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OEN Venture Catalyst Network
Based on proven national best practices, OEN partnered with regional economic organizations to create a statewide Venture Catalyst (VC) initiative that places a seasoned entrepreneur/investor in a region with proven experience of starting and growing companies. They are part coach, part connector, part strategist, and always an advocate — assessing the region’s entrepreneurial landscape and working to build the necessary resources to help high growth companies succeed.
In 2009, the first Venture Catalyst position was established in Central Oregon.
From 2013-2016, the initiative was expanded to Southern Oregon, South Willamette Valley, and the Central Coast and supported by a combination of OEN, local partners, and foundations.
Because of the model’s success, there is now a statewide proposal championed by OEN and the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) to further expand to other parts of Oregon–creating a true statewide entrepreneurial network.
The results to date have shown VC’s can strengthen the impact of entrepreneurs at three levels:
An enterprise level, where the VC provides and leverages direct services to entrepreneurs
including access to educational seminars, connections to industry and topic-specific advisors, region-specific peer and industry groups, pitch coaching and introductions to capital.
An ecosystem level, where they lead/participate in efforts to address critical resource gaps such as seed/angel capital, and the presence of accelerator programs.
A strategic level, where they raise awareness about entrepreneurship, and help to coordinate resources among economic groups, local governments, higher education, and industry.
It is the combination of working at an enterprise, ecosystem and strategic level that builds the lasting resources to support entrepreneurs. The VC model is an investment in entrepreneurial infrastructure—not a program. It optimizes contributions of existing programs while cost-effectively building shared resources (such as mentors and capital). It connects resources within a region to resources outside the region.
The direct impact of the program has exceeded expectations. With less than $400,000, the July 2016-June 2017 results for Central Oregon, South Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon included direct assistance to 245 companies, 146.5 jobs created and $10 million raised in investment capital. In the past three years, Central Oregon’s VC has helped companies raise $39 million and create 250 jobs. Since 2014, the South Valley VC has helped companies raise $15 million and create 293 jobs. Moreover the VC Initiative has impacted the ecosystem through the creation of new entrepreneurial infrastructure. In Central Oregon the VC’s have helped to developed the Bend Venture Conference into the Northwest’s premier angel conference. Other infrastructure created by the VC’s includes the region’s first angel fund (Cascade Angels), first accelerator (Venture Box), and mentor database (Stable of Experts).