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11/30/2008 - Connect Northwest Adopts New Headquarters

Connect Northwest has very recently completed a move to new headquarters in the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center in the Plechner Building at 810 W 2nd Ave. Along with the new headquarters, Connect Northwest is evolving its strategic plan, updating its tactics, and working on its next round of funding, according to Mike Wilson, Interim Executive Director. When the planning is finished, the Connect Northwest board will define the job description, search for, and hire a permanent executive director.

Connect Northwest’s current majority financing is from Spokane County. In these troubled economic times, county funding is not guaranteed. The Connect Northwest board has determined, according to Wilson, that there is enough uniqueness and separateness to keep the concept open as an independent entity. They plan to keep Connect Northwest intact, funded, and staffed.

Connect Northwest’s focus is on helping entrepreneurs – all entrepreneurs. They want to help “no tech”, “low tech”, and “high tech” businesses get started and grow. Wilson wants it known that although they do some high tech businesses, and serve as a “springboard” for Sirti, this is not their major focus. They want to help turn Spokane into a major “entrepreneurial center.”

One dilemma is how to measure entrepreneurial success. With early start-up entrepreneurs, there are few measurables, no metrics, and few statistics to cite. It is difficult to pinpoint when any company starts. Does it start with an idea and research? Does it start with a business license? Does it start with it first dollar of revenue? When does the measuring begin? “Then one day you wake up,” says Wilson, “and the city is an entrepreneurially rich center.”

“There is a real need for more early stage investors in this area,” says Wilson. Connect Northwest plans to help this happen. At this time, they help administer the Delta Angels Group – a group of regional investors that may have two dozen members at any given time. This group has no business specialty they prefer. If a business plan is good, and the budding entrepreneur can articulate the plan well, and the concept is sound, the group will certainly listen to it and evaluate it on its merits.

“On the other hand,” Wilson says, “angel investors believe in ‘fail fast – fail cheap’. So if once begun, the business doesn’t seem viable, angel investors won’t invest more money to keep it afloat. Successful angel groups cut losses fast and move on.”

Wilson is especially interested in research and technology transfer – in taking good research and expanding it into a business. He has been exploring partnerships with the entrepreneurial centers of local universities to expedite this possibility. Due to current budget problems, this concept may move slowly, but it will remain on the table to help all involved. Connect Northwest hopes to facilitate cooperation between engineering and business – often a disconnect in universities.

Connect Northwest’s springboard program has been on hiatus for the past few months, but the plans are to revitalize it with the selection of the permanent executive director. “It’s all part of helping new business and new entrepreneurs,” says Wilson.

Connect Northwest’s Web site is undergoing revitalization, but there is still much to be learned at www.connectnw.org

Billie Moreland
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