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Grow Utah Ventures began as a venture capital fund, but has been transformed by its founders into a business accelerator. Grow Utah Ventures is the brainchild of MarketStar founder Alan Hall and his longtime business partner T. Craig Bott.
“Seven years ago, not much was happening with entrepreneurship,” says Bott. “Utah didn’t have a strong angel community, and there was not a lot of incubator action. So we began looking at anybody who had anything to do with fostering talent on the higher executive levels.”
Grow Utah Ventures offers entrepreneur training and organizes contests and crowd pitching events. It also works as a catalyst, bringing various resources together in local communities to support business development. In September, for example, the organization held a “concept to company” contest for medical device companies. It conducted a similar contest for mobile applications in October, and has sponsored contests in outdoor recreation, consumer products and energy industries as well.
Salt Lake City’s Wayne Brown Institute has been at the forefront of helping new and existing businesses for nearly 30 years. President and CEO Brad Bertoch says the institute primarily works on “equity financing of high-growth businesses and specialty debt products related to those types of companies.”
The Wayne Brown Institute brings together early-stage com- panies with potential investors, who provide intensive mentoring and coaching to help accelerate the business.
Business plan competitions have become increasingly popular. These events can help new entrepreneurs fine-tune their business model and score investment capital. There are com-petitions and mentorship programs for just about every niche:
Grow Utah Ventures Concept to Company competitions—ongoing contests that help entrepreneurs take their ideas to the next level.
Grow Utah Ventures CrowdPitch events— challenges where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors in front of an audience.
Grow America Social Springboard competitions—weekly, online business competitions.
The Wayne Brown Institute Deal Forums—a venue for entrepreneurs to learn the fundraising process as they watch angel investors critique mentored presentations.
Wayne Brown Institute Investor’s Choice Conference—an opportunity for pre-screened, high-growth companies to present to angel investors.
BoomStartup—mentorship program that helps startups gain access to capital.
Utah Entrepreneur Challenge—a business plan competition for higher-education students in Utah.
For many would-be entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge is obtaining the money needed to launch a business. Funding is certainly available in Utah for solid business concepts, whether it’s a traditional business loan, an infusion of venture capital or even a stream of crowd-funding investments.
The first route for many new businesses is a small business loan. Local banks and credit unions are ready and willing to help walk business owners through the process of applying for a small business loan. For example, the Business Resource Center at Zions Bank can help
entrepreneurs craft business plans and develop realistic budgets.
Lendio is a local, for-profit company that promises to match small business owners with lending institutions and loans that are the best fit for that business. Lendio, which is a free service for businesses, says it can increase the chances a business will be approved for financing.
For entrepreneurs looking for an infusion of investment funds, Utah is home to active angel investors and venture capital firms. Each investor group or VC fund tends to have its own unique niche, such as technology, medical devices, seed funding or consumer products. Island Park Investments,
for example, was founded by Alan Hall to invest in and mentor early-stage tech companies.
Utah-based Sorenson Capital boasts a wide-ranging portfolio of investments that includes companies like Mity Enterprises, Provo Craft and Western States Lodging. The firm also invested in local tech company Omniture, which was later purchased by Adobe Systems.
Grow Utah Ventures maintains an extensive list of active angel groups and venture capital firms in Utah on its website: www.growutahventures.com/utah-investors.
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Grow America www.growam.com
SCORE Salt Lake www.saltlake.score.org
Small Business Administration www.sba.gov
Women’s Business Center www.slchamber.com
Grow Utah Ventures www.growutahventures.com
Manufacturing Extension Partnership www.mep.org
Utah Entrepreneur Challenge www.ues.utah.edu/uec
Wayne Brown Institute www.waynebrowninstitute.org
USTAR Technology Outreach and Innovation Program www.innovationutah.com
Utah Small Business Development Center www.utahsbdc.org
Governor’s Office of Economic Development www.goed.utah.gov