New program aims to accelerate innovation in SW Washington

New program from The Bridge aims to help founders find value in their startups

Dave Barcos (second from left) and The Bridge accelerator project participants.

Business startups in Southwest Washington now have the power of a business accelerator within reach. The Bridge, a Vancouver-based brand incubator focused on building startups in Southwest Washington, is in the midst of its first seven-week accelerator program, which aims to help startup founders develop a successful go-to-market strategy.

“This really is the first here,” said Dave Barcos, co-founder of The Bridge. “I recently talked to Mistie Josephson and Jane Cote in the Business Department at WSU Vancouver, and they said there’s not a week that goes by where there’re not asked if they have an accelerator program. They have to turn people away. So this is really timely and will hopefully become a big thing for us.”

Startups involved in the current program include Curtis Townshend’s curated children’s clothing company, My Lil Bambino; Chris Maier’s GrowlerFresh; Michael Pan’s PanCo Foods; Adam Wehage’s Soulfinder; and Janus Innovations’ Glitch.

The accelerator program focuses on helping these startups define who they are and find their value.

“We work on what you’ll do the day after the accelerator,” Barcos explained.

The program also brings participants into a place where they can learn from mentors in a variety of industries. A few of the mentors currently involved in the program are David Jackson, Time and Oak; George DeCarlo, Woobox; Genevieve Lemarchal, Sadie; Bill Huseby, Sigma Design; Max Ault, Columbia River Economic Development Council; Paige Hendrix Buckner, ClientJoy; Cathey Armillas, Pura Marketing; and Colton Telford, Barcos’ partner at The Bridge.

Another piece that makes The Bridge’s accelerator program different is that participants are not paying any fees and the program is not seeking to fund the startups.

“A lot of accelerators focus on the whole company and give cash for equity. With us, we want to prove how this works. We didn’t offer cash, we didn’t take any equity,” Barcos said.”We want to find value in what we’re giving before we charge anything. There’s nothing transactional going on.”

The Rose City gets a lot of attention for their tech startups and news, but there’s a lot happening in the startup world in Vancouver as well, Barcos added.

“Portland gets all the flash and all the attention, but there’s incredible growth here,” he said. “Entrepreneurs play such a huge part of what goes on in the tech world. These are some of the most ambitious, most resourceful and talented people, trying to make it work.”

This first cohort is just the start for The Bridge’s accelerator program. Another cohort will start in the spring, and Barcos said he expects that it will be similar to the current group in that they will welcome startups from a variety of industries.

On December 6, The Bridge’s first group of accelerator program participants will attend the VanTechy monthly meetup event at Columbia Collective (810 Main St., Vancouver) where they will each give short presentations about where their companies were when they started the incubator program and what they learned. Barcos said he’s trying to bring in investors, mentors and even state legislators to see what the program is about.

“We’re bringing in investors, but this event is not meant for them to get money,” he noted. “This is meant to celebrate where these guys are going and put together resources for the future.”

Learn more about The Bridge at www.thebridgeincubator.com.

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