An Anchorage Economic Development Corporation publication in partnership with the Alaska Journal of Commerce
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GAME CHANGER ALASKA DYNAMICS GENERATOR COULD TRANSFORM RURAL ENERGY
ENTREPRENEURS IN THE LAST FRONTIER LOCAL COMPANIES TURNING DREAMS INTO REALITY
ALSO INSIDE HOW TO MAKE THE PITCH FINANCING A STARTUP
BUILDING AN ANCHORAGE MAKERSPACE
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Dowland-Bach Corporation 6130 Tuttle Place, Anchorage, AK 99507 Phone: (907) 562-5818 Fax: (907) 562-5816 www.dowlandbach.com
Made in Alaska
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT Welcome to the first Alaska Innovator magazine, a publication that celebrates the accomplishments of Alaska entrepreneurs and innovators. In this magazine you will find a wealth of information ranging from tips on financing a new business to stories featuring Alaska entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs that are featured range from budding startups to established, mature businesses. Anchorage Economic Development Corp. has long held the belief that encouraging and growing the Anchorage and Alaska entrepreneurial community is one of the best ways the business community and policymakers can continue to diversify the Alaska economy. By finding ways to leverage natural creativity and the can-do attitude of entrepreneurs and innovators across Alaska, our community can grow new industries and a stronger economy over the next decade. It is an exciting time to be an innovator, inventor, Maker or entrepreneur in Alaska! There have been amazing advances made in the tools used to manufacture and develop ideas. In Anchorage it’s never been easier to find and use 3D printers, laser cutters and robotics technology. Online there are new tools and techniques available for getting a business off the ground, such as crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. At AEDC we pride ourselves as being innovative – this year the Alaska Journal of Commerce approached AEDC with a new idea: Let’s make the Alaska Innovator magazine an augmented reality publication. Put simply, this publication is interactive! Grab your smartphone or tablet, download the free app “Layar,” scan the Alaska Augmented reality — n. Innovator magazine and you will find interactive links, A live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment videos, reports and more. whose elements are augmented by Thank you for reading (and interacting with) the first computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS Alaska Innovator magazine. The Board and staff of AEDC data that functions by enhancing one’s want to sincerely thank the Alaska Journal of Commerce current perception of reality. for partnering with us on this inspiring new publication. Sincerely,
Bill Popp President & CEO, AEDC 4
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WORK in Alaska Where ATION R T S I REG LINE: DEAD 27, 2013 ber m e t p Se
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from the mayor of anchorage Anchorage is thriving with new business opportunities and I believe that our city possesses some of the most creative and rising innovators in the nation. It is impossible to talk about local entrepreneurs and innovators without discussing the 49th State Angel Fund. The goal of the 49 SAF is to make strategic investments to promote entrepreneurship, foster innovation, provide capital and create jobs in our community. Anchorage was the first city in the United States to be selected by the U.S. Department of Treasuryâ€™s State Small Business Credit Initiative for this program. Of the $13.2 million allocated, the 49 SAF has placed $2.1 million in financing and is currently assessing second round applicants. For more information about the program visit: www.49saf.com. Anchorage is a great place to start, grow and operate your business. We work to make this a city that appreciates the entrepreneurial drive and spirit with a supportive community and great quality of life. By promoting innovation and encouraging entrepreneurship, we can continue to make Anchorage the best city to live, work, and play. If you have ideas for business growth, recommendations on how we can support commerce or comments to share, I would love to hear from you. Dan Sullivan
Mayor of Anchorage 632 W 6th Avenue Anchorage, AK 99501 email@example.com 907-343-7100
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INN VAT R : INSIDE THE PITCH • Download “Layar” app on your smartphone or tablet. • Scan the page with your smartphone to discover videos, links and more content!
with JOHN WANAMAKER
with ERIC McCALLUM
Regional Vice President Lee Leschper (907) 275-2179 firstname.lastname@example.org
49TH STATE ANGEL FUND REACHES ROUND TWO
Alaska catching up to crowdfunding
AEDC takes on trustee role with Kiva
Time is now for financing startups in Alaska
Maker movement makes way to Anchorage
Hackathon connects local tech talent
game 18 changer
Managing Editor Andrew Jensen (907) 275-2165 email@example.com Production Manager Maree Shogren (907) 275-2162 firstname.lastname@example.org Cover and Layout Designer Nadya Gilmore (907) 275-2163 email@example.com Reporter Tim Bradner (907) 275-2159 firstname.lastname@example.org
Theo Graber has always had an inquiring mind, and his curiosity about the power system on deep space probe inspired the design for the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator that could change rural energy in Alaska by using temperature differences to create electricity.
Reporter Elwood Brehmer (907) 275-2161 email@example.com Reporter Molly Dischner (907) 275-2158 firstname.lastname@example.org Photographer Michael Dinneen (907) 275-2105 email@example.com
301 Arctic Slope Ave. Ste. 350 Anchorage, AK 99518 P: 907-561-4772 F: 907-563-4744 www.alaskajournal.com
The Chariot Group
Advertising Director Tom Wardhaugh (907) 275-2114 firstname.lastname@example.org Account Executive Ken Hanni (907) 275-2155 email@example.com
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THE PITCH John Wanamaker currently runs Alaska Venture Partners, an angel investment firm, and serves as chairman of Venture Ad Astra, a venture capital company that he co-founded, and that is focused on early-state technology companies. Wanamaker has served as either founder or CEO of companies from a wide range of industries, including wireless communication, aerospace launch vehicles and electronic security.
with JOHN WANAMAKER
How did you become an angel investor?
A By accident. I have always had
an entrepreneurial gene and have invested in my own businesses. I made a decision in 1999 to sell the two businesses that I had at that time so that I could spend more time with my young family. After successfully selling those companies my friend Mead Treadwell invited me to meet with a couple of guys to talk about pooling capital, effort and assets to start yet another company. This one was different in that it was more an organized group of angels – mostly guys living in the Lower 48. We decided to focus on a couple of specific sectors – imaging and geolocation. With that focus, we had some real exciting deals and some duds. The most widely recognized success was our investment in Immersive Media Company which essentially enabled the Google StreetView product.
Angel Investor — n. In the context of venture capital, the first investor.
Q What do you look for
in a startup?
I really look at the entrepreneur’s clarity of vision and ability to execute. Whether that is within the abilities of the team he/she has assembled or within the ability of the founder to assemble such a team, it really boils down to ‘do they have the energy, commitment and audacity to do what it takes to make their deal a success?’ 8
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Do you provide anything besides capital to startups?
Absolutely. At the angel level, it is more than providing capital. I have had the luxury of seeing lots of different deals and interacted with lots of different people – successful and not. That experience brings with it some insight. Granted, I don’t profess to have all the answers nor a system that guarantees 100 percent success, but I most certainly can help the founder avoid the costly waste of capital and, more importantly, avoid wasted time.
What industry sector do you think has the most potential for success in Alaska?
This is a tough question. Clearly today’s answer sits around the resource extraction businesses. There is a huge amount of money spent in our state in
the oil, mining, fish and timber businesses. Tourism falls close behind. However, I really believe that Alaskans can and should be cashing in on the democratization of certain technologies. More specifically, the fact is that anyone with a credit card and a laptop (with a good idea and the persistence to bring it to fruition) can start a billion dollar business. This applies equally to someone living in Alaska as it does to someone in Silicon Valley. Combining the power of social networks, the tools available on the internet, and exponential technologies really means that any business which can be imagined can be done equally well from here as from anywhere on the planet.
What is your advice for entrepreneurs looking for angel funding? See wanamaker, Page 10
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Wanamaker: Continued from Page 10
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Do something bold. Something exciting. Think about your business in a way that is beyond your traditional comfort zone. This means thinking big, both in scale and in terms of impact. You can create a business that makes a billion dollars or you can create one that makes a billion dollars and wipes out cancer, the more audacious (yet credible) business will attract more backers. Another key to landing angel support is to be able to distill your business into a clear and concise description. If you can’t explain in 3 minutes or less what it is and how you will make it succeed, it means you haven’t thought about it enough and don’t know your business well enough. Additionally, make sure you have a standard-formatted presentation. Today, this means a 1-page executive summary and a Powerpoint deck of less than 10-12 slides. Have these in a PDF format that you can email to a potential angel before you talk to him. Lastly, most angels do what they do because they like working with smart people (and they also expect an outsized return). Key to your ability to raise a significant angel round is building a good relationship with an angel who will serve as the lead investor and bring other angels into the fold. To that end, find an angel with whom you enjoy working and who also is both respected in the community and has ties to other potential investors.
What is an example of a successful Alaska startup that you have worked with?
Most of what I have been involved with as a pure angel has been deals outside of Alaska. I am still looking for that first long-ball homerun from Alaska so I am hoping that one of the entrepreneurs/innovators reading this article will call me so next time I am asked this question I can point to their company!
