By Kimberly Pierceall
ot a startup but just need help starting up? EvoNexus, a tested tech incubator program in San Diego since 2009, is expanding to Irvine later this year with free space for several companies to get their footing and, hopefully, stay in Irvine as they expand.
Mayor Steven Choi announced the plan that evolved from discussions among EvoNexus, the Irvine Co. and UC Irvine, during the annual Irvine Chamber of Commerce’s business lunch with the mayor on Thursday.
“This is a model that could change the emerging tech market in Orange County, by mentoring entrepreneurs, by keeping them in Irvine and helping nurture ideas that improve the marketplace and improve our lives,” Choi said during his speech.
For the chosen few companies, there are no fees, no rent and no obligations to pay anything at the end of the incubation program. Costs are entirely supported by corporate sponsors that benefit from encouraging startup companies that might be future acquisitions and partners – or, in the case of the Irvine Co. – future office space renters, home buyers and local shoppers.
Rory Moore, the co-founder of EvoNexus and CEO of San Diego-based technology networking program CommNexus, said Irvine and Orange County startups have suffered the same challenge as San Diego companies, mainly little venture capital available that typically funnels into Silicon Valley.
“We want to keep the best and brightest here,” Moore said. Moore, a San Diego businessman, grew up on a Huntington Beach farm.
So far there are no details about how to apply or when. The office space is still being configured.
In San Diego, the program attracted 104 applications recently. Of those, nine startups were chosen, evidence of the rigorous evaluation process, Moore pointed out. They can stay for two years, but some of the companies there have taken as little as nine months to move on to the next step.