Utah grants aid startup firms through ‘valley of death’ period

SALT LAKE CITY — For startup companies, the difference between success and failure may be simple to identify — generating the capital needed to keep the lights on while developing a product for market.

But finding that funding is often tenuous and challenging.

“There’s this ‘valley of death’ when you’re trying to raise money and go to market,” according to Clark Cahoon, fund manager for Utah’s Technology Commercialization and Innovation Program. “We hope to bridge that gap.”

The program run through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development has $2.5 million available this year for competitive grants to small businesses and university teams to help fast-track commercialization of technology innovations. After awarding grants, Cahoon said, GOED also offers access to other resources aimed at helping the company ultimately become self-sustaining.

“(We) connect them with mentors and assist them with plugging some of the holes in their business and assisting them in becoming stronger,” he said.

Recipients typically receive $100,000 for first-time awardees and up to $200,000 if they have earned grants in the past. The maximum any company can receive through the program is $400,000, Cahoon noted.

Among the companies that have benefited from the grant program is a local firm that uses recycled plastics to make petroleum products. Known formerly as PK Clean, the company is now named Renewlogy and has a mission to reduce plastic waste by converting landfill-bound plastics into high-value fuels.

The company’s proprietary chemical recycling process reverts plastic back into its basic molecular structure, allowing non-recycled plastic waste to be converted into products such as diesel fuel.

Less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled in the U.S., explained Renewlogy founder and chief executive officer Priyanka Bakaya, and the company provides a solution for the remainder. Originally founded at MIT in 2011, the company moved to Utah to work on a research and development contract with the University of Utah, she said.

Rebranded as Renewlogy earlier this year, the company received grants in 2015 and 2016, she noted.

“We were at that inflection point, where we still needed a bit more cash before generating sales,” Bakaya said. “(The grants) helped us bridge that gap. It was really important for us at that time in our development.”

She said the company was able to secure their first sale and have been able to parlay that financial assistance into a burgeoning business that today generates millions in revenue.

Since then, the fact that …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


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