THE PITCH McCallum is the founder of Arctic Wire Rope and Supply. His company, from which he retired in 2005, primarily fabricates and supplies heavy lift rigging products for oil and gas, construction, mining and marine industries in Alaska and the Russian Far East. The company was chosen Alaska Manufacturer of the Year in 2006. Presently, Eric splits his time between introducing the principles of leverage used in the business world to local and international nonprofits, promoting commercial energy efficiency initiatives to business and government groups by using the return on investment approach and mentoring and investing in small business startups.
with ERIC McCALLUM
How did you become an angel investor?
It was a combination of timing and events. Deciding to step away from my company but choosing not to sell, I had to mentor my employees so they would run it like they owned it. All wealth, no matter how modest is created through leverage but not just financial; skills, knowledge and time need to be leveraged as well. This epiphany made me curious if investing in and mentoring multiple younger entrepreneurs would be a better use of time at my stage in life than say doing another startup on my own. But just as an inventor does not necessarily make a good entrepreneur, an entrepreneur doesn't necessarily make a good investor. So have spent the last five years trying to experiment and learn how to be a more effective angel.
What do you look for in a startup?
I focus on three areas: clean technology, nationally; poverty reduction/social enterprise, internationally and Alaskan companies generally. I look for solid demand driven ideas (as opposed to supply driven) but am more focused on the whether the entrepreneurs have the chops to pull it off, at the end of the day it always gets down to the quality of the people. I joke that I play Oz and send them off to find the "broom" to see what they are made of, see how they deal with adversity, I want them confident but not cocky, they need to be committed to the main concept but adaptable on how to get there.
Q Do you provide anything
besides capital to startups?
Mostly mentoring and story telling/experience sharing on general
business issues. I would call myself an "optimistic wet blanket." I like helping them develop their problem solving skills, curiosity and patience. Help them control their hubris, ie "You don't know what you don't know." The other thing I try to do is connect them with other business contacts who might be able to help in some way
What industry sector do you think has the most potential for success in Alaska?
Import substitution has a lot of potential but is hard to scale your market to outside Alaska. â€˘ Leveraging our "quality of life" advantages in the state, especially Anchorage. In technology driven indus-
try where employees can work from anywhere ie., work in the morning and ski in the afternoon almost year round with a very short commute. â€˘ In some ways being 10 years behind the Lower 48 opens up business opportunities, you can see what is new and working outside and bring it to Alaska after it is proven and still be first. Take inventory of both Alaska's assets and liabilities. Look for business opportunities to leverage the assets but don't forget the liabilities also represent potential opportunities. â€˘ To me there are opportunities everywhere in Alaska, the hard part is finding good people who can run with them. When you find good employees do what See McCALLUM, Page 22
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49TH STATE ANGEL FUND REACHES ROUND TWO By Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce Anchorage’s 49th State Angel Fund is in its second year and second round of solicitations for funding for entrepreneurs and business startups. So far one financing round is now completed and the fund has committed $2.09 million of $13.2 million that was made available in a federal grant to the Municipality of Anchorage, said Joe Morrison, the municipality’s manager for the program. Applications for a second round of funding are now in and are under review by the fund’s advisory body and solicitations for proposals for a third and final round of funding will go out later this year, Morrison said. The 49th State Angel Fund targets direct investments in ventures of $30,000 to $3 million, and indirect investments in funds of $100,000 to $5 million. The allocation of the $13.2 million to the Municipality of Anchorage was done under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, a federal program seeking to spur entrepreneurs and small businesses with small grants, given as “angel” investments. “An ‘angel’ investment is a form of early-stage investment that typically involves an individual investor providing money to help get a business off the ground or through an initial phase,” Morrison said. “Seed money is invested into what the angel hopes are high-growth business startups. Because there is considerable risk involved in this type of investment, a higher-than-average return on investment is expected.” There’s no rule of thumb but an angel investor typically wants to see a 10-to-1 return, or something in that range, on an investment, mostly through growth of the company. However, about 30 percent of new venture startups fail and about 50 percent return pay back less than the desired return. 12
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In most states, the money went to a state government development entity but in Alaska, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the state’s development corporation, does not fund venture-capitalists or business startups. AIDEA does financing and equity investment in mature projects. To take advantage of the federal program, Anchorage’s city government stepped forward and was awarded the federal grant. There are a few other cases of cities operating investment funds under the federal program, such as in Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota, but Morrison said these are typically contracted to third-party groups to administer. As far as Morrison knows, Anchorage is the only U.S. city actually administering a venture capital investment program. However, even here the city does the program in a partnership with the nonprofit Anchorage Economic Development Corp., which advises the city. Morrison said the fund’s investments don’t have to be in Anchorage-based firms but should demonstrate the ability to eventually benefit the community. “It must have potentially significant economic impacts for the city,” Morrison said. That’s not hard to do given that Anchorage is the state’s largest city with about half of Alaska’s population. In its first round of applications, the fund received 25 applications for direct investments and applications from three local venture capital investment funds. Morrison and AEDC Vice President Jon Bittner did an initial screening of these to ensure that they complied with the application requirements. As they were further reviewed, the list narrowed to five applicants, including applicants and funds, for a more thorough “due diligence” screening, although Morrison said his program is still working with a sixth applicant from the 2012 round. The final list was given to Anchor-
age Mayor Dan Sullivan and the city chief financial officer for decisions, and the two winners were chosen. After a review of the 2012 applications the advisory board gave a final recommendation to one $90,000 direct investment in a startup business and one investment of $2 million in a development fund, committing a total of $2.09 million, Morrison said. The company in which the 49th State Angel Fund invested was Fractal
Venture Capital — n. An investment in a startup business that is perceived to have excellent growth prospects but does not have access to capital markets. Type of financing sought by early-stage companies seeking to grow rapidly.
Oncall Solutions LLC of Anchorage for a new product the firm has developed, “callDR,” a telemedicine tool that allows physicians to consult quickly with medical specialists on audio or videoconference links. Fractal Oncall Solutions was formed in 2011 by a group of Alaska physicians to develop new telemedicine technologies, said Kevin Halvorson, its CEO. The $90,000 initial funding from the 49th State Angel Fund is expected to be the first part of a $410,000 further investment the fund may approve, Halvorson said. The investment fund selected was the Anchorage Opportunities Fund
started by local businessmen John Rubini and Mark Kroloff, who manage the fund. The 49th State Angel Fund invested $2 million to match the $2 million already in the Anchorage Opportunities Fund, Morrison said. Firms receiving investments must match the 49th State Angel Fund money with an equal amount of funds, or more, and demonstrate the capability of doing so, he said. It was always anticipated that most of the fund’s money would go indirectly to entrepreneurs through existing local venture capital groups because this is more efficient than direct investing.
That’s because these funds are run by private managers who often have their own money at risk too, so there is thorough scrutiny of venture capital deals by people with experience and a stake in their decisions. An investment fund also diversifies risk because the investment fund would put money into several ventures, and while some of these will fail others will succeed. Investing in a fund “helps create more early-stage capital structures within Anchorage,” Morrison said. That helps strengthen the local venture capital investment community, he said.
49th State Angel Fund Manager Joe Morrison Photo/Michael Dinneen/AJOC
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Alaska catching up to crowdfunding
From left, Kait Reiley of PopCycle, Alex Sheshunoff of Foodstart.com and Exit Glacier Augmented Reality App creator Nathan Shafer participate in a panel discussion on crowdfunding strategies sponsored by AEDC at Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Anchorage on April 26.
By Jon Bittner
Vice President, AEDC One of the hardest things to do when you are an early stage startup is to raise money. Taking your idea from the concept and prototype stage to production requires money and someone that believes in your dream enough to put their funds on the line to make them a reality. Even established businesses aren’t immune to the struggle to find enough outside capital to grow and expand. Alaska can be a particularly challenging place for business finance. We lack many of the institutions and mechanisms that entrepreneurs can take for granted in the Lower 48: angel investment groups, venture capital funds, network accredited investors, banks interested in high risk loans, etc. This is why new methods of financing are of such interest to Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, especially for entrepreneurs outside of Alaska's urban centers. One of the newer and more popular 16
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funding mechanisms out there right now is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding allows an individual or group to raise money in small increments from a large group of people online. There are several different types of crowdfunding: loans, equity-based and rewards-based. The most popular form of crowdfunding is rewards-based. The two most active rewards-based crowdfunding websites are www. kickstarter.com and www.indiegogo. com. Both sites were created around 2008, about the time of the global market crash. They were responding to the sudden lack of funding for the arts that accompanied the economic downturn. The sites allowed artists to appeal directly to their fans and more importantly their fans’ networks to raise the money necessary to create their next album, produce an independent film or publish their novel — the results were amazing! Millions of dollars were raised and thousands of projects were funded in a relatively short period of time. As the economic downturn contin-
ued, funding for startups and earlystage entrepreneurs also started to disappear. Innovators quickly realized that the model developed for funding art could just as easily be used to fund startups and prototypes. Since launching in 2008, Kickstarter has raised over $500 million for projects across the nation, more than $200 million in 2012 alone. Projections for the amount of money to be raised by rewards-based crowdfunding sites in 2013 are somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion dollars worldwide. Alaskans have already begun to take advantage of this new funding source to raise capital for everything from art to business to community projects. On Kickstarter alone, over the past four years nearly 80 Alaska-based projects have raised nearly $600,000. While that number may seem low in comparison to the large amount that have been raised nationwide, it is important to note the trend over time. See CROWDFUNDING, Page 20
AEDC takes on trustee role with Kiva Microfinancing site gives Alaska Dynamics a kickstart There are many different ways to donate money to people in impoverished countries. Lately, a successful method of alleviating poverty in parts of the world has emerged in the form of microfinancing. With microfinancing, people in impoverished areas can create opportunity for themselves through business ventures. Such ventures could be anything from starting a goat herding business or purchasing a batch of pigs. Kiva.org is a website that uses crowdfunding to microfinance in parts of the world that do not have access to a traditional banking system. Instead of offering fun perks to the lenders like most crowdfunding websites, Kiva borrowers must repay their debt. There is risk associated as there is no real guarantee that you will, in fact, be repaid. Recent statistics from Kiva.org say that the total amount lent through Kiva is more than $400 million and a repayment rate of 99 percent.
Photo/Courtesy/ Premal Shah
Alaska Dynamics founder Theo Graber and AEDC Vice President Jon Bittner met with Kiva.org founder Premal Shah at a White House event in June 2013. Graber's Delta-T generator was funded through Kiva with the help of AEDC. See story, next page.
In 2012, Kiva began experimenting with expanding their microfinancing offerings and launched a new program, Kiva Zip. Kiva Zip is focused on personto-person financing and only available in
Kenya and the United States. The intention is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed. Kiva Zip holds the See KIVA, Page 21
Time is now for financing startups in Alaska It’s a good time to be a small business in Alaska. “Fast Company” magazine recently named Alaska as one of the top five states for innovative startups. The national organization Startup America, which is dedicated to American entrepreneurship, says Alaska’s members have the nation’s eighth-highest revenue per startup. Alaska’s thriving small business sector is owed, in part, to the help of commercial lending through local banks and credit unions. Local lenders offer a variety of financing options to entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their small business. Loan programs have competitive rates and fees, while local banks and credit unions that have partnered with outside
organizations are able to offer a wider variety of programs. Other options, such as revolving lines of credit, commercial real estate loans and
equipment and construction loans, are all viable options for Alaska entrepreneurs. See startups, Page 21
AEDC’S BANKING INVESTORS Alaska USA Federal Credit Union
Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
Credit Union 1
Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union
First National Bank Alaska
Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union www.mvfcu.coop Northrim Bank
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GAME CHANGER Graber hopes to chip in to energy solution By Elwood Brehmer
Alaska Journal of Commerce
He’s been a machinist and a welder. He’s made beer, ice cream, cheese and vodka. Chat with Theo Graber for more than a minute and his passion for the “Why?” and the “How?” is clear. “I just kind of gravitated towards making things in all my careers,” Graber said. In his current startup venture Alaska Dynamics, Graber is combining technology used on long-range spacecraft with one of man’s earliest tools in an effort to help rural Alaska with its constant energy challenge. The Delta-T Wood Stove Generator merges thermoelectric modules with the otherwise lost heat traveling up a burning wood stove’s pipe to generate electricity. Graber said the idea first came to him in 2006 when he heard about NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, which was returning from investigating the outer planets of our Solar System. At the time he wondered what the Voyager was using for power on a mission far away from the Sun — the usual source of power for craft in space long-term. Following his passion for the why and how, Graber discovered the Voyager used compressed plutonium as a heat source from which thermoelectric modules generate electricity. Without getting overly scientific, thermoelectric modules produce electricity through temperature
Photo/ Michael Dinneen/ AJOC
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contrast. When dissimilar metals are looped together — with one end hot and one end cold — a small current of electricity is formed. Rather than using the heat of compressed plutonium and the cold of deep space, the Delta-T operates on the contrast between the heat of the smoke, or flue gas, and the relative cool of the room air. “One day I was kicking back in front of the wood stove at my friend’s cabin listening to the generator run outside. I’m watching the heat rippling off the stove pipe thinking, there’s got to be something we can do with that heat to generate power,” Graber described. It was then that he remembered the Voyager and the ideas meshed, he said. One thing Graber does not have is a background in engineering or inventing. He graduated from Washington State University with a degree in cultural anthropology. Graber said initial plans to become a professor changed when examined the road ahead — so he moved to Alaska. “One of the reasons I was fascinated by anthropology was I was fascinated by how people built things with really primitive tools,” he said. The prototype Delta-T is six inches wide at its end, 12 inches wide and 24 inches long. It replaces the first section of pipe above the stove. Graber said future models will fit other pipe sizes. “I want to make them to fit all stoves,” he said. To further the heat differential and increase the subsequent power produced, the Delta-T takes advantage of liquid heat exchangers to cool the metal fins and a catalytic burner increase the heat of the flue gas. When engaged, a catalytic burner
Prototype — n.
re-burns the smoke particulates to achieve maximum heat and fuel efficiency. They’re common in new wood stoves for those purposes already. They also reduce stove emissions by 30 percent to 50 percent — which is the reason similar technology is used in vehicle exhaust systems. None of a Delta-T’s parts are new technology, Graber said. They are just put together in a new way. “I’m trying to use as many off-theshelf components in this device as I can to ease the transition of getting it into the market and keeping manufacturing simple,” he said. “I’ve designed products before and I’ve always found it’s important not to reinvent the wheel.” The first Delta-T is currently under construction and Graber said he hopes to have it completed and ready for testing late this year. He expects the first unit to produce about 130 watts of power when the catalytic combustor is between 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough power for several lights, a radio or a small appliance or two. He’s currently in the process of securing patents for the Delta-T, so he’s hesitant to divulge photos or information about the technicalities of the design, but he’s excited about the future. “I can’t wait to share it once I get it done,” he said. The wires on the unit can be hooked directly into the wiring of the building or to a battery, depending on the set up. Sustaining a high stove temp is made easier by the catalytic combustor, so stoves without the built-in burner will be more efficient suppliers of heat burn less wood with the addition of a Delta-T. And while 130 watts is not a lot of power, his intent with the Delta-T was to design something that could be
1. the original or model on which something is based or formed; pattern 2. someone or something that serves as a typical example of a class; model; exemplar. 3. a first or experimental working model of something to be manufactured, usually on a large scale.
part of a multiple-source power supply, Graber said. If it is used to consistently charge a battery bank in a small cabin or home, a Delta-T could be a primary power source, he added. When the first unit is ready for sale after testing prototypes Graber plans to put a price tag of $1,000 on it — cheaper, and quieter, than a generator. Right now Delta-T development is going on in Graber’s Anchorage garage. If the worldwide interest he’s seen for it through the Alaska Dynamics website continues, he said he plans to open a small shop when the time comes. While the idea for the Delta-T was developed years ago, Graber said it sat dormant in the back of his mind for several years until he came upon a time when he wanted to try something new and a friend turned him on to a funding source for his idea. His last year has been devoted to the Delta-T, it has become his fulltime job, something that wouldn’t have been possible without a Kiva Zip startup loan and the generosity of people he’s never met. The Kiva Zip loan program provides individuals with aspirations to start or expand a business the opportunity to procure small no interest loans through crowdfunding. Prospective lenders can investigate projects such as Graber’s on Kiva’s website and lend as little as $25 or fund a project entirely. Loan recipients have a six-month grace period with which to work followed by a 12-month payback term. Graber’s loan was for $5,000. He said the application process was mostly about telling his story. Anchorage Economic Development Corp. is a trustee for Kiva Zip with the responsibility for vetting borrowers to ensure they meet the program criteria. Graber’s application went online in December 2012 and more than half his funding came from outside Alaska. “You’re selling yourself as much as the idea you have and you’re vouched for by a local organization, in my case that was AEDC,” he said. “In a little See cover story, Page 36
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Kickstarter Projects by Category and Year Film
Sum of Money Raised for each Year. Color showsHardware details about Category. The marks labeled by for Category. Sum ofare money raised each year. Color shows details about category. $60,000.00 The marks are labeled by category. Music
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Kickstarter campaigns begins in 2010. During 2010 there were only seven Art projects, all together the projects raised Book a little more than $50,000 from 481 Dance backers in six cities. In 2011, there were Film 17 projects that raised $175,000 from an amazing 2,400 backers in six cities. Food GameDuring 2012 the upward trend continued with 29 projects successfully Hardware raising $222,000 from 3,250 backers in Music nine cities! Already in 2013 we are seePhotography ing numbers that have Alaska on track Theater to post the largest numbers yet. In early 2013 there were 11 Alaska projects that had raised $100,000 from 1,285 backers in six cities. This is already dwarfs the numbers from 2010. While Anchorage does account for the largest share of Kickstarter funds raised at $214,337, the remote community of Barrow accounts for the next highest share with $102,616 followed closely by Juneau with $89,204, Fairbanks with $60,320 and Homer with $58,592. Rural communities are represented with projects funded in Noatak, Unalakleet, Aleutians West, Kenai, Delta Junction and Hoonah. Together these rural communities raised a combined $28,626. The projects being funded so far are mainly in the art category with music being the most common type of funded project at 21 projects. The next most common type of Alaska project is film (14) and books (11). But there have also been video game concepts, hardware, community events, and food projects funded. Fairbanks used the power of crowdfunding to get its local community involved and engaged. In 2011, the Solstice Festival Firework funding was cancelled due to budget constraints. Instead of accepting defeat, the Downtown Fairbanks Association decided to reach out to the community directly and asked them to crowdfund the event. They ended up raising almost 50 percent more money than they needed and the community really came together
Continued Kickstarter Projects by Category and Year from Page 16 Kickstarter Projects The first year we have data for Alaska by Category and Year
to keep a tradition alive. Alaska’s most successful Kickstarter project, to date, was for the film “On the Ice” out of Barrow. The team who created the award-winning film needed funds to release their movie. Using Kickstarter, they set a goal of $80,000 — they ended their campaign with $85,690. On the business side, local Anchorage entrepreneur Kait Reiley recently created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy a commercial kitchen to support her popular bicycle-based popsicle business, PopCycle. She needed the facility to expand her business and provide even more delicious popsicles made from Alaska grown ingredients. She raised just under $13,000 in less than three weeks and her new mobile kitchen was delivered to Anchorage in May! These are just a few of the many amazing projects that were made
possible through community engagement and new online tools. There is no doubt that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of seeing new projects and programs attempt to use
crowdfunding to bring new ideas and events to Alaska. It's a fantastic way to spur community input, support local entrepreneurs, and keep Alaska's art community vibrant.
