Published June 16, 2015
Volume 23, Number 6

i-GATE Provides Space & Support for Ideas to Blossom

By Zoe Francis

The next big breakthrough in technology may very well be brewing at i-GATE Innovation Hub in downtown Livermore.
i-GATE is a unique type of incubator that allows entrepreneurs to take projects from ideas through fruition.
“Traditional incubators tend to work at later stages where there’s a product or in the stages of developing a product,” Brandon Cardwell, i-GATE executive director, said. “In our case, our members have an idea that they want to develop. They need resources to even begin to build out that product.”
i-GATE also differs from many incubators because it is a nonprofit that charges members a monthly fee for work space. When products finally make it to market, the entrepreneur reaps the rewards. i-GATE does not take a cut of profits.
“Our job is to help these founders,” Cardwell said. “The best way to do that is by keeping their burn rate low and not taking a piece of them right away. We prefer the fee-for-service model.

It doesn’t dilute their equity for when they go to seek capital.”
The nonprofit focuses heavily on what Cardwell calls the eco system.
“By eco system, I mean a network and system of inter-dependent entities that are all required --
capital, mentorship, talent, service providers and physical infrastructure, the space to work and build things. We foster the eco system, and we act as a central access point to it.”
Entrepreneurs come on board as members and pay monthly fees for space at i-GATE’s offices. Rates vary depending on the size of space and how much eco system support the person requires.
“Our nonprofit mission is economic vitality and job creation,” Cardwell said. “Our objective is to run a sustainable organization that contributes to economic vitality. The way we do that is by fostering and supporting the startup community here in the Tri-Valley.”
i-GATE launched in 2010 as part of California’s innovation hubs program. i-GATE was one of six innovation hubs awarded state grant money to get started. It evolved into an independent nonprofit a year later.
“We started with this pure mission of helping the labs to commercialize technology,” he said of the nearby Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories. “We were even specific. We said transportation and energy technology. We did that for a little while and then we realized that no matter what kinds of technologies you want to commercialize, you have to have an eco system in place that can support these early companies.”
The nonprofit stays in business with the monthly fees it collects, as well as multiple grants from local cities, Alameda County and private businesses. Some companies provide valuable in-kind services.
i-GATE offers informational workshops and brings in local investors to hear pitches from entrepreneurs hoping to hit the big time with their ideas or inventions.
“Traditionally investment capital is located in the South Bay and San Francisco,” Cardwell noted. “We have reached out to angel investors who live in the Tri-Valley area to get them to invest, mentor and provide feedback.”
In addition to monthly fees, i-GATE makes its space and technologies, such as 3-D printers, available for use to local groups eager to tap into tech products they might otherwise never be able to access.
“We want to lower the barrier to entry and improve the success rate for people who are starting companies for the first time,” Cardwell said. “There are not a lot of resources available to them in the open market. They get value (at i-GATE) exponentially over and above what the cost is for us. We can smooth the path for them a little bit.”
Learn more about i-GATE at igateihub.org.


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