PSU encourages social-driven startups
Portland might be a hotbed of social and environmental innovation, but it’s apparently not any easier to launch a socially responsible company there than it is anywhere else. That’s why Portland State University’s School of Business Administration recently launched the Social Innovation Incubator (SII) as a way to help social entrepreneurs plumb the depths of the city’s existing community.
The incubator is set up to support up to five entrepreneurial or “intrapreneurial” startups, says its director, Cindy Cooper. Startups “can't do a Google search and have it tell them what to do,” she says.
The incubator provides logistical support, links to vital resources, such as patent lawyers and advisors, and educational opportunities. The incubations will be “high-touch” but mostly virtual, Cooper says.
Two companies are already working with the center, hoping to get connections to the people and services that will help them launch with fewer bumps along the way.
Portland-based Sustainable Harvest, a well-established coffee company that imports one pound out of every eight pounds of organic coffee that come into the United States, is getting support for two internal projects from the new center. One is a Oaxaca, Mexico-based roasted coffee business and training center to benefit disadvantaged youth, low-income farming communities and the environment. The other is a Web-based program to help farmer cooperatives track their business and coffee sales more effectively.
Also under the Social Innovation Incubator’s umbrella is Portland-based Preciva, a hybrid startup developing electronic tests for cervical cancer the company claims are more accessible, accurate and supportive of women's informed involvement in their own healthcare.