The bond between the Davis business community and UC Davis got a bit stronger this week as Davis Roots, a nonprofit business accelerator, unveiled its new headquarters Monday at the Hunt-Boyer Mansion.
About 40 to 50 community members — including local business owners, UC Davis faculty, students and city leaders — gathered on the front lawn of Davis Roots’ historic new home to witness the grand opening.
“As a region that surrounds the university, we have many opportunities year after year to root those ideas in our community and to reap the many economic and cultural benefits that come from growing the companies here,” said co-founder Anthony Costello, a local entrepreneur and former chairman of the city’s Business and Economic Development Commission.
“But as any entrepreneur or business professor will tell you, most good ideas never become businesses.”
That’s what Costello and his co-founder, Andy Hargadon, a UCD professor of technology development, want to change.
Davis Roots aims to identify and develop new business ventures in the community, with the hope of getting them on their feet and out on their own in six to nine months.
Costello and Hargadon also want to have more than 10 businesses working from their new headquarters within a year and half. They also plan to encourage the businesses they support to remain in town.
“We help them build business models and business plans,” Costello explained. “We help them find a board of advisers, a board of directors. We help them raise money and when they successfully raise money to commercialize their businesses, they graduate from the program and they take out their own office space here in Davis, to grow here in Davis.”
Along with the grand opening, which also featured remarks by Chancellor Linda Katehi, Mayor Joe Krovoza and Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, Davis Roots took the opportunity to present the first two startup companies it will help develop, both of which are affiliated with UCD.
The first company, Barobo Inc. was co-founded by Graham Ryland, a UCD graduate, and Harry Hui Cheng, a professor and director of the integration engineering laboratory on campus. The two have invented and now build programmable robotics for the education and consumer markets.
Barobo already has received $500,000 in grant money from the National Science Foundation to continue its work. Ryland said he and his business partner hope that through Davis Roots they will meet more investors to expand their business.
“I’m hoping they live up to their name as an accelerator to get us in contact with the people we need to meet in order to build a successful business that is actually a benefit to the community and creating jobs,” Ryland said in his new office on the second floor of the mansion.
“We’re really excited to be at the roots of Davis Roots.”
The second company, Nuritas, was founded by UCD post-doctoral student Nora Khaldi, who has developed computer software, or specifically, a proprietary bioinformatics tool for the discovery of nutriceuticals or food components that affect health.
But although Khaldi may have invented impressive cutting-edge technology, she does not yet have the business acumen to match her idea.
That’s where she hopes Davis Roots can help her.
“The reason why I have come here is to have a strong base,” Khaldi said Monday after the ribbon-cutting. “I know my science, I know I know the genomes, but business-wise I don’t know anyone, I don’t know what to do. So that’s really the main thing, to develop that part, to have a strong base for my business.”
Hargadon explained during the ceremony how his company will help startup business founders like Khaldi and Ryland.
“It really comes down to one very challenging thing, which is building a network around that idea,” Hargadon said. “Building that network is what the applicants here at Davis Roots are supposed to do, and building that network is what we at Davis Roots as an organization (must do).”
The new Davis Roots headquarters can house up to six additional companies at once, who will move in over the next few months.
Khaldi and Graham were accepted into the program by first applying for the Davis Roots mentoring program, where they met and collaborated with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and patent and corporate lawyers.
Learn more about Barobo at www.barobo.com.
— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash