VIC Looks To Expand, Plans Investor Network To Offer $250,000 In Startup Capital

Virtual Incubation Co. has a new name and new money, but the same mission of growing science and engineering-based businesses in Arkansas.

Now branded as VIC Technology Venture Development, the job incubator announced Thursday the VIC Investor Network. It’s a fund designed to give new companies $250,000 to help with start-up costs.

Money from the investor network will provide companies the capital needed to begin operations and dive right into research and other phases of product development, rather than try to find money for costs.

"The key thing about this is you can spend a lot of time when you first form a company seeking that startup capital," VIC CEO Calvin Goforth said. "It can be really hard to acquire. You can easily spend 12 months looking for that capital and the company can’t make much progress.

"This will allow a rapid jumpstart in the development cycle of these companies."

Plans are to create four new companies a year and 100 jobs over the next three years. Current VIC companies have an average starting salary of $90,000, Goforth said. He called the potential jobs created "high-paying, high-quality jobs of the future."

Goforth said the investor network is "fully subscribed." In fact, Goforth said, there is a waiting list of investors for projects in the VIC pipeline.

VIC also announced expansion plans across the United States. Currently it operates in the University of Arkansas’ Research and Technology Park and Atlantic VIC is based in Boston.

"This really can represent a new model for technology transfer that can be utilized across the country, not just in Arkansas," Goforth said.

A fund has also been established for six companies currently under the VIC umbrella. A total of $1.5 million is being invested into those projects as part of the VIC Growth Fund, a prospect Goforth said will be beneficial to companies and investors.

"This gives investors an opportunity to spread the risk across multiple companies and increase the chance of success," Goforth said. "This is growth capital for our existing companies."

VIC was founded nine years ago and has helped develop what it describes as cutting-edge, world-class technology companies. Its reach ranges from nanotechnology and cancer diagnostics to pharmaceuticals and semiconductors in Fayetteville and the surrounding area.

It's an approach that has led to praise from a number of outside observers, including Mitch Horowitz, vice president and managing director of Cleveland's Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. Horowitz was a special guest presenter during Thursday’s announcement.

"VIC fills key challenges and gaps for technology based economic development efforts," Horowitz said.