BlueTechValley is a five-year program by the California Energy Commission and one of four designated clusters. We look forward to working with water, energy and Ag tech ventures to help solve problems in the marketplace, leverage traction momentum and make success stories. Hopefully, we will push some great technologies out to the marketplace that can benefit the California ratepayer.
Below are answers in response to participant questions from the BlueTechValley webinar on March 30, 2017.
Yes. Identifying funding needs is part of our pathway to commercialization for ventures. And to help those that have feasible technology that might fit what we are trying to do with the California Energy Commission. Along that path, we look for grant funding, like CalSEED, and for investors including, but not limited to, angel investors, venture capitalists and institutional investors. We are planning programs, here in Fresno, to connect entrepreneurs with funding opportunities and also with our partners throughout our region. Two of our partners have good programs that have some of those functions. CleanTech Open, which has an Accelerator program, helps entrepreneurs evaluate whether or not it is a great path for them. Once the entrepreneur goes through the Accelerator program, there will be some investments connections as well. The Big Bang Competition, hosted and organized by UC Davis, is a structured program where entrepreneurs will go through barrier workshops that culminate in an event where they will have one-on-one connections with investors. Central Valley Venture Forum (formerly Central Valley Stock Exchange) takes place during the fall and is geared to finding connections between investors and entrepreneurs and making some of those deals.
We have 12 offices with six already established. We are in the process of remodeling another building into more of a plug-and-play space which will have an additional six offices. It is for entrepreneurs that want to connect with our programs and with our market but aren’t necessarily in our area. They can come and stay and work a couple of days a week. We hope to get those office spaces in line right after summer. There will be an application process to identify which companies we’d like to house. We are very excited about the opportunity to offer physical space and cultivate that synergy among the companies in this area or throughout our region.
We first look at the technology and assess if it’s viable. If it is, we attempt to connect you with the right partners to fulfill the needs that will help bring it to market. That includes working with our partners to find out if you need third-party testing and, if so, find out who within our network provides the service. We also can include learning programs in which you can be involved. For example, for legal services, we have a partner with UC Berkeley in their new Business Law Practice which provides legal services for ventures and can help you pitch to investors. They also can find opportunities to test your product with potential customers. Those are some of the steps we take to help commercialize ventures.
That’s really a two-fold question.
First. Including student interns in BlueTechValley is built into our program for its further enrichment. Working with six CSU campuses, including Fresno State, provides a great opportunity to connect with students, either for an internship, a student helper or, potentially, an employee. We will encourage all companies to connect with students to give them an opportunity to work in a startup, which in turn provides the company with some qualified assistance and help in areas they need.
Second. Testing is something students can definitely help with. Faculty member provide the testing service. Students would help a faculty member working on testing or in our lab. We would definitely encourage any student to help as much as possible. One neat thing about BlueTechValley is that we will have a number of interns at each of our six CSU Campus Hubs – Fresno State, CSU Bakersfield, Chico State, CSU Monterey Bay, Humboldt State University and Sacramento State – working with the program helping in the implementation of any of the services we offer.
We work with ventures that can determine if we can make connections. We are developing an asset map of all the resources available to entrepreneurs throughout our region. There will be a category that discusses more about identifying resources for access to funding – whether it’s a vendor or a venture investment or more institutional money. We will work with each entrepreneur to identify what kind of funding is appropriate for their current situation and what they are trying to achieve for the future. We want to educate entrepreneurs about funding.
The best place to start is our website, BlueTechValley.org. You can find information to get you started and an easy way to connect with us on the Contact page. You can sign up for our monthly newsletter, here. Each month, we highlight the businesses we work with, our partners, the activities going on, and events which we host or are hosted by our partners or the Innovation Clusters. We also include general events, workshops, and resources available for entrepreneurs which may prove interesting. Finally, you can follow us on Twitter, @BTVCluster.
We work with companies that have a technology range from 1 to 9, with 1 being just an idea you are working on yourself. Some ventures have been successful which started off just as an idea. The company must be based in California and able to provide a benefit to the ratepayer. The kilowatt hours saved at the end of this program must be quantifiable. If your company fits those parameters – or if you’re not sure and need to find out – connect with us. We might have a program that works for you or know someone to whom we can refer you.
