Willamette Innovators Night Will Showcase Grassroots Entrepreneurship

Innovation comes in many forms: life-saving robots, microbial fuel cells, carbonated fruit, plant-based lubricants and adhesives, and clothing that adjusts to your lifestyle.

These are among the ideas that are fueling start-up companies in Oregon and will be featured at Willamette Innovators Night (WiN), Nov. 11 at Oregon State University. Mixing research, creativity and business, the event is the Willamette Valley’s largest annual gathering of entrepreneurs and “the creative class,” said Mark Van Patten, chair of the planning committee and director of the Business Solutions Group in the OSU College of Business.

“Young companies emerging from collaboration between the university, investors and creative thinkers are our best hope for jump-starting Oregon’s economy.”

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held at the LaSells Stewart Center and the CH2M Hill Alumni Center.

At 1 p.m., two Portland entrepreneurs with experience in fostering innovative businesses will deliver a keynote address: “Entrepreneurship & Innovation — Overcoming Challenges and the Value of Peer Mentoring.” John Friess and Ryan Buchanan of Starve Ups will present lessons learned in their 22-member entrepreneurs network. Wendy Strgar winner of the Willamette Angel Conference, which supports new local businesses with seed capital, will discuss the creation of her company, Good Clean Love.

Following those demonstrations of grassroots entrepreneurial activity will be:

  • A town hall meeting (2:30 to 4 p.m.): “Leadership in Economic Development: Where Does It Come from?” led by Prosperity That Fits, a local partnership with a focused plan for economic development.
  • An innovation exhibit (4 to 7 p.m.) for companies, researchers and business development groups to connect, share ideas and collaborate on ongoing projects.
  • Breakout sessions on wood product innovation led by Steve Killgore of the Calvert Company, on nanotechnology energy led by Tomm Aldridge of Intel and on family business led by Sheri Noxel of OSU’s Austin Family Business Program.
  • At 7 p.m., Spark! Corvallis, a chance for students to share their creative business ideas.
  • At 7:30 p.m., Ignite! Corvallis, rapid-fire presentations about new ideas and potential fuel for the next new venture.

“WiN creates a space for talent and creative energy to come together,” said Van Patten. “The enthusiasm and connections spur new partnerships and business ideas that continue all year. It’s all about creating a culture that promotes and supports economic development and quality of life.”

More than 1,000 people attended last year’s event, including entrepreneurs from Portland and Eugene.

Organizers include OSU, the Software Association of Oregon and the Corvallis-Benton Chamber Coalition with sponsorship from a growing list of companies in Oregon. They include HP, Silverman Studios, Samaritan Health Services, PEAK Internet, the Coelo Company of Design, Natural Point, the Business Enterprise Center and Chris Nordyk of State Farm Insurance.