Oregon RAIN expands to offer venture catalyst model statewide


The board of directors for Oregon RAIN (Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network) unanimously voted to expand its service area to small and rural communities throughout the state of Oregon.

Oregon RAIN was originally created to advance the formation of high-growth innovative start-ups in Lane, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties. The organization offers the support of regional venture catalysts to connect entrepreneurs in small and rural communities with strategic resources for launching and scaling business ventures, including fostering mentor relationships, offering educational and training programs, connecting entrepreneurs to physical assets, and providing access to capital. Venture catalysts promote broad community participation to support the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and tap into the existing economic development infrastructure, such as small business development centers, chambers of commerce, and higher education resources.

“[Oregon] RAIN helps Florence support our local, small, and scalable businesses by giving them the support they need to grow and prosper,” said Erin Reynolds, city manager of Florence. “We have placed entrepreneurship and innovation as a particularly important part of Florence’s overall two-year work plan adopted by the city council in February 2017, and have provided substantial financial support for the program, because we know that entrepreneurship support programs are extremely important to a viable economic development strategy.”

In addition to the successful venture catalyst model in Florence, Oregon RAIN is working on building thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems in several other communities, including Newport, Lincoln City, Toledo, Adair Village, Brownsville, Harrisburg, Brownsville, Monroe, Philomath, Sweet Home, Halsey, Oakridge, Lowell, and most recently, Albany.  

Oregon RAIN’s venture catalysts support entrepreneurs and innovators working to start and scale ventures nationally or internationally. Examples of industries are consumer products, food and beverage, technology and health care-focused companies. Since 2015, the 227 companies assisted through Oregon RAIN’s venture catalyst model have been supported by 294 mentors, have created 317 jobs, generated $8.7 million in revenue, and raised $2.74 million in capital. Oregon RAIN has established a thriving ecosystem of more than 200 mentors and engaged dozens of individual investors to support those companies and communities. Due to this success, Oregon RAIN has received increasing interest from communities outside its founding charter service area.

“The Oregon RAIN Board of Directors is excited to extend the organization’s service area to include the entire state of Oregon,” said Sabrina Parsons, chair of the Oregon RAIN Board of Directors and CEO of Palo Alto Software. “Given the success of the rural venture catalyst model in our original service area, combined with the enthusiastic demand for our programs from communities outside our original service area, we are confident that this expansion will provide Oregon entrepreneurs in small and rural communities with greater access to the resources they need to launch and scale high-growth businesses.”

Oregon RAIN is committed to helping its partner communities to leverage their investments into matching funds from public and private entities. Since the beginning of last fiscal year (July 2017), Oregon RAIN has received matching commitments totaling $427,000 to expand its rural venture catalyst model within its founding charter area of Lane, Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties.

“Because our venture catalysts have all started and/or scaled ventures themselves, or are active angel investors, we know intimately the struggles and triumphs associated with starting a high-growth venture in Oregon—especially outside of the Portland-metro area,” said Oregon RAIN’s executive director, Caroline Cummings. “Our venture catalyst model is a true public-private partnership. We have routinely found private funders who support rural communities and believe in our mission to build thriving innovation economies, regardless of the size of the community. We like to say that great ideas come from anywhere, and we’ve proven that by finding and supporting scalable startup companies in towns with populations less than 1,000 people.”

Oregon RAIN will support communities who invite them in and are open to thinking differently about economic development. Any person, organization, or government entity interested in receiving entrepreneurial support in their community from Oregon RAIN is encouraged to complete a request form at oregonrain.org: https://www.oregonrain.org/contact/

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