provide borrowers with ongoing support and business coaching. In Fairbanks the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation is a Kiva Zip trustee as well. After thorough vetting with AEDC and SBDC, Anchorage’s first Kiva Zip borrower went online on Dec. 8, 2012. The borrower was Alaska Dynamics, LLC and they were requesting a loan of $5,000. The loan would be to allow for them to build and test a working prototype of the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator – a thermoelectric generator that will generate on-site power from a
wood stove pipe. In just over a week the project was more than 65 percent funded. In one month, Alaska Dynamics fully funded their project through the Kiva Zip program. Of their funding, more than 50 percent came from outside of Alaska! AEDC was happy to see that new investment money was being pumped into Alaska. Since Jan. 15, 2013, they have been in repayment and have begun prototyping the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator. It will be exciting to see where this project goes!
Development Corporation, shows that consumer optimism reached a record high in the first quarter of 2013, while unemployment remained low. These numbers indicate a high level of participation in the local economy and a promising future for Alaska’s small business owners. The trend isn’t limited to the 49th state, however. This year has seen an increase in the number of small busi-
ness loans submitted, as well as in the amounts that are approved across the nation, thanks to the funding of U.S. banks and credit unions. In April, the optimism of small business owners helped to push stock prices back up to record levels. With half of the nation’s private sector workforce employed by small business, this is very good news for the small business sector in Alaska and beyond.
Continued from Page 17 same concept that debt will be repaid to the lender by the borrower. Last year AEDC became the first trustee in Alaska for the Kiva Zip program. Partnering with the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC), AEDC worked to to identify Alaska businesses that would benefit from the Kiva Zip funding model. As a trustee to Kiva Zip, AEDC plays a crucial role in the program by recommending borrowers for the Kiva Zip loan and ensuring they meet the program criteria. In addition, AEDC and SBDC
Continued from Page 17 According to the Business Confidence Index Report released by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, business confidence this year is up from 2012, marking the most positive outlook for Anchorage’s economy in the five years that the index has been measured. The Anchorage Consumer Optimism Index (ANCi) report, also released by the Anchorage Economic
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Continued from Page 11 it takes to keep them happy. OUR STRENGTH
IS TURNING THIS INTO
Q A Do your homework, read up on what Angels look for, don't
What is your advice for entrepreneurs looking for angel funding?
show up gushing on about how good your idea is. You need to quickly state what main point you are addressing. Angels want potential customer validation, "have you been out talking to them and why your product or service has a competitive advantage to what's available?" They want to see skin in the game, preferably money and not just time. They also like to see that other angels are stepping up, which is another form of validation.
Q A Triverus LLC in Palmer. They are not exactly a startup but they
What is an example of a successful Alaska startup that you have worked with?
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Gearspoke platform offers GEAr-to-peer rentals Photo/Michael Dinneen/AJOC
By Molly Dischner
Alaska Journal of Commerce Need a bike for a weekend ride from Bird to Gird? Looking for a dipnet to land some reds on the Chitina? A group of Anchorage entrepreneurs launched www.gearspoke.com in fall 2012, an online business that connects outdoor gear owners with adventureseekers who want to rent it. The online rental platform is a peerto-peer service. Anyone with a bike in their closet that doesn’t get used everyday, or some other piece of equipment, 24
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can create an account and list their item and the price to rent it. When someone needing to use a certain type of gear finds something they want to borrow, they log in, contact the lender and arrange to get the item. Gearspoke takes care of the financial transaction through Paypal, and takes a percentage for doing so. So far, the site is still getting rolling, and the 10 percent cut isn’t translating into big profits. But Gearspoke’s expenses are relatively low — they hold meetings at a coffee shop, one member donates the web space, and the team members work
other jobs to pay their bills. Paul Davidson, one of the two founders still involved in Gearspoke, said he’d like to see the project team turn into a full-time paid gig, and be able to hire additional employees. In the spring, they had six people on the project, five of whom were actively working on it. For now, they consider it a labor of love. Davidson actually made the first gear rental under the Gearspoke auspices, a road bike before the site even went live. It’s a useful service in a community as outdoor-oriented as Anchorage, he said.
The Gearspoke team at West Chester Lagoon in Anchorage. From left to right are, Vice President of Sales Brittany Raney, Senior Developer Ryan Nixon, CEO Paul Davidson, Lead Developer Kyle Savage and Chief Operating Officer Linda Janes.
Seed Stage — adj. In context of private equity, the state of a company when it has just been incorporated and its founders are developing their product or service.
While there’s been a slow uptick in activity, Davidson said they’re waiting for a bigger increase in use. That will likely come from local users, who have the gear to offer and might also decide to browse and see what they could borrow. Eventually he sees it as a possible place for tourists to find what they need for an Alaska adventure. Gearspoke is also working with retailers so that local rental companies can list their own gear, offering them an additional way to connect with customers. And once it gains in popularity, Davidson said, it could move beyond
Anchorage, to other Alaska communities, and even elsewhere in the country. While Gearspoke is about connecting people who want to get outdoors, it’s not really just a sporting goods company. Davidson said it’s a technology startup, too. The business grew out of an incubator event at University of Alaska Anchorage called Three Day Startup in March 2011. He didn’t know his collaborators until that event, but over the course of three days, they came up with the idea of connecting people to items others didn’t need to use. To fit the Alaska market, they decided to focus on outdoor gear. As the event team drafted their startup plans, they realized the idea had merit. Now, just two of the original participants are still part of the project team. They launched it on their own, with no outside investors, although they’ve received a lot of support from the Anchorage business and technology community. “I was surprised the amount of technology community there is here,” Davidson said. Much of the work in bringing the idea to life has revolved around programming. Two members of the Gearspoke team came from the computer science world, and have built the site. Today, the site itself could eventually be profitable, too. Davidson and Ryan Nixon, one of the computer science gurus, said they have received positive feedback on their code. Eventually, they might be able to sell the rights to use it to other entities. With less than a year since the Beta version of the site launched, Gearspoke is still getting rolling. Right now, there are more than 60 items listed for rent on the site, and the most common items listed are bikes. Outdoor gear is defined pretty loosely. The site’s offerings include a nail gun, books and beverage dispensers in addition to the tents, boats and backpacks. And Davidson said it could expand beyond that variety. Next, there may be a niche for heavy-equipment rentals conducted through the site, he said.