We are here to service ventures and help move them forward. We do not take anyone’s intellectual property. Though we don’t like to sign NDAs since we are looking at a number of technologies in the beginning, there is a certain point at which NDAs can be signed.
BlueTechValley is a program funded to help entrepreneurs. Our services are free; therefore, we do not take an equity position. We are looking for investment opportunities that we can help become successful.
We evaluate it through our Technology Innovation Evaluation (TIE) process. TIE is an evaluation process that innovators and entrepreneurs can utilize to move their water, energy or Ag technology from concept to commercialization. A panel of subject matter experts is available to the entrepreneur to provide educated, honest and constructive feedback on technology submitted as well as suggest next steps and recommendations. The TIE committee also shares observations on market trends, competitive landscape and assessment of team and business models, as appropriate. In addition, a qualification tool is in development which will take a broader scope of technology and process it through an algorithm.
Yes. The WET Center’s history of connecting new ventures with industry partners made it possible to be part of BlueTechValley. Our fellow CSU members of BlueTechValley also work with industry partners. We believe it is very important for technology companies to have those connections to establish industry for both. It also is important to connect established industry with early stage technology to see if there might be a fit or if there could be a collaboration. We want to make sure we connect with technology we think is valid to our network. If you present an early stage technology to us which has not been vetted or tested, do not be discouraged. As your product matures and undergoes testing and becomes validated, we will connect you to the appropriate partners.
We would very much be interested. You can connect with us at http://bluetechvalley.org/contact/.
There are no costs for BlueTechValley services. We are one of four Innovation Clusters funded by the California Energy Commission to provide our services for a period of five years. Costs that may occur are
- Participation fees for events we host or co-host
- Third-party testing if needed
- Working with entities outside of our network to whom the venture might be referred
BlueTechValley is designed using the hub-spoke model. Therefore, we are trying to localize our services where possible and encourage you to connect with Chico State, though it’s not a requirement. That being said, we strongly recommend a regional approach and are not interested in all the entrepreneurs in our area being based in Fresno. We encourage entrepreneurial development around all of our Hubs. That is why it is recommended you go through Chico State so they can connect you to us if the services we provide are more appropriate. Or, if you submit a request through our website and note you’re in the Chico State area, we’ll make sure you are connected with your regional Hub and tap into the services they provide. This is where we incorporate the TIE process we use to evaluate technologies and find out where the technology is, where it might best serve, which markets and where, and try to connect those dots. For example, if we are evaluating technology from the Humboldt area, we would connect them with Humboldt State.
Our partner UC Berkeley Law New Business Practicum provides legal services through BlueTechValley at no cost. However, if referrals are required for specialized legal services with other lawyers, costs could arise. Our team also includes attorneys who are subject matter experts and business mentors and to whom ventures could be referred.
Your company must be based in California. Or at least have a business presence to receive services through this program. If your company is not based in California, connect with us anyway. There may be potential for you to partner with us or a company based in California. If it turns out California is a great market for your business and you move here, we will already have a connection.
We do not offer grant-writing services through BlueTechValley. We can, however, connect you to others in our network that provide those services. We also can help in the following ways:
- Offer instruction on how to write a grant proposal.
- Workshops that help entrepreneurs with the grant-writing process and identify grants that achieve a desired outcome.
- One-on-one consulting regarding specific grant proposals.
- Grant proposal review.
We are not that kind of program. The entrepreneur owns their technology; we will not take ownership of a business or take an equity position in it. BlueTechValley is designed to support ventures going through the process of bringing technology ventures to market. A venture needs to have its own team and ownership of its technology. And we can help ventures move along the process with our partners. We would not use a product unless we purchase it. In addition, we are not a legal entity for the technology venture nor are we going to license it on behalf of someone else. We can test the product as it gets closer to market if you would like us too. As was mentioned earlier, however, that is a fee-based service which means you will own all of the results and the subsequent technologies.
Since we are part of the technology review committee, we cannot share details on the technology we have reviewed. However, we can report that the first of the funding will be distributed in late May, early June to the first eight companies. The next cycle will be July or August. The next application phase will be in early 2018.