I am a private investor and partner in Northwest Angel Investors, LLC. For the past several years, I have invested in startup companies in Seattle, Silicon Valley and Spokane. Recently, I co-founded Translation Technologies, Inc. (TTI), a Spokane software company that recently raised $4.5 million in venture capital. Our success would never have happened without the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute (SIRTI).
TTI received its initial seed money from SIRTI. In addition to seed money, SIRTI provided TTI market research and other business expertise that greatly assisted its early stage development. All of those contributions helped as the company sought and received venture capital from firms in Seattle, San Francisco and Boston.
Despite recent stock market volatility, venture capital firms have grown significantly in numbers and dollars over the past several years. There probably has never been a better time to be a startup company. Unfortunately, while places like Seattle and Silicon Valley have been among the beneficiaries of this, Spokane has not. A few visionaries such as Bernard Daines of World Wide Packets and Fred Brown of LineSoft have successfully attracted venture dollars to the community, but there isn't a glut of venture capitalists waiting to open an office here.
So it's ironic to me, that in a time when we should be doing everything possible to encourage people with an idea to convert it into a business, we entertain the thought of turning the lights off at any organization that helps entrepreneurs (i.e. SIRTI).
SIRTI has had successes. Avista Labs, Biomedex and TTI are examples. None started as university research, as was SIRTI's original mission, but rather came from the private sector. Although these are still young companies, they are poised for growth, and the jobs they create pay higher wages than most.
Should we keep improving SIRTI? Yes. Should we throw our arms up in the air and give up? Heck no. Better to keep the lights on and find our way than go back to stumbling around in the dark.