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Home › News & Events › Lexington ICC director says Lexington has the resources to build and retain top tech ventures
Lexington ICC director says Lexington has the resources to build and retain top tech ventures
Editor's note: The Lexington Innovation & Commercialization and Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship work with the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership that includes the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Commerce Lexington and the University of Kentucky. The following article appeared in Business Lexington.
Making it happen for entrepreneurs
ICC director says Lexington has resources to build and retain top tech ventures
by Lissa Sims, Business Lexington
Lexington, KY (March 14, 2012) — "It can happen here," said Warren Nash, director of the Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center (ICC), part of the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship in the Office for Commercialization and Economic Development.
Nash, formerly deputy commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Commercialization & Innovation and a graduate of Georgetown College, tires of hearing startup Lexington technology companies saying they have to move to the West Coast or New York to develop their products. Lexington does have the resources, he insisted, to grow — and keep — world-class technology companies.
As the Lexington ICC director, Nash works with University of Kentucky researchers and Lexington area entrepreneurs, providing them with such business start-up services as business plan consulting, market research and competitive analysis, financial planning, company valuation, and crucial investor presentations.
He co-manages the Lexington Venture Club and works with the Bluegrass Angels.
Michael Hartman of Frogdice, an on-line gaming developer, says industry leaders repeatedly told him that to grow their company they would have to move. Frogdice already has a successful role-playing game, Threshold; they are growing their business by creating a new game called Coin n' Carry, and they are also building an offshoot that creates games for other companies. Hartman and his wife travelled to Austin, Texas, and were looking for houses there when they heard about the Innovation and Commercialization Center and, ultimately, Nash.
Nash helped Frogdice stay in Lexington by finding office space, assisting in recruiting employees and, perhaps most importantly, helping find financing. Entrepreneurs often need help with financing; they need money. In fact, the word entrepreneur refers to a businessperson who takes on greater than normal financial risks to start and run a business.
Often the businessperson arrives in Nash's office having bootstrapped a business for as long as he or she can with the desperate hope that Nash can point them toward external sources of financing. "There is no free money," Nash tells them. However, with the resources of the Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center and Von Allmen Center he can help companies find seed funding through state agencies in the form of grants and loans, angel investors and venture investors.
The Innovation and Commercialization Center Program is authorized by Kentucky law for the purpose of creating "products, new companies, and value-added jobs in communities throughout the commonwealth." The Lexington center is one of six such offices in a statewide system. Each of the centers work with a partner. Lexington's center partners with UK through the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, which means Nash works with researchers and engineers from the university. He helps them with their patent filings and business plans and puts together a funding strategy to take to the market products resulting from research. "We find a way to get you from the lab to the marketplace," said Nash, who works from a corner office overlooking Main, Rose, and Vine streets. "The reason I am sitting here instead of on campus is that I do the same thing for the entrepreneurs in the community."
Recently, Nash had meetings planned with six entrepreneurs who were coming to his office throughout the day to discuss what they have done to date. Companies from game builders to pig vaccine tray developers are at different stages — from formulating business plans to procuring grants — but before they leave they will each have a plan for the next step. Nash stays involved through the process. "It's a lot of hand-holding," he said.
For business owners who might require a little less hand-holding or are just working up to launching a business, Nash and the centers also sponsor many workshops, including the helpful "Commercializing Your Idea" series. Sessions from last year included "Developing a Business Plan That Works" and "Keeping Good Accounting Practices."
Nash, who earned his law degree from Salmon P. Chase College of Law and worked nine years as an attorney for the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet, said he gets excited helping businesses — he gushes when he speaks of the companies he works with. He also relishes what these businesses bring to our community. To prove his case that "it can happen here," Nash references a self-reported survey from the Lexington Venture Club: Over the past year, local businesses have received more than $69 million in funding and hired 182 people who were paid an average salary of $65,651.
But despite his enthusiasm for new ventures and his role in getting many off the ground, don't expect to see Nash joining the ranks of those he helps any time soon. Nash said he could never be an entrepreneur. But clearly he thrives on assisting those who are. He describes his role as that of a facilitator. "I'm not an actor," he said, "but I would love to be a producer."