But for now, the focus is on spreading the word. The more people use it, the more confident other new users will feel, Davidson said. The Gearspoke team is also working on updates to make it more palatable to newcomers. Currently, the site provides certain measures of security — users have access to a Gearspokespecific messaging system so that they don’t have to provide personal information initially, and both renters and gear providers can be reviewed, so that other users know how past transactions have gone. But that isn’t helping yet. “Because it’s so new, there’s no ratings and reviews yet. So what we’ve done is, we’ve started building a deposit system as well as working on an insurance system,” Davidson said. Those should be included in the next iteration of the site, Nixon said. That version will also include a change so that users don’t have to rely on Paypal. To help with those advances, Gearspoke is hoping the 49th State Angel Fund will make an investment into the business and have applied for the second round of grants to be issued this fall. Davidson and the team are also working to increase their visibility. This summer, they’re attending various community events and festivals, trying to make people aware of the site. “We’re just getting a marketing team in place,” he said in May, as company prepared for its summer efforts. Summer is the prime time for adventures, Davidson said, so he was hopeful that as Anchorage residents flocked outside, they’d start logging on and looking for gear to rent or posting the items they weren’t using as often. “We have a lot of people visiting the site, it’s very obvious in our analytics that people are interested. We have, what, 40-50 people visit the site a day and nobody ever logs in,” Nixon said. The marketing team will be tasked with getting people to the site, and most importantly, logged in and renting. INN VAT R
Maker movement makes way to Anchorage By Jon Bittner
Vice President, AEDC The Maker movement has been picking up steam for about a decade now, largely spurred by a number of advances in manufacturing technology that has allowed for devices usually only found in high tech research labs and manufacturing floors to be affordable to individuals. This transition is reminiscent of the move from room-sized computers found only on high tech college campuses to personal computers sold to individual consumers in the 1980s. Combine the availability of cheap, high-end manufacturing equipment coupled with the power of the Internet to connect and educate people and you have the makings of a grassroots industrial revolution. Makers across the world are using this newly available technology to create some amazingly cutting edge technology, oftentimes in nothing more than a refurbished basement. A group in San Francisco is working on a 3-D printer that can print organic material (think printable skin and organs), Makers in Seattle have come up with creative renewable energy solutions for Third World consumers, and a high school student recently developed an electronic device to allow mobile phones to reach full charge in less than a minute. These people often have little or no formal training, outside support or funding. What they do have is a dream and the drive to see that dream made into reality. Not all the tools Makers might need have become cheap enough to be owned by individuals, especially
Makerspace â€” n. A shared community workspace with equipment for Makers to build, learn and teach their skills. 26
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those that only need the tool for a single project or short period of time. That's where Makerspaces come in. Makerspaces are shared workspaces that house a variety of high-end tools, computers, programs and materials. They are generally membership based and open 24-7 to accomodate the varying schedules of members. Not only do the spaces provide tools, but there is also a strong educational component to most Makerspaces. Often Makerspaces host workshops, training and exhibitions on a constant basis. Most importantly though, is the
A Learning Lab at Loussac Library in Anchorage.
A Makerspace in San Francisco.
opportunity for collaboration and connection between Makers with various skills and interests. Makerspaces are a mixing pot of innovation and creativity allowing ideas to thrive and grow. This concept is well established in the Lower 48 and even globally, with thousands of Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (a more digital version of a Makerspace) present in almost every country on earth. Alaska has been slow to pick up the trend, but recently we have seen an explosion of Maker-related activity in the state. Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) recently partnered with MIT's Bit and Atoms program to build up a Fabrication Lab near the Anchorage Daily News building. They hope to open summer of 2013 with 3-D printers, laser cutters, a CNC router and a bank of computers with 3-D modeling programs.
In 2013 a group of local Makers formed the Anchorage Makerspace Group (AMG). AMG is planning on crowdfunding the startup costs associated with getting a Makerspace up and running in Anchorage. Dimond High School has a basic Makerspace available to its students, offering shop class for future Makers. These new facilities and the Makers that use them are part of a loosely defined movement characterized by the desire to create or invent things, to take commercial products apart and learn how they work, and to then rebuild them and try to make them better. They are the modern world version of tinkerers, inventors, blacksmiths and citizen scientists and they are going to change the way we make just about everything.
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Hackathon connects local tech talent By Jon Bittner
Vice President, AEDC Finding new ways to grow and develop Alaska's economy is a large part of what Anchorage Economic Development Corporation does. Collecting and analyzing reams of economic and demographic data in order to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities is how AEDC develops long-term economic development strategies.
Hackathon — n. Event in which computer programmers, software developers and anyone with an affinity for computers collaborate intensely for a short period of time on software projects. 28
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But data alone can't tell the whole story. Along with our analyses, AEDC also conducts extensive interviews with businesses across the state to discover three simple things: What are the advantages to being in Alaska? What are the disadvantages? What can AEDC do to help? You would be amazed at how much insight you can gain from those three simple questions. An excellent case in point is the success of the second Alaska Hackathon this past April. During a series of interviews with technology companies in Alaska, AEDC heard again and again that while there were benefits to growing a tech company in Alaska — finding local talent to fill job openings was becoming increasingly difficult. Some companies were interested in finding self-taught Alaskans interested in working in the technology industry, others wanted a way to showcase the active and talented programmers already here in order to attract more from outside Alaska. A third group just wanted more exposure to other programmers and technology companies for collaboration and possible contract work. From these insights AEDC developed the idea for Alaska’s first Hackathon: an event that would bring together programmers, students and technology companies for a weekend with government representatives and their datasets. Working together with a common goal, Alaska’s first Hackathon sought to find ways to improve the community. AEDC wanted the event to be a fun, non-competitive way for talented individuals to showcase what they can do, give back to their community and possibly find a job in Alaska's growing technology industry. The event was an amazing success with more than 20 programmers completing five applications using the data provided.
One app integrated GPS data on People Mover buses to let riders know when to go to the bus stop. Another developer used Department of Labor jobs data to create an app that would help people change careers based on skill sets and current job listings. For the second Alaska Hackathon, AEDC wanted to make the event even bigger and more engaging for Alaska's programmer community. AEDC enlisted the help of some of the best technology companies in Alaska including PangoMedia, RDI, GCI, IndieInfoTech, and PT Design as well as other organizations such as Connect Alaska, Alaska Chamber of Commerce and Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) to make sure that we provided all of the support and expertise necessary to let Alaska's programmers really showcase their abilities. The second Alaska Hackathon partnered with a dozen Alaska nonprofits. More than 30 programmers answered the call to participate this past April. The participants worked to try and solve the technology-based problems faced by these Alaska nonprofits. What these men and women came up with in one brief weekend was
nothing short of amazing. One group, led by local augmented reality expert Nathan Shafer, created an application that allows users to locate art installations in Mountain View on their smartphones and tablets. Once at the installation, the user can then use their device camera to scan the art. This loads additional information about the art, including video, artist biographies, local history, etc. Another group worked with Anchorage Parks Foundation (APF) to create an app allowing Anchorage residents to adopt sections of park or roadside vegetation and keep it invasive species-free. Pictures of questionable plants could then be sent to experts working with APF to make sure they had the right culprits. These are just two examples from a number of amazing projects developed at the second Alaska Hackathon. Alaskans are capable of producing cutting edge, high tech
products and get to do it surrounded not by traffic jams and cubicles, but by breathtaking mountains, world-class skiing and some of the best fishing you could wish for. The Alaska Hackathon proved to benefit local businesses looking to fill technology positions. Many used it as a means to identify local talent for open positions. Likewise, local programmers got to use their unique skills to give back to the community and showcase their abilities. INN VAT R
Simply Social on track for next STEP By Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce It was less a year ago that Tyler Arnold, of Anchorage, and two European partners, Jeroen Erne and Valetin Bora, launched software company Simply Social. Business startups are always highrisk, but after half a year of proving its concept and attracting its first customers, Simply Social is on track and ready for its next stage of assembling a marketing team and growing the company past its initial stage. Arnold isn’t even old enough to rent a car yet — he’s 20, and turns 21 in late July — but he was down in Silicon
Valley in June with Erne making calls on venture capital investors. Luckily, Erne, who is 29, is old enough to rent the car so the two were mobile enough to make their rounds of appointments. Simply Social — www. gosimplysocial.com —has developed new software that helps companies or institutions manage social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in their marketing. Basically, company marketing staffs will be able to navigate and use new media without having to hire technical staffs. The three partners developed the tools in 2011 and 2012 and tested them with prospective customers in Anchorage, where Arnold lives and has
contacts, and then went public with the products and the company a year ago. “Our goal is to making using these tools as easy as using e-mail,” Arnold said in an interview last year. Simply Social’s initial investment came from a group of 14 “angel” investors, 10 of them in Alaska, who were impressed with the vision and energy of the three young entrepreneurs despite youth and inexperience. The company has really only been engaged in marketing since last fall, but Arnold said that 57 firms and institutions are now using or trying out the software. Some of these are in Alaska but the majority are based in the Lower 48. There were some interesting things
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learned even in the first few months. One is that Arnold and his partners originally thought small businesses would be the primary customers for the software. However, even the initial marketing showed a strong interest by larger firms and institutions. For now at least, that is where Simply Social is putting its emphasis, Arnold said. “We’re meeting our goals, but in different ways than we expected,” he said. For the first half-year, Arnold and Erne have done most of the marketing (Bora, who lives in eastern Europe, handles the technical end) but the company’s marketing efforts are now being ramped up. Arnold said a new head of marketing began work June 1 and a head of product development will start work July 1. The new head of marketing is Erik Schmidt.
From left to right, Simply Social founders Valentin Bora, Tyler Arnold and Jeroen Erne. Photos/Courtesy/Simply Social
The current round of visits that Arnold and Erne are making with venture capital groups in Silicon Valley are intended to raise funds for the next stage of development, the buildup of the marketing effort. The goal is to raise $1 million from new investors to do that. Making the rounds in Silicon Valley has also been a learning experience for Arnold and Erne. “We’re small for most of these people. They like to make investments in the $5 million to $20 million range. Some tell us they don’t like to write checks for under $10 million,” Arnold said. Money is being raised, and Arnold expects to finish raising what’s needed for this phase by the end of June, but there are a lot people who are interested and want to be contacted again when Simply Social gets further along, and bigger. What’s most interesting, however, is the culture of the investment community in the region, Arnold said. “It’s pretty amazing, to see business being done with just vision and a handshake,” he said. “The first time we raised money in meetings with investors in Alaska or northern Europe, we focused on a very methodical business plan,” which turned out to be a mistake in California. “We blew our first couple of presentations,” Arnold said. What the two quickly learned in that venture capital groups there are more interested in vision and the big picture.
