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Sirti Bestows Award of Honor
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Triangle %u201CGraduates%u201D at Sweet Sixteen
The Idea (1994)
In June 1994, while on a layover in the San Francisco airport, Dr. Steve Simmons cam...

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01/02/2006 - Triangle Launches SmartStart Accelerator

SmartStart, the Terabyte Triangle initiative for helping start-up businesses, is downtown Spokane’s newest organized business accelerator. Recognizing that start-up companies have unique requirements, the Terabyte Triangle (TT), in partnership with the Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) and Gonzaga’s Hogan Entrepreneurial Development Program, set about creating an organization to help. Start-up companies need to grow as quickly as possible, usually haven't enough people to do all of the work necessary to grow, and they never ever have enough money. SmartStart will help by taking away or making some peripheral activities easier for the budding entrepreneur who is ready to join the dozens of existing TT companies who have moved downtown from their home basements. Technology companies, technology assistive companies, and heavy technology using companies are the SmartStart target audience.

SmartStart, working with downtown landlords, has identified office space available at sub-market, affordable rents and without a long lease. The Hogan New Ventures Lab, in conjunction with TT pioneer Tom Power, has created an administrative system with a business manager to operate SmartStart. The SmartStart business manager will conduct tours of available incubator space, and when the tenant makes their choice, will contact the appropriate leasing agent. The start-up client will then negotiate their own rent and lease details. Also identified is a connectivity package available through Time-Warner -- also at an affordable price. SmartStart will even help find office furniture. The point is to let the start-up concentrate on the needs of the business -- not redirect time and energy to infrastructure.

A SmartStart business will already have a business plan and must have a relationship with an advisory board or a mentoring agency. There are many such agencies operating in Spokane and most of them charge no fee. These agencies include (but are not limited to): AHANA, BIZStreet Resource Center, Connect Northwest, Eastern Washington University’s Center of Entrepreneurial Activity (CEA), Gonzaga’s Hogan Entrepreneurial Center’s New Ventures Lab, SBDC, SCORE, SIRTI, Spokane EDC, and Women’s Business Center.

Criteria for a SmartStart applicant includes: being in business for less than two years, having fewer than 8 employees, using technology resources on a daily basis, needing an established office space, and demonstrating that prevailing market rents exceed current ability to pay.

To get started, the SmartStart Client will fill out a SmartStart application (that includes a business plan) and submit it for approval with the business manager. The application will be processed by a small steering committee, which will include an interview, to determine the extent of the client’s needs, and how they can best be helped. If the company doesn’t have a mentoring organization, the steering committee will recommend the one that best fits the client. The client will sign an agreement with the SmartStart business manager and their selected business advisory program.

After approval, the client will be taken on a tour of available real estate. To date, space is available in the Fernwell Building, Eldridge Building, and Peyton Building. Unlike some incubators, the company will not be expected to “graduate” and move away at the end of two years, but will be expected to pay “market value” rent as they grow and prosper.

Along with the Terabyte Triangle, DSP, and Hogan, SmartStart partners include Time-Warner Telecom, Inc., and a group of downtown building owners. SmartStart will soon have a home base within the DSP. A Hogan student, Kelly Wilson is the SmartStart business manager. For more information, contact Kelly at kwilson2@gonzaga.edu.

Billie Moreland
 
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