The eFactory At A Glance
Location: Missouri State University, Springfield
Established: March 2013 | Classification: Incubator
Startups Currently In Program: Nine | Total Startups Assisted: Nine (multi-year program)
Key People: Brian Kincaid, business incubator coordinator; Allen Kunkel, associate vice president of economic development; Rayanna Anderson, director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center and Management Development Institute
Specialty: Manufacturing, medical device and health services, logistics and supply chain management, and information technology
Structure: No funding is provided, and no equity is taken. The duration of program is three to five years. Clients are provided access to appropriate office space with flexible leases, shared basic business services and equipment, technology support and business mentoring and counseling. Along with the business incubator, The eFactory houses the Small Business and Technology Development Center, the Management Development Institute, Springfield Angel Network, Springfield Innovation, Inc., the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Missouri Enterprise and SCORE.
Missouri Business Alert interviewed eFactory coordinator Brian Kincaid about early challenges, lessons and successes for the incubator. The answers below are edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: What are some of The eFactory’s success stories?
Brian Kincaid: CrowdIt has developed a national brand as a new type of crowdfunding portal. CellARide is currently going through the Capital Innovators program and has recently signed deals with large national companies. The App Pros are one of five finalists for the Small Business of the Year in Springfield.
MBA: What are some of the biggest challenges faced by early-stage companies in Missouri?
BK: Access to business mentorship, access to a skilled workforce, access to flexible office space with a low barrier to entry, and access to capital.
MBA: How is The eFactory addressing those challenges?
BK: The eFactory addresses access to mentorship by partnering with local and regional business development and business service groups to pair seasoned and successful businesses people with emerging entrepreneurs. The eFactory takes advantage of being a university-run program and assists in the location and placement of talented and skilled persons in startup and growing companies. The business incubator provides clients with flexible leased space with flexible lease terms to significantly lower the barriers to entry and provide a cost-efficient option for start-ups.
Access to capital is the largest challenge we face in Springfield and is an area we are working to improve. We are working now to create a seed capital fund that would assist early-stage companies achieve proof-of-concept while creating minimum viable products, with the goal of preparing them to have the best opportunity for follow-on rounds of funding. Additionally, we are working to build relationships with existing investment groups and to create a pipeline of deals we can funnel to them.
MBA: What are key lessons you’ve learned in building the incubator?
BK: Community support and regional partnerships have been a critical factor for us in the development of The eFactory. Early in the process we approached business development entities, local governments and business service providers and shared our vision of creating a one-stop shop for entrepreneurship and small business in Springfield by utilizing the resources and strengths of existing programs and services. In addition, The eFactory is a sponsor and host of the 1 Million Cups Springfield program, as well as the Mid-America Technology Association. The success we have had in our first year of operation is a testament to the cooperative work of all involved parties.
MBA: What can state and local governments do to make it easier for operations like yours to thrive?
BK: The Missouri Department of Economic Development Small Business Incubator Tax Credit program has been helpful to us to continue to invest in our infrastructure and allow us to provide added value to our clients. Certainly there are ways that legislation could assist in access to capital initiatives, and there increasingly have been discussions on this at the state level. We are interested to see if those discussions can continue and gain more support over the summer and in the next session.