Duck feet all over the WAC

Oregonians are generally averse to self-promotion. We’re a humble lot (mostly) that figure it’s better to let our achievements speak for themselves than spend time and energy seeking recognition. It’s something we do and part of the culture. But I’m going to step out of that mold for now and praise some of our students and community friends after witnessing the Willamette Angel Conference today.

First, I want to thank everyone who has helped bring the Matthew Knight Arena and Ford Alumni Center together. The WAC was hosted in the Guistina Ballroom at the Ford Alumni Center this year. Finally, the UO has a world-class facility to have formal events! Don’t get me wrong, the old EMU Ballroom and a couple of other facilities on campus are great. However, the modern and uniquely Oregon design of the FAC really stands out for people coming into town. Having Matt Arena right next door gives the East campus area a center of gravity that the whole university needed.

Second, let’s recognize all of the University of Oregon students and alumni involved in the Willamette Angel Conference. The list is long, so let’s bullet point for brevity:

  • The Concept Stage winner was Orchid Health – A local Eugene company creating direct primary care clinics in medically under-served communities. Started by a one-year-ago grad and a soon-to-be graduate. That’s right, early twenty-somethings starting a health care company. Cool.
  • Other Concept Stage companies representing UO ties:
    • a start-up company targeting ERP of Human Resources co-founded by an Oregon MBA alumnus
    • Manage my co-op: a husband/wife team of OMB (Marching Band) alumni building tools to enable group buying clubs for everything
  • Blue Dog Mead, a well-established beverage company, was represented at the event by CEO and co-founder Simon Blatz. Keeping the dream alive and mead flowing.
  • The Oregon MBA and other Lundquist College of Business students helped with the due diligence process and as volunteers for the event.

Dune Sciences, one of the five finalist companies has strong ties to the UO. The company was founded by John Miller and Jim Hutchison based on research from their lab in the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon. I know that this team has been working at this for a long time to bring their technology to market. Making it to the WAC Finals was a big accomplishment for them. I know that Dune Sciences is going to continue to grow and be a big UO and Eugene success story.

Finally, let’s talk about RAIN. The Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network is finally up and running in Eugene. Joe Maruschak, a UO art major and game development entrepreneur, is taking the reins of the local node of this program. Joe is a community builder who understands the role an accelerator and incubator can play in developing an ecosystem for startups. Good things are on the horizon. The support that the Office for Research Innovation and Graduate Education has provided getting RAIN going has been invaluable. Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation Patrick Jones has brought his experiences building a similar community in Tucson, Arizona, and at the U. of Arizona to bear to help make this a reality. Without this kind of fundamental support in place, building a thriving entrepreneurial community is harder. With this high-level support, we’re all pulling together to improve the community and build a place where students can stay after they graduate.

So be on the lookout for more great things happening here in Eugene. You may need to ask to hear about it. We’ll be busy letting our successes speak for themselves.

Written by Nathan Lillegard

I manage the programs and activities of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, I work to build relationships between the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oregon (and beyond) and our students. As an entrepreneur (in recovery) myself, I help others learn about and navigate the challenges of starting and building great companies.