Richardson launches "economic gardening" program to help second-stage startups

by Hanah Cho | Staff Writer
The Dallas Morning News   
Richardson has launched a new economic development initiative to help revenue-generating technology startups grow even more quickly.
Under the “economic gardening” initiative, the program offers guidance and strategies such as finding new markets and refining business models instead of traditional economic development assistance, such as workforce development or tax credits.
The Richardson Economic Development Partnership is recruiting startups based in the city. A pilot program featuring six Richardson-based startups ended earlier this year. The economic gardening program is free for participants.
The Richardson Economic Development Partnership is a joint venture between the city and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce that focuses on attracting investment and jobs.
“Richardson led the effort in the region for community support of entrepreneurs with StarTech,” said Bill Sproull, president and CEO of the Richardson Economic Development Partnership. He was referring to one of the early business accelerators in the region.
“We were looking for something new and different, and we watched the proliferation of startups in the region. We decided to focus on second-stage companies with between 10 and 100 employees, and they have revenue between $1 million to $50 million.”
The economic gardening initiative addresses challenges facing companies that have moved beyond the startup stage, Sproull said. Investing in these revenue-generating companies is expected to produce jobs and other economic benefits for the city, he added.
During the pilot program, the six companies worked with experts from the National Center for Economic Gardening on four key areas: market research, geographic information systems, search engine optimization and social media marketing.
The participants were Black Box Network Services, Convey Computer, EnTouch Controls, HRsmart, Polytronix and Triune Systems.
Each company received about 36 hours of consultation and advice via secured conference calls and online platforms. Sproull characterized the program as Fortune 200-type consulting that few companies could afford.
“It’s designed to help companies accelerate their revenue growth,” he said.
Greg Fasullo, CEO of energy monitoring firm EnTouch, said he worked with consultants in three areas: finding potential customers outside the Dallas region; developing market awareness; and improving the company’s search engine optimization and social media strategies.
Fasullo said he found the social media consulting the most helpful. As a result, EnTouch redesigned its website and made other adjustments that have led to search traffic increases and an improved social and online presence.
As CEO, Fasullo said it’s easy to get focused on running the day-to-day operations of the business and overlooking strategic initiatives.
“Having some outside assistance gives you the bandwidth and subject matter experts and focuses the CEO to step back a bit and be strategic,” he said.
Follow Hanah Cho on Twitter at @hanahcho.
Richardson Economic Gardening Network
To apply, companies must:
Be based in Richardson for at least past two years.
Generate annual revenue or working capital of $1 million to $50 million.
Employ 10 to 99 full-time employees.
Have employment and revenue growth during two of the last five years.
Provide products and services to regional, national or global markets.
For more information, contact the Richardson Economic Development Partnership at 972-792-2802.
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