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Showcase Reveals North Bay's Strength in Innovation
Thought leaders, investors, new entrepreneurs and innovation success stories came together at Sonoma State University for a first-of-its-kind event showcasing the range of innovative start-up activity and support networks in the North Bay.
MCs Michael Newell, Executive Director of the North Bay iHub, and William Silver, Dean of SSU’s School of Business and Economics, kicked off the event with the metaphor of an iceberg: “Innovation here in the North Bay is like an iceberg – most people see perhaps only 10% of what is actually going on,” says Dr. Newell, “and they don’t see the 90% that is “below the surface”. The Innovation Showcase aims to reveal more of “the iceberg.” The Showcase featured an expo of established innovative companies alongside presentations by business plan competition finalists and seasoned entrepreneurs.
The Innovation Showcase featured a keynote address by Dr. James Kovach, NFL veteran and former President of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Dr. Kovach is currently involved with four start-ups, including CrowdOptic. His talk focused on current trends in technology adoption and demographics and how the North Bay could specifically position itself to benefit from them. It also included an award ceremony recognizing Steve Weiss, a longtime North Bay resident, investor and advocate for entrepreneurship, by national honor society Beta Gamma Sigma.
The four finalists of the 2012 North Bay Business Plan Competition presented their plans at the Innovation Showcase. The audience selected the ultimate winner by text voting following the presentations. The winner was NonProfitEasy, a Rohnert Park start-up that helps nonprofits develop and manage stakeholder relationships (volunteers, donors, members, staff, board, foundations, government agencies, service partners) within one simple, integrated application. The company’s platform is already in use by nearly 40 nonprofits, and CEO Lomesh Shah expects to benefit from visibility in the Innovation Showcase in preparation for the next phase of the company’s growth. The other finalists were Shoestring, Purevin and Sonoma Hot Cones.
“After going through this comprehensive business plan competition, being able to get in front of such a respected and influential audience and be recognized for the strength of our plan was a validation of our hard work,” says Shah. “People are starting to recognize what we are able to accomplish, and how important it is to have a thriving entrepreneurial community to produce opportunities like this.”
The theme of community was also hit upon by Newell and Silver. They emphasized the organic character of what they termed the North Bay’s “innovation ecosystem,” using the analogy of a rainforest: “What we have, and what we are working very hard to refine, is an interconnected web of human networks that generate extraordinary creativity and output on a sustainable basis,” says Dean Silver. “By leveraging the contributions of all of the many players involved in the innovation ecosystem, we can create conditions that will significantly boost the region’s output of viable, job- creating startups.”
“I was impressed by the quality of entrepreneurship on display,” says Bob Linscheid, Chair of the California State University Board of Trustees, who was in attendance, “it really highlights the benefit of partnerships such as that between Sonoma State and the North Bay iHub in being able to create a continuum of support for new entrepreneurs.”
For event photographs, please check the North Bay iHub Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/
About the North Bay iHub
The North Bay iHub is the regional organization appointed by the Governor’s Office to promote collaboration and coordinate programs in the areas of innovation, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship. It is a non-profit organization with a mission of creating high value jobs in the North Bay. More information can be found at http://northbayihub.org.
About Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics
Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics' vision is to be the educational nucleus of a thriving North Bay economy. Its mission is to create extraordinary learning experiences for our students and to advance best business practices in the North Bay and beyond. With undergraduate, graduate, and executive programs serving over 1500 students each year and concentrations in Accounting, Finance, Management, Marketing, Wine Business, and Economics, the School offers the most in-demand degree on the Sonoma State campus. The School of Business and Economics is accredited by AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), making it one of 15% of all business schools in the world to meet these standards of excellence. For more information, visit http://sonoma.edu/