Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster, SSU partner to help attract program
By Eric Gneckow, Business Journal Staff Reporter
Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, the launch of the first North Bay cohort of the Keiretsu Entrepreneurship Academy was postponed until March 5, 2013
ROHNERT PARK — Part of a continuing effort to serve as a catalyst for entrepreneurial programs in the North Bay, Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics has teamed up with the Keiretsu Forum to help bring the international angel investor group’s entrepreneurship academy to the North Bay for the first time.
- David Mosby
The program, designed to teach participants how to strengthen their companies and draw the interest of investment capital, will launch with its first North Bay cohort at the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster on Dec. 18, said David Mosby, executive director and CEO of the program.
While the for-profit academy has been under way in Palo Alto for over three years, Mr. Mosby, who became executive director two years ago, said that the expansion to the North Bay was part of his greater vision to roll out quarterly courses in the Bay Area and beyond.
“There was a rapid emergence of interest,” said Mr. Mosby. “What we’re kicking off here is the first in a series of programs in the North Bay. … We’ve had more people go through the cohorts this year than during the past three years.”
Leaders at the business school pledged to find a home for the for-profit program after an informal meeting with Mr. Mosby at the North Bay Investor Summit in October.
- Bill Silver
“We see ourselves as the educational nucleus of a thriving North Bay economy,” said Dr. William Silver, dean of the business school.
While Sonoma State is not directly involved in the operation of the program, Mr. Silver said that assisting the academy represented a kind of quality endorsement that could extend to other programs as well.
“We wouldn’t just bring any program here. We want to bring the best,” he said.
The course is structured as three all-day sessions over three months, with three to five courses each day taught by Keiretsu Forum members and industry experts. Courses focus on subjects related to obtaining investment capital, like pitching to potential investors and structuring a fundable business plan.
“We don’t teach you how to run your business,” Mr. Mosby said. “We teach them how to position themselves to successfully obtain angel investment and accelerate their access to capital.”
- Kari Danskin
The Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster, the business incubation program that also serves as coordinator of the North Bay iHub, found a natural partner in the Keiretsu academy (k4academy.com), said Manager Kari Danskin. The incubator had recently launched a new “Sprout!” mentoring program, designed to prepare businesses to obtain investment capital.
“It fits directly into the mission of getting out clients funded,” she said.
The business school at Sonoma State has also embarked on a number of in-house initiatives to promote entrepreneurship, including the search for a new “entrepreneur-in-residence” position made possible by an $180,000 donation from Codding Enterprises.
Mr. Mosby, who has lead several companies in the high-tech realm, said that the launch of the North Bay cohort came at a time of surging ambition for new entrepreneurs and heightened interest from the investment community.
For the first time, investors themselves have been regularly participating in the academy, a trend Mr. Mosby said he expected to continue in the North Bay.
“They’re coming from a different perspective, but they’re learning what to listen for,” he said.
The Dec. 18 class is the first of four cohorts currently planned for the North Bay. The course is partially funded by sponsors, with a $950 tuition for participants.