Innovate North State seeks to grow local business |

Innovate North State seeks to grow local business

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

For small start-ups in need of guidance and financial support, Innovate North State is seeking to develop businesses in the 530 area.

Innovate North State is a nonprofit organization that seeks to make the 530 area code the most economically competitive non-metro region in the U.S. by 2017 and recently partnered with Sierra Commons to host an event Wednesday.

“We focus on innovative companies that have the potential to grow from small to big and have products and services that can be sold not just locally but on a national or global basis,” said Innovate North State Managing Director Jon Gregory.

Gregory and Kevin Kinell, executive in residence of ChicoStart, a business incubator and co-working space, discussed resources offered to startups in the 530 area to help connect peer CEOs to entrepreneurs and share the various funding available for start-up capital or business growth.

The organization was also coordinated with Nevada County Hackers, a local group of technologists and hobbyists.

“I think fostering high-growth companies in our region is a logical extension of the great work that Sierra Commons has been doing for small businesses in our area so far,” said Nevada County Hackers co-founder Rob Sheldon.

Innovate North State aims to provide the tools necessary for a start-up, Gregory said, including capital, mentoring and expertise, cost-effective flexible space, specialized professional services and talent.

“We’re like a plug and play for your local companies and for Sierra Commons and others to get access and connected to those resources that are important to help those companies grow.”

Gregory witnessed the growth of one local company when he hosted an event in 1999 through Golden Capital Network in which Dan Castles presented what was a start-up of Telestream at the time.

“If you fast forward 13 years, you see how important that company has become to the area and also on a larger industry basis,” Gregory said, adding that he hopes to help launch similar up-and-coming businesses.

Innovate North State was established in Chico in 2012. The company founded ChicoStart as well as the 530 Angels Network, an effort to find and fund high-quality start-up companies and help them grow and organize conferences and events for important industries in the area.

The meeting also included introductions from those who attended and a question-and-answer period, something Kathi Simonsen, CEO of Simonsen Sales and Marketing, found particularly helpful as it led to her connection with a potential client, a software developer in need of marketing assistance.

“You knew who to talk to and collaborate with, so that was helpful for me and some other people made good connections, too,” she said. “My impression of (Innovate) North State is that it is much more of a fundraising effort where they are really trying to help entrepreneurs get funded.”

Sierra Commons may host another Innovate North State event, though the date is not finalized, said Sierra Commons President Max Norton.

“My overall takeaway was that they are setting up really good opportunities for people in the 530 area who want to be competitive and serious about angel funding through a couple funds they are setting up, as well as the Chico Start incubator program, which is similar to Sierra Commons,” Horton said.

Innovate North State also discussed the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge, an annual conference to showcase new products and start-up businesses located in California outside of the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego. The challenge will take place June 27 at 1075 E. 20th St. in Chico. To register, visit

For information, contact Innovate North State at 530-892-1707 or visit

“There’s tremendous innovation occurring in Nevada County,” Gregory said. “You never know when one of these companies will be the next big thing.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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