New Spark Grants from RAIN@UO lift student entrepreneurs

RAIN is the UO's Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network.

Bull & Stash, Cricket Flours, NemaMetrix, Red Duck Foods, Dune Sciences and Cowbucker all have something in common.

In addition to being started by UO students, staff or faculty members, each of these businesses benefited from the support of the university or RAIN, the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network. Whether it was seed funding, coaching and mentoring or access to other strategic resources, the entrepreneurs and their businesses received a valuable boost along the pathway to launching their ventures.

Now there’s another link in the local startup chain that’s exclusively available to UO students. RAIN@UO Spark Grants are geared toward students with proposed business ideas that warrant further investigation. The $500 grants allow students to examine the feasibility of their potential ventures to make informed decisions about investing more time and resources.

Spark Grants are available to any UO student, undergraduate or graduate, in any discipline, regardless of venture size. Potential ventures may be high- or low-tech, for-profit or non-profit — all ideas are encouraged.

An interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff will judge proposals based on the clarity and practicality of the proposed work plan, perceived added value from grant funding and student dedication and enthusiasm for the project. The simple application form is available on RAIN@UO’s website, innovate.uoregon.edu.

All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 6, via email to Tess Meinert, the RAIN@UO GTF, at tmeinert@uoregon.edu.

“The purpose of the Spark Grant is not to fully build a business model but rather to help students make rapid assessments of the potential value of their ideas,” said Andrew Nelson, executive director of RAIN@UO. “The program compels student entrepreneurs to quickly execute on their potential ventures and show progress within a matter of weeks.”

Students who choose to pursue their ideas following the Spark Grant program will be encouraged to move to the next stage of the venture launch pathway and apply for $5,000 seed grants through the RAINmaker program, which focuses on business development and validation.

Students with promising ideas also are encouraged to apply to the RAIN Eugene Accelerator, a 12-week program offering intense training and mentoring to early growth-stage companies.