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Local Officials, Business People Celebrate Venture Greenhouse

Dominican's Venture Greenhouse hopes to support new businesses by providing resources, coaching and connections to investors.

President Mary B. Marcy and San Rafael Mayor Albert J. Boro celebrated the school's new green business development program last week.

The Venture Greenhouse serves as a business development accelerator for social and environmental entrepreneurs, a learning laboratory for the university’s business students and a community resource for innovators and new ventures.

New companies are housed at their location on 30 Castro Street in San Rafael, where they receive coaching and technical support, as well as connections with possible investors.

"[Dominican] hopes to be not only a service for students, but an organization that gives back to the community and the world," University President Mary Marcy said at the opening on Oct. 5.

The program is referred to as an accelerator because it focuses on an intensive business development process that helps new ventures to achieve rapid growth and greater success in the marketplace. In addition to fostering new businesses, the greenhouse's mission is also to create Marin County jobs, according to the University's Director of Communications Sarah Gardner.

The greenhouse was inspired but the school's masters program in sustainable enterprise, known as the GreenMBA.

In February, with four test clients ventured in to the greenhouse. Over the summer, three more joined. This month, the greenhouse will be accepting four new clients to move in. Companies are selected based on environmental, social impact and financial viability, Gardner said.

"Ultimately, we see ourselves as a bridge between the environmental community and the business community," Venture Greenhouse Director John Stayton said at the opening.

Companies currently involved with the Venture Greenhouse focus on a wide variety of sustainable issues, including solar maintenance, biofuel, waste-to-energy, LED lighting, video production, employment coaching and non-toxic lunchware.

Client companies pay a monthly fee of $50 per person to help pay for utilities, and stay for a maximum of one year.

The Venture Greenhouse might take equity stakes in client ventures.

"While some clients may continue to hold other jobs, their priority should be the creation of new employment for themselves and others with the launch of their enterprises," Gardner said.

Autodesk's director of sustainability, Lynelle Cameron, attended the opening on Oct. 5.

"I really hope that a venture greenhouse like this can be a model for not only other universities, but for how universities can partner with their towns," she said.

On Oct. 12, the Venture Greenhouse and the Keiretsu Forum will host a Green Technology Investment Showcase from 1 - 6 p.m. at 30 Castro Street in San Rafael.

Alan Campbell contributed to this article.

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