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New effort to grow Idaho startups “50 to the A” could help strengthen local economic base

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The Idaho Tech. Council will soon launch a large effort to help homegrown startups in the State of Idaho.

Called Fifty to the A, the idea is to rally the community around helping get nascent businesses to Series A Financing. That milestone is often the first for a small businesses’ growth, and involves outside investment.

Right now, one-to-three Idaho companies achieve A round funding each year, according to Blake Hansen of Alturas Capital, which is a co-chair of the Idaho Tech Council’s Capital Connect group.

“We are looking to get ten companies a year to the A round of funding,” Hansen said. “It’s going to take a massive community effort.”

Fifty to the A: ‘Big,’ but doable goal

Alison Johnson of Holland & Hart, the effort’s other co-chair, said she thinks it’s doable.

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“It’s a big goal for a community of our size, but we believe it’s achievable,” she said in announcing the project during ITC’s Capital Connecting event Wednesday. “We are asking for the community to help: with funding, with introductions, or even buying the products or services.”

The group will consider is working to set criteria for the list. It is considering a threshold of at least $5 million in funding, or funding that values the company at $20 million or greater. ITC’s annual Idaho Deal Flow Report will highlight the companies each year. Hansen also said they want to launch “A Party,” an event that would celebrate each company that hits the milestone. The events could mix together old-line Idaho companies with startups and community groups.

“We want to get to a different level of collaboration and get the whole community around the effort,” Hansen said.

Johnson said in a time of list after list on the Treasure Valley from outsiders – this can be a homegrown list of success.

The ITC continues work on the project and looks to get it off the ground this spring at its Capital Connect event.

[Oh hey, Boise’s on another list. Why isn’t this exciting anymore?]

Startups can help battle problems Brookings outlined

Last year, the Brookings Institution looked at the Treasure Valley’s economy and its hot growth. It flashed warning signs for the sustainability of prosperity and warned of possible disinvestment. But the report’s authors said a key factor in keeping ahead of possible problems is Idaho’s track record of innovation.

“Idaho’s more intangible capabilities, such as its resilient, pioneering, can-do attitude, constitute invaluable social capital as the capital city strives to transform,” report authors wrote. “The task for policymakers and local leaders is to plant the seeds and to build communities where any citizen can turn luck and grit into an American Dream.”

It’s something the Fifty to the A initiative could help address. Startups in Idaho employ an increasing number of people at often above-average wages. By digging in and growing more companies, it could continue to grow Idaho’s prosperity from the inside out.

“We will be better as a community if we all raise the flag of success,” Johnson said.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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