By Sharon Fisher
In 2020 the Idaho Technology Council (ITC) announced its 50 to the A program, intended to help support at least 50 Idaho startups to get to the Series A funding round. Twenty months and a pandemic later, the organization is getting ready to celebrate more than half a dozen Idaho entrepreneurs reaching that milestone.
Why is Series A so important? “Once you get to the A round, your ability to be successful and be a long-term, sustainable company goes up exponentially,” said Jay Larsen, president and CEO of the Boise-based organization.
The ITC is planning a virtual event for noon on Nov. 10 that is intended to celebrate the seven or eight startups that have made it to Series A funding, and to help promote up to 60 organizations around the state that Larsen said were “on the runway” – that is, that could reasonably be expected to achieve the Series A benchmark in the next year or so. The ITC is planning to pick up the remaining 42 of the 50 Series A companies by the end of 2025, though Larsen is hoping the Idaho ecosystem will actually hit the goal in the next 18 months.
“We’ll be honoring those companies that have achieved Series A, get insights on the challenges they face, the successes they had, and any insight they want to share to the companies we’ve identified as on the runway,” said Sharon Poppell, principal consultant and co-founder for Executive Allies, who along with George Johnson, senior managing director of Weobly One Capital LLC, are co-chairs for the November event.
Which companies have made it?
These are the companies that have already reached Series A, according to the ITC:
The ITC isn’t releasing the names of the companies on the runway yet because it wants to talk to them first, Larsen said. “We are sending letters out to all the companies we have, and asking them if they want to be part of the runway,” he said, adding that there is no cost to participants. “We anticipate that everyone will want to be a part of it.” The organization hopes to release the runway list in 30 to 45 days, he said.
50 to the A Advisors
To help the companies on the runway, the ITC is working to line up 50 to the A Advisors, subject matter experts that are willing to mentor selected startups in that area to get them over the bumps.
“We’re finding people who can provide advice on funding sources, CFO-type things, accounting and finance things, how to take a product or service to market, by people who have already been doing it,” Larsen said. “There’s a whole list of advisors we can connect,” drawn from the network of the ITC, he said.
Originally, the ITC had hoped to have a separate celebratory event every time a new startup made it to Series A, but COVID-19 got in the way, Larsen said.
“We were going to start doing that and then COVID hit and delayed everything,” Larsen said. “It caused us to say, ‘okay, we’ll just push this down the track and have a live event.’ Then in the middle of October we were going to do it over at the bandshell in Julia Davis Park, and COVID started raging back up and the city started putting mandates in place. So we decided to have one big event and do it all virtually.”
Instead, the Nov. 10 event will celebrate the startups that have achieved the milestone thus far, with potentially quarterly events to add new companies that have reached that level. Larsen said he hopes that future events will be able to be live.
Sharon Fisher is a digital nomad who writes about entrepreneurship.