“They want to see you being wildly ambitious, and shooting for the stars. These people are managing funds of $200 million to $1.5 billion million and they want the investments they make to really move the needle,” in growth, he said. For young people like Arnold and Erne there’s a lot of vision and not much track record, but that’s not really an obstacle if the vision and ambition are there. “They can see quickly whether you have it or not,” Arnold said. “You can be a good leader and have integrity, but the vision in important. It’s really hard to find good people with big visions, so that’s what we’re pitching.” Arnold, Erne and Bora see the growth potential for Simply Social not only in North America but in northern Europe as well. Erne had developed his own advertising firm in Almere, near Amsterdam, but sold the company to focus on developing Simply Social. Bora lives and works in Timisoara, in western Romania, where he has lived and worked as an IT consultant for several years. All three had worked together on projects through the Internet – Arnold had formed his previous company, TylerSystems, when he was 17. The trio met the first time face-toface in 2010, in Europe, liked each other and decided to form Simply Social.
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Nerds and NERF guns PangoMedia morphs from web design to software engineering By Elwood Brehmer
Alaska Journal of Commerce On a Friday in May, PangoMedia Inc. closed up shop early to give everyone in the office a chance to see “Star Trek: Into Darkness” on its first day in theaters. “We’re really just a bunch of nerds,” PangoMeida President Geoff Wright said. “The office is full of NERF guns.” Wright said he and fellow owner, PangoMedia CEO Craig Fisher, try to foster a relaxed, creative work atmosphere at their computer programming and software design firm. The multi-colored carpet, open office doors with cartoon strips pasted to them and blue jean attire give PangoMedia a sort of “clubhouse feel,” as Fisher described it. Wright said the non-traditional office sprouts from the pair’s lack of formal business training, but also partially
PangoMedia developer David Seger works under the watchful eye of the late President Richard Nixon throwing a bowling ball. Photo/Michael Dinneen/AJOC
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Kyle Easterly, his puppy Zues and Natalia Gavrish consult in their office at PangoMedia.
from necessity. They strive to conduct business in an employee-friendly, “Alaskan kind of way,” he said. It’s a way to stick out in a small, isolated city. “The environment up here (in Alaska) is competitive as hell and we need to be the kind of place where people want to be,” Wright emphasized. PangoMedia began as Alaska Network Technologies when it was formed by Wright’s brother and a friend in the late 1990s. At the time, Wright said it was “literally a spare bedroom company,” ran out of the roommates’ home. The company was originally into website design when companies were first discovering how they could use the Internet, but that focus has since changed, Wright said. “Gradually the workload we did morphed. More and more we got into larger technical jobs and the ad
agencies eventually figured out the website work,” he said. “Really what we are is a software engineering company now.” The name change occurred about 10 years ago after Wright came aboard and the trio was searching for a web domain name to match their company. Pango was available and is Latin for “rebuild,” so the name stuck, Wright said. Fisher joined PangoMedia in 2004 when the company had a staff of around 10 people. When he and Wright bought the company a couple years later, Fisher said the pair had to learn to step away from the details of programming in order to focus on managing their growing business. Both men said the change wasn’t easy — they’re computer guys, not businessmen. “You start a business with a vision like a lot of times you start college
The PangoMedia team pose for a photo before a Friday afternoon treat from Moose's Tooth. At the table are President Geoff Wright, left, and CEO Craig Fisher, right. From left to right standing are Dan Cappel, Andrea Anderson, Julie Garcia, Wolf Donat, Kyle Easterly, Justin Kyle, Ariel Webster, Natalia Gavrish, Mike Troxell, Jason Seger, Greg von dem Bach, Jason Slemons and Joe Mumm. Photo/Michael Dinneen/AJOC
with a major,” Fisher said. “Life doesn’t work that way; sometimes you’ve got to change. We discovered running the business was not the same as doing what we were doing before.” He added, “The whole (concept) that you have to have a definitive business plan to be successful — if that were true we wouldn’t be here.” Wright said not knowing any better can help in running a small business. “You need that naivety to think it will work,” he said. A valuable business lesson about the importance of money management was learned through the mistakes of another when Wright and Fisher looked into purchasing a small IT firm. The prospective seller was so deep in debt “he would have had to pay us to take it,” Fisher said. “I don’t know how his bank let him get that deep.”
A sign of the fun around the PangoMedia office is a dartboard near Andrea Andersin working at the front counter.
See pangoMEDIA, Page 36
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The Chariot Group drives forward A/V firm blends tech, service and social collaboration The Chariot Group CEO Rick Thomas, center, surrounded by his team from left to right: Director of Education and Training Services Dr. Dale Cope, Director of Operations Eliseo Barrera, Director of Finance Jennifer Arquette, Systems Technician Alex Wilson, Technical Services Manager Scott LeClaire, and Chief Financial Officer and Co-owner Denise Thomas. Photo/Michael Dinneen/AJOC
By Molly Dischner
Alaska Journal of Commerce Today, The Chariot Group is mature company with offices in four states and an ever-increasing array of services. But in 1999, when the business launched, it was just a bedroom audio-visual startup in Anchorage and its first product offering was multimedia projectors. Since then, CEO Rick Thomas has witnessed continual change in the audio-visual industry and he now offers a wide-variety of goods, from interactive tables used in elementary schools to smart boards for conference 34
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rooms and digital displays for use in digital signage. And the change isn’t over. The next focus will be on how people work together and collaborate, and how technology aids that. Technology has gone from being inherently individual — creating data — to social — sharing information. “We’re now in the process of solving the ‘how do we work together?’ part,” Thomas said. Inside Chariot Group’s office on Denali Street in Anchorage, the company is already using some of the answers to that question. The building is filled with smart
spaces used for Chariot Group business, and also has three rooms available for rent to others needing temporary connectivity. One conference room has tables facing two interactive smart boards at the front of the room. Using an iPad app, someone can join the discussion on the smart board from anywhere in the world. At the end of the meeting, collaborations are saved without the need for a notetaker to record them separately. Thomas has long tried to engage the market a little differently than others. He and his wife, Denise, started The Chariot Group at the height of the dotcom era.
Thomas worked in the audio-visual industry, and his previous experience allowed him to understand how the industry functioned and helped educate him on possible ways to improve it, he said. “Our goal was to put the service back into technology business,” Thomas said. In doing so, The Chariot Group wanted to maintain respectful relationships with their customers, employees and business partners, and do really good work, in addition to making a profit, Thomas said. The company was launched from their home, moving first to a small office
where they spent two years, and then to the current office in Midtown Anchorage where The Chariot Group’s space has grown from 2,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. Now, the company also has offices in Oregon, Washington and Utah, and clients who work all over the country, in nearly every industry. A key to success has been keeping pace — or even staying ahead — of changes. So while The Chariot Group has more than a decade of growth under its belt, Thomas is constantly trying to stay abreast of where things are headed. New technology is still coming to the business market and the education market. The Chariot Group has a history with cutting-edge technology. The company was one of the first to provide video conferencing systems in the state, Thomas said, and the first to do IP-based video conferencing. “Our specialty is identifying emerging technologies and bringing them to market,” he said. The Chariot Group doesn’t just offer any new product. Thomas is particularly focused on what is useful, and what will make a difference to his clients. The Chariot Group also helped make interactive whiteboards viable and ushered them into widespread use. Now, they are used by most school districts in Alaska. “We made it visible,” Thomas said. More recently, keeping pace with changes meant expanding The Chariot Group’s educational and training services. Instead of just offering products, The Chariot Group offers training so that other businesses can use those products efficiently. The Chariot Group hired its first educator four years ago, and initially focused on school districts, where it would teach teachers how to use the technology. Now, it works with all sorts of businesses to use technology effectively. The Chariot Group University is about continuing education for a changing work environment, Thomas said. If technology is not easy to use, it won’t get used.
