A new small-business accelerator is taking root in Davis with the goal of growing local firms and keeping them in the city.
Davis Roots is a nonprofit developed by a University of California, Davis, professor and a former city official.
That's important, said Davis Roots co-founder Anthony Costello, an entrepreneur and former Davis business and economic development commissioner.
Ideas and entrepreneurship have long been intertwined at UC Davis its annual Big Bang competition and Entrepreneurship Academy are but two examples but too often the ideas and the companies that sprout from them leave with the graduates, Costello said.
"There's a history of business spinning out of the university and going elsewhere," he said.
Graham Ryland was ready to take his new firm, Barobo which develops robotics for elementary school classrooms out of town. He looked hard at West Sacramento and its business-conscious climate before Davis Roots emerged.
"We were strongly looking at West Sacramento. But Davis Roots kept us here," Ryland said.
He and his partners were still moving into their downtown Davis digs on Tuesday morning, even as they tested one of their toy-sized robots on a work table.
Down the hall, biologist Nora Khaldi was settling in for her first day in her new office. Khaldi's firm, Nuritas, finds and develops nutrients that can be added to foods and cosmetics.
Davis Roots also quickly attracted Khaldi, a postdoctoral student at UC Davis, who first talked to Davis Roots in February.
"That's exactly what I wanted to accelerate my business," Khaldi said.
Davis Roots is not affiliated with UC Davis or the city, but there are clear connections.
The first two startups are led by present and former UC Davis students, and Graduate School of Management professor Andrew Hargadon is a Davis Roots co-founder.
Davis Roots leases its home the second floor of the Hunt-Boyer Mansion at E and Second streets from the city. Costello hopes businesses that emerge under its roof will spread to other office space in the city core. As many as six more companies can move into the Davis Roots space.
"We knew we always wanted to do this in downtown," Costello said. "There's a lot of vacant space. We want to fill it with spinouts."
Entrepreneurs apply to be selected and receive business mentoring to help develop a nine-month plan to launch their businesses.
"The more we can do that heavy lifting for them, the more they can focus on their core competencies," Costello said.
Davis Roots makes equity investments in the ventures. That and fundraising will fuel the nonprofit, Hargadon said.
Through Davis Roots, fledgling firms like Barobo and Nuritas can tap into the built-in networks of marketing, sales and legal expertise on- and off-campus the type of help young businesses need to survive and thrive.
"We're a very engineering-heavy company, so we're excited for Davis Roots. We're getting that marketing, sales and legal knowledge that's critical," Ryland said. "That's why so many (businesses) fail. They don't have that network."