i-GATE proving to be a winner for Tri-Valley | September 28, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - September 28, 2012

i-GATE proving to be a winner for Tri-Valley

i-GATE, with the same small "i" that Apple has made trendy with its iPhone, iPod and iPad products, may be less known but its mission is huge and could span the globe. Its name is also an abbreviation of the more complicated formal identification: Green Advanced Transportation Excellence. It's a 36-month-old program providing collaborative opportunities, entrepreneurial education and assistance, an Academic Alliance and a business incubator for development of high-growth green businesses, with startup offices at the eastern edge of Livermore.

Pleasanton is one of a number of cities that support i-GATE with an annual contribution of $25,000. The others include Dublin, Tracy, West Sacramento, Fremont, Lathrop and Brentwood. The organization's $222,000 budget, as of last July, includes major financial and "in-kind" contributions from both Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories and the city of Livermore. In fact, Rob White, the economic development director of Livermore, currently serves as i-GATE's interim chief executive officer.

Although some cities outside of Livermore have been skeptical over how i-GATE will help their communities, they have now given strong approval over the organization's need and search for a full-time CEO who will not only relieve White of his dual job responsibilities but also give i-GATE a boost in finding additional sponsors and getting its incubators and entrepreneurial goals moving more swiftly. The decision was a good move that will allow the organization to continue to grow, hopefully giving it an experienced leader with credibility on the industry side of the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

White and his small i-GATE staff that includes Brandon Cardwell, vice president, and Rik Walters as vice president of marketing, have already succeeded in building the credibility for i-GATE in the federal, state and local agency networks. They've also made significant inroads in the academic and research sectors, bringing together the research and laboratory capabilities at the nearby national labs as well as now a unique partnership with UC Davis. An i-GATE/iHub chart showing its current partners at last month's board meeting is a colorful schematic showing cities, industry, research and academia and finance coming together to help i-GATE succeed.

Writing about i-GATE in PG&E's "Currents" magazine last month, David Kligman cited the innovative organization for creating inroads for green transportation startups. His story included a photo showing Bruce Balfour riding a portable electric vehicle produced by Trikke, a startup green transportation company. Balfour, who is paid by his employer, Sandia National Laboratory, to help run the i-GATE program, often involves himself in products being produced by entrepreneurs now using i-GATE facilities. Financing, regulation barriers and being able to cost-effectively produce products, such as this electric vehicle in America instead of China, are just a few of the hurdles i-GATE has helped young start-up companies overcome.

The nonprofit i-GATE was created for small businesses, giving their leaders a chance to network and use the resources of other companies, academic partners and the two national labs in the area now affiliated with i-GATE. So far, it's proven to be a great start at bringing more of the Silicon Valley-type technologies, entrepreneurs and even Palo Alto-based venture capitalists to the Tri-Valley.


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