Essentially, Thomas said, he’s in the group communications business, not the audio-visual business. He’s just trying to provide the services needed for communication beyond the personto-person level. Thomas says he isn’t a tech guy. He just wants to get the work done well, he said. “What I have to do to do my job well and play the trusted advisor role is to understand what a client needs and address that need,” he said. For someone who’s not a “techy,” Thomas is quite tuned in. To keep pace with changing technology, Thomas cultivates relationships with manufacturers and serves on technical advisory committees, even helping with product development. “There is truly an amazing transformation coming in how people work together,” Thomas said. He also cited the Chamber of Commerce, Buy Alaska and Anchorage Economic Development Corp. as three valuable resources for businesses in the state. To fulfill its service mission, Thomas said The Chariot Group also focuses on user interface and making products user-friendly. “When somebody walks into this room, they’ve gotta just know how it works,” Thomas said. “We’re good at the user interface side of system design.” Much of the work to make technology useful is built into The Chariot Group’s operations. Every audio-visual system the company builds for a client is designed using particular software. Then, when the technician is building an equipment rack, he or she labels every wire properly. Later, if there’s ever a question about a component, it’s easy for the service team at The Chariot Group to check the plans and see the exact specifications of the rack and find a solution. Early on, Thomas did all aspects of the business, from selling products to installing them. His wife did everything from place orders to build the company’s See CHARIOT group, Page 36
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Chariot Group: Continued from Page 35
The Chariot Group coowners and founders Rick and Denise Thomas started their business in a spare bedroom in 1999. The company now has offices in four states.
first website. As the business grows, his familiarity with all aspects of their operations has been an asset, he said. “I love what I do,” Thomas said. “Even in the deepest, darkest, most difficult time, I would have it no other way. What I’m most proud of is our reputation. We’re not perfect, but the majority of the feedback I get is extremely positive.”
Continued from Page 19 over a month I was fully funded. It blew my mind. People I don’t even know across the country are going to put money towards my project and have faith in me to do this.” He said AEDC Vice President Jon Bittner got him in touch with Kiva officials after learning about Graber’s hopes for Alaska Dynamics. In June Graber represented Alaska as a Kiva Zip recipient at a Champions of Change event held at the White House. “All of the events (Champions of Change does) have to do with how small businesses can improve communities and crowdfunding is a great way to
showcase that,” he said. He said representatives from the Department of Treasury and the Small Business Administration held panel discussions with crowdfunded entrepreneurs from across the country about the government’s role in regulating crowdfunding. Currently, investors in most such programs are provided no assurance that their money will be put towards a project — it’s done on the honor system, which is working, Graber said. The faith of others has inspired Graber to subsequently invest in the ventures of others, he said, as a way to “pay it forward in local projects.”
PangoMedia: Continued from Page 33
After that, the pair paid much closer attention to their books and focused on paying off any outstanding debt as quickly as possible, Wright said. For several years now the pair has gone on an annual winter weekend retreat to Alyeska Resort. While both are avid skiers, play is not part of the retreat in the winter 36
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paradise, Fisher said. “It’s definitely a work retreat,” he said. The retreat gives them an opportunity to examine PangoMedia’s operations, see where they are headed and discuss any possible changes, he added. During the deepest part of the recent recession in 2010, the decision was made not to change.
Administrative costs were cut in every way possible, Wright said, but staff was retained. They knew the climate would improve. Clients were telling them they had business they wanted to do but didn’t have a need for at the time. The decision paid off. “We came out busier and stronger than ever,” Wright said.
2013 AEDC BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair Joseph Everhart Alaska Region President Wells Fargo N.A. 2013 Voting Members: Alaska Airlines
Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President, Alaska
Alaska Communications Michael Todd, SVP, Technology Services
Vice Chair Timothy Vig President, USKH
Hotel Captain Cook Raquel Edelen, Vice President of Operations
Dennis Mitchell, Lynden International Vice President
Alaska Railroad Corporation
BDO USA, LLP (formerly Mikunda, Cottrell and Co.)
Alaska Regional Council of Carpenters
Northern Air Cargo Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska
Dale Wade, Vice President, Business Development
Scott Hansen, Business Manager
Alaska USA Federal Credit Union David Hamilton, Executive Director, Business & Commercial Services
Chris Brown, Director of Business Planning Management
Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot
Suzanne Cherot, Shareholder and Attorney
Tom Pennington, VP Finance
Terry Bailey, Vice President - Alaska Professional Services
Chugach Alaska Corporation Sheri Buretta, Chief Executive Officer
Sophie Minich, President & Chief Executive Officer
Bob Heinrich, VP/Finance
Stewart Osgood, President
James Hasle, Managing Partner
Lynn Henderson, Director of Sales, Alaska Market
Bruce Bustamante, Vice President
Professional Growth Systems William Dann, President
Providence Alaska Medical Center Kirsten Schultz, Director for Communications & Marketing
The Wilson Agency, LLC Lon Wilson, President
Totem Ocean Trailer Express George Lowery, Alaska Director
Jack Sheppard, President and COO
Dale Shaw, Managing Director
First National Bank Alaska John Hoyt, Senior Vice President
Greg Pearce, VP & GM Businesses Services, GCI
Ex-Officio Members: Appointed by the Board AIDEA
Chris Anderson, Deputy Director
Alaska Pacific University Dr. Don Bantz, President
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Andrew Halcro, President
Anchorage Downtown Partnership Chris Schutte, Executive Director
Anchorage School District Ed Graff, Superintendent
Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility Andrew Eker Board Representative
Tennys Owens, President
Chris Stephens Commercial Brokerage
Chris Stephens, Associate Broker
Chugiak - Eagle River Chamber of Commerce
Susan Gorski, Executive Director
Brian Nerland, District President
Municipal Light & Power Jim Posey, General Manager
Past Chairman of the AEDC Board Ex-Officio Members: Alaska Legislators
Representative Mia Costello Representative Lindsey Holmes Senator Johnny Ellis Senator Lesil McGuire
ExxonMobil Corporation Kimberley J. Fox, Public Affairs Manager
Secretary/Treasurer Michael Prozeralik President, kpb architects
Ex-Officio Members: Municipality of Anchorage
Mayor Dan Sullivan Senior Policy Advisor, Larry Baker Assembly Chair, Ernie Hall Assembly Member, Chris Birch
Larry Cash, President & CEO
State of Alaska, Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Roberta Graham, Assistant Commissioner
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
John Parrot, Airport Manager
University of Alaska Anchorage Elisha "Bear" Baker, Provost & Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs
Julie Saupe, President & CEO
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AEDC MEMBERS Diamond $20,000+ Alaska Airlines, Inc. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility BP Exploration The Chariot Group ConocoPhillips ExxonMobil Production Company
GCI McDowell Group, Inc. Morris Alaska/ Alaska Journal of Commerce Municipal Light and Power Municipality of Anchorage Port of Anchorage
Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska Professional Growth Systems Solid Waste Services Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Walsh Sheppard Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
Platinum $10,000 - $19,999 Alaska Communications Systems Group, Inc. Alaska Integrated Media Anchorage Community Development Authority Anchorage Media Group Coastal Television Broadcasting DOWL HKM Flint Hills Resources Alaska, LLC Hotel Captain Cook KTUU TV BDO USA, LLP (formerly Mikunda, Cottrell and Co.) Northrim Bank Providence Alaska Medical Center Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Inc.
