for creating startups that act as a hub of innovation and new jobs,” said Regis Kelly, senior advisor to the UC president on innovation and entrepreneurship. “This competition will highlight the University's phenomenal productivity and contributions to California's economic growth and channel funding to creative entrepreneurs.”
“We're priming entrepreneurs for success,” said Neena Kadaba, director of the primeUC program and director of industry alliances at UC's QB3 Institute. “Seed funding is scarce for the tremendous number of startups coming out of the University of California. We created primeUC to introduce these young companies to the investment community. Even if finalists don't win an award, they'll get valuable exposure.”
Kadaba envisions primeUC as an annual platform to identify promising UC startups and expects that in future years the focus will include fields other than life sciences, with the final competition round alternating between southern and northern California.
To be eligible to enter this year's primeUC, a startup must be developing a life science technology, have been founded by a UC faculty or staff member, or be managed or founded by a UC student, postdoctoral fellow or alumnus, and have raised less than $1 million in private funding.
Applications are due by Sept. 25.
Learn more about the primeUC program, review official rules and apply at www.primeuc.org.
To learn more about President Napolitano's Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization Initiative click here: http://www.ucop.edu/initiatives/innovation-entrepreneurship-technology-commercialization.html.