Entrepreneurs hoping for lots of ‘RAIN’ on Oregon Coast

RAIN, the state-sponsored program to help turn homegrown innovation into high-growth companies and jobs, has started to sprinkle on the Oregon Coast.

More than 75 people turned out for the first call of interest in Florence for entrepreneurs, mentors and investors at City Lights Cinemas on Oct. 28.

The next startup seminar in Florence will be Thursday at the Florence Events Center. It is for entrepreneurs and innovators who want to learn how to avoid common startup mistakes and how to create a compelling one-page business plan for potential investors. Those interested in participating should register on the city of Florence’s website.

RAIN stands for Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network. It is a consortium of government, higher education and business communities in Lane, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties.

Its goal is to help innovators form and grow companies that sell products or services. RAIN has two business accelerators in Corvallis and Eugene. With a $50,000 economic development grant from Lane County, RAIN recently launched outreach into rural areas of the county.

Caroline Cummings, RAIN venture catalyst, said organizers were pleased by the turnout at the first event in Florence. “Our goal was 40 to 50 people, so having close to 80 attend was super exciting,” she said. The crowd was mostly entrepreneurs or “wannapreneurs” — those with ideas who aren’t sure of the next step to turn those ideas into businesses, Cummings said.

Two people who showed interest in “angel investing” will be connected with the Willamette Angel Conference and matched with seasoned angel investors to help guide them along, Cummings said.

Angel investors are affluent individuals who provide capital for a business startup, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.

The biggest absence at the first Florence gathering was of potential mentors, Cummings said. But the first meeting was targeted to entrepreneurs seeking help, and mentors will emerge later, she predicted.

In addition to meeting entrepreneurs in Florence, Cummings recently has received calls from innovators in Creswell, Noti, Junction City and Cottage Grove.

RAIN also has been expanding in other parts of its four-county region. With local partners in Lincoln County, RAIN will host Newport’s first startup call of interest on Wednesday. At the event, seasoned angel investors and RAIN executives will speak, and several Willamette Valley startup companies will give five-minute pitches.

“We want to offer a new kind of business support through ‘acceleration,’ ” said Caroline Bauman, executive director of Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County, one of the Newport event’s co-sponsors.

“We are reaching out to local innovators to create a network that will benefit and strengthen our economy,” she said. Cummings said there’s been a lot of success introducing the RAIN model in other areas of the state.

“Lincoln County certainly has the infrastructure to support those programs,” she said. “There’s commercial industry, a world-class research university in the Hatfield Marine Science Center and, of course, the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast — which is both an inspiration and a draw for entrepreneurs in our region.”

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