Calista Corporation CH2M Hill Chugach Alaska Corporation Chugach Electric Association CIRI Clear Channel Radio Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union DenaliTek Incorporated Era Alaska FedEx Express First National Bank Alaska Grant Thornton LLP IMIG Audio/ Video KeyBank kpb architects Lynden Inc. Orthopedic Physicians Anchorage Pebble Limited Partnership Princess Tours R&M Consultants Shell Exploration and Production Swissport Thompson and Company USKH Inc Weidner Apartment Homes The Wilson Agency, LLC
Alaska Executive Search Alaska Heart Institute Alaska National Insurance Company Alaska Neurodiagnostic and Rehabilitation Medicine Alaska Public Telecommunications, Inc. Alaska Railroad Corporation Anchorage Daily News Artique, Ltd. BAC Transportation Better Business Bureau BiNW Brews Brothers, LLC Carlile Transportation Systems Coffman Engineers Inc. Cook Inlet Housing Authority CRW Engineering Group LLC Dowland Bach Corporation Eklutna, Inc JL Properties, Inc. JW Industries Koniag, Inc. Michael Baker Jr., Inc. Morrison Auto Group NANA Development Corporation Northern Air Cargo Odom Corporation Penco Properties Petrotechnical Resources Alaska (PRA) Porcaro Communications Inc. RIM Architects
Gold $5,000 - $9,999 Alaska Channel Alaska Dispatch Alaska Regional Council of Carpenters Alaska Regional Hospital Aleut Corporation Anchorage Fracture and Orthopedic Clinic Anchorage Opera Architects Alaska ASRC Energy Services AT&T Alaska Birch Horton Bittner and Cherot 38
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Silver $2,500 - $4,999 Alaska Aerospace Corporation The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
Roger Hickel Contracting Inc. Superior Group, Inc. Tesoro Alaska Company The Alaska Club Verizon Wireless
Bronze $500 - $2,499 3M ADSB Technologies AeroMetric AK Supply Inc Alaska AFL-CIO Alaska Airlines Magazine Alaska Cargoport, LLC Alaska Growth Capital Alaska Magazine Alaska Permanent Capital Management Alaska Rubber and Supply Inc. Alaska Sales and Service Alaska SeaLife Center Alaska Small Business Development Center Alaska Waste Alaskan Energy Resources Alyeska Pipeline Service Company Alyeska Resort Anchorage Community Land Trust Anchorage Concert Association Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. Anchorage Fueling and Service Company Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center Anchorage Public Library Anchorage Sand and Gravel Co., Inc. AngloAmerican Arcadis Arctic Controls, Inc. Arctic Wire Rope and Supply, Inc. Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services, Inc Bear Tooth Theatrepub Bettisworth North Architects and Planners, Inc. Bond Commercial Properties Bradley Reid + Associates Inc. Bristol Bay Native Corporation Cange and Chambers Capital Management and Benefits Inc. Carr Gottstein Properties
Chenega Corporation Chris Stephens Commercial Brokerage Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce City Electric Inc. Commodity Forwarders, Inc Construction Machinery Industrial LLC Cornerstone Construction Co., Inc Cornerstone Credit Services Creative Lighting and Sound Credit Union 1 Criterion General, Inc. Crystal Glacier Water Davis Constructors and Engineers, Inc. DeWitt DreFoto Enstar Natural Gas Company Evergreen Business Capital Evergreen Films Excel Construction F.R. Bell and Associates, Inc. Fairweather, LLC Fireweed Benefits Florcraft The Foraker Group Frampton and Opinsky, LLC Gina Bosnakis and Associates Golder Associates Inc. HDR Alaska, Inc. Hilton Anchorage Holmes Weddle and Barcott PC Horizon Lines Alaska Hot Wire LLC Hughes Gorski Seedorf Odsen and Tervooren, LLC International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302 Irwin Development Group, LLC Jermain, Dunnagan and Owens, PC Ken Brady Construction Kiewit Building Group Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority KPMG Kumin and Associates Linford of Alaska, Inc. Marsh and McLennan Agency Matanuska Electric Association Matanuska Telephone Association Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union MatSu Borough Merrill Lynch
Microcom Communications Solutions Millenium Alaskan Hotel Anchorage Millrock Resources, Inc. Mind Matters Research, LLC MSI Communications Nana Management Services (NMS) NeighborWorks Anchorage North Pole Economic Development Corporation North Star Terminal and Stevedore Co. Northcoast Mechanical Northern Economics, Inc. NorthWest Data Solutions Northwest Strategies Old Harbor Native Corporation Opti Staffing Group PangoMedia, Inc. Parker, Smith and Feek, Inc. PCL Construction Services, Inc. Pedro Bay Corporation Pfeffer Development Group, LLC PIP Printing Prudential Jack White Vista Real Estate PTP Management, Inc. Q Engineers, Inc. RE/MAX Dynamic Properties, Inc. Sequestered Solutions Alaska SLR International Corp Sockeye Business Solutions SOS Staffing Southcentral Alaska Council of Building and Construction Specialty Products, Inc. Spenard Builders Supply SprocketHeads, LLC Stoel Rives LLP Strategies 360 Swan Employer Services The Nerland Agency, Inc. UAA-College of Arts and Sciences UAA-College of Business and Public Policy UAA-Community & Technical College United Retirement Plan Consultants Unwin Rentals URS Corporation US Travel Visit Anchorage Weatherholt and Associates, LLC Weston Solutions Wilson Strategic Communications INN VAT R
Alaskan Entrepreneur Resources
49th State Angel Fund
Equity financing for Anchorage startups, as well as small businesses needing additional capital for growth.
Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA)
Loan participation, bonding, infrastructure development and investment
Buy Alaska (SBDC Partner)
Promote purchase of Alaska-made products; business directory of companies making Alaska products
Alaska Business Plan Competition
Annual competition for entrepreneurs seeking growth opportunities for their ventures. Cash prizes awarded.
Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED)
Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
Alaska Source Link
Community referral network that links small and emerging business owners in Alaska to local resource partners who offer business services.
Promote a positive business environment in Alaska, through issues advocacy and business-oriented events.
Anchorage Chamber of Commerce
Advance a successful business climate through three channels: advocacte specific issues, help businesses build connections and educate businesses and the community on business-related issues.
Anchorage Economic Development Corporation
Connect businesses with opportunities and information, support business growth across industries, provide market research.
Free, web-based GIS tool. Provides demographic, infrastructure and geographic data to businesses trying to determine the best location for their new commercial space in Alaska.
Arctic Innovation Competition
Annual pitch competiton for innovative ideas and inventions. Cash prizes are awarded.
Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce
Promote sustainable business and civic interests in the Chugiak-Eagle River area through advocacy and business connectivity.
Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC)
Recently introduced a FAB Lab, a digital fabrication facility where computeraided design programs and industrial-grade manufactering tools, combine with electronics and programming tools to allow anyone to make nearly anything they can imagine.
Copper Valley Development Association
Facilitate partnerships and business opportunities to improve the quality of life in Alaska’s Copper Valley region.
Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation
Assist creation of new jobs and economic opportunities for the residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Recommend policies to government that support the achievement of planned economic development goals. Attract new businesses to Interior Alaska.
Fairbanks Northstar Borough Economic Development Commission
www.co.fairbanks. ak.us/ mayor/ EconomicDevelopment/ default.htm
Coordinate public and private initiatives that create or increase profitable employment opportunities which improve our community’s standard of living, quality of life, and the sustainability of our diverse urban and rural life styles.
Connect skilled entrepreneurs with the smartest investors. Support all aspects of the investment relationship, from initial pitch to successful exit.
Juneau Chamber of Commerce
The Juneau Chamber of Commerce supports economic diversity, encourages entrepreneurship, and endorses responsible, sustainable development to maintain Juneau’s high quality of life while advocating economic vitality for all of Alaska.
Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC)
Colloborate on initiatives to maintain, expand, and create economic opportunities in Juneau and Southeast Alaska.
Kenai Peninsula Economic Develoment District
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Provide business licenses, variety of loan programs and operates the Small Business Assistance Center (see listing).
Free consulting services and low cost educational programs to entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their small business.
Online platform for startups. Allows startups to list their company for view by potential investors.
Free directory of technology companies, people, and investors that anyone can edit. The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce represents our members by advocating for a healthy economic environment and by building partnerships that promote the greater Fairbanks area as an attractive place for business and community.
Free online resource. Helps entrepreneurs find the business assistance, mentoring and investment capital they need to launch promising new businesses.
Training and technical assistance to Bering Strait communities in small business startup and expansion. Assistance with business plan creation, finanancial projections, and credit training. email@example.com
Support Kenai Peninsula businesses. Assist with development of business plans, preparation of small businesses for commercial loans, provide access to capital and technical support through a Business Incubator Program.
Lower Kuskowim Economic Development Council
Made In Alaska
Mat-Su Borough Economic Development
Connect Mat-Su businesses and entrepreneurs with resources needed to establish and grow their companies.
Mat-Su Resource Conservation and Development Incorporated
Foster economic development in the Mat-Su through business assistance.
Legal document creation services in various common categories including copyrights, business formation, trusts, patents, real estate leases and trademarks. firstname.lastname@example.org
Promote economic development activities in Bethel and 26 surrounding villages. Assistance in securing funding for small business activities. Identify and promote the purchase of products made in Alaska through the Made In Alaska logo.
Free business mentor service for entrepreneurs.
Northwest Arctic Borough Economic Development Council
Adminster loan and marketing programs in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Collect and distribute employment, education and demographic data.
Prince William Sound Economic Development District
Assist in obtaining financing and grants for projects in the Prince William Sound region.
Procurement Technical Assistance Center (SBDC Partner)
Technical assistance and tools needed to compete and perform successfully on federal, state, and municipal government contracts.
Small Business Assistance Center
Assist small businesses with finding resources related to financing, licensing, marketing, taxes and other services.
Support activities that promote strong economies in Southeast Alaska. Resources include studies, business assistance, referrals, and grant resources.
Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference (SWAMC)
Economic development organization serving three sub regions of Southwest Alaska: Aleutian/Pribilofs, Bristol Bay and Kodiak
www.alaskainnovation andentrepreneurship supportgroup.org
Network for Alaska business mentors and investors. Provides mentorship services to Alaska entrepreneurs and startups.
Technology Research and Development Center (SBDC Partner)
Assist Alaska small business and entrepreneurs in developing new products and services that support government research efforts. Specialties: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
U.S. Small Business Administration
Financing for small businesses from microlending to substantial debt and equity investment capital (venture capital).
University of Alaska Center for Economic Development
Local and regional plans, strategic planning, feasibility analysis, business planning, market research, financial analysis, workshops and training.
Wall Street Journal Startup Cost Calculator
World Trade Center Alaska
Simple tool for estimating the startup costs of your business
Information, resources and connections for conducting international trade.
510 L Street, Suite 603 | Anchorage, AK 99502 Phone: (907) 258-3700 | Fax: (907) 258-6747 www.AEDCweb.com
President & CEO
Director of Business & Economic Development
Archana Mishra email@example.com
Anchorage Economic Development Corp INN VAT R
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It’s Always Been.
“My job is to do inspections— looking for corrosion and problems that could lead to leaks or spills. No matter where the pipelines are, we gotta get there.” — Dave Arnett, Kakivik Asset Management, Bristol Bay Native Corporation
Jobs and Sustainable Development www.bbnc.net
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