Davis Roots co-founders Anthony Costello (left) and Professor Andrew Hargadon in front of the Davis Roots headquarters at the Hunt-Boyer Mansion downtown.

Business Accelerator Davis Roots Opens with Two Start-ups
Historic Hunt-Boyer Mansion Home for Early Stage Ventures

Davis Roots, a new nonprofit business accelerator bridging the city of Davis and the University of California, Davis, officially opened at the historic Hunt-Boyer Mansion on April 30. The enterprise was built to support start-ups with the goal of keeping them in Davis once they succeed, and already has two new companies ready to move in.

Davis Roots was founded by Professor Andrew Hargadon, director of the UC Davis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Anthony Costello, a former chair of the city’s Business and Economic Development Commission and founder of several successful start-ups.

“We have the shared goal of fostering the formation and early development of new high-growth ventures in Davis,” said Hargadon, who holds the Charles J. Soderquist Chair in Entrepreneurship at the management school. “We hope to eventually bring many more companies into this facility.”

“Davis Roots represents an exciting collaboration between the City of Davis and the entrepreneurial community,” said Rochelle Swanson, Davis mayor pro tem. “This is just the start of a new type of economic development for our city, focusing on home-grown star-ups and university spin-offs.”

The founders of both Davis Roots startups are recent graduates of the institute’s Entrepreneurship Academy programs. Barobo, a UC Davis spin-off, is building programmable robotics simple enough to teach robotics to elementary school children for the education and consumer markets. UC Davis post-doctoral student Nora Khaldi is launching Nuritas based on her proprietary bioinformatics tool for discovering “nutriceuticals,” or food components that affect health.

Davis Roots is leasing the space in the Hunt-Boyer Mansion in downtown Davis from the city. The new headquarters has room for four to six more companies to move in during the next few months. The organization plans to mentor up to 10 companies there.

To get in, emerging ventures apply to Davis Roots, which provides access to a network of experienced entrepreneurs, investors, patent and corporate lawyers. Ventures are supported while preparing a more detailed nine-month launch strategy, which includes a business plan, fundraising goals and project milestones. New ventures that successfully grow and raise external funds also get help finding office space in Davis to continue their growth in town. Ventures that do not meet milestones or raise funds relinquish their spaces at Davis Roots to new ventures.

Davis Roots, as a new venture itself, is currently fundraising to sustain and grow its operations. It will take a small equity investment in each accepted venture, so that ventures which ultimately succeed will return value to Davis Roots as well as the City of Davis.

“Davis Roots is an example of the kind of partnership both parties need – the city so it can tap more directly into the research and innovation so prevalent on our campus, and the university so our students and faculty have another vehicle to help cultivate their commercial ideas and vision,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi.

Katehi has called for increased collaboration between the UC Davis campus and the region to bring new ideas to the marketplace, generate jobs and boost the economy.  Recent initiatives include the creation of new “innovation hubs” on campus, aimed at better fostering collaboration among related research units, enhancing interaction with the private sector and accelerating the transfer of UC Davis inventions from the lab to the marketplace.

Hargadon added: “This partnership allows Davis Roots participants access to UC Davis’ entrepreneurship curriculum and to a broad network of mentors and potential investors, as well as entrepreneurs and emerging technologies from within UC Davis.”