The Valley Ventures Accelerator at Fresno State is now accepting applications through March 1 for its spring cohort. The program will continue to focus on sales, marketing, distribution and venture capital for emerging companies in the water, agriculture and energy technology fields.

The three-month cohort will select about 15 companies to participate in three, two-day sessions starting in March, culminating in a final open-pitch demonstration to the public, industry members, campus faculty and staff and potential investors.

“We find that the startups coming through the program share one universal interest — growth — so these workshops are a vital way for rising companies to receive broader exposure to the subject,” project coordinator Benjamin Francis said. “With our guest speakers and instructional toolkit, the entrepreneurs in the program will be exposed to various customer acquisition strategies that will either be newly implemented or expand upon what they are currently doing. Ultimately, we’re trying to help them develop principles for growing their customer base, attracting investment support if needed, and developing key sales and marketing strategies for enhanced short- and long-term profitability.”

Participants will take part in exercises and learning modules led by professionals, investors, industry experts, successful entrepreneurs and target consumers. Guest speakers will also offer advice about the evolution of their successful companies at similar stages of customer and venture capital development.

Companies accepted into the program demonstrated the potential to have an economic impact in the region and industry, along with the ability to improve the efficient use of scarce natural resources. Other evaluation criteria include commercial value, environmental impact, fundability, leadership, potential return, personnel skills and scalability.

The spring cohort workshops are tentatively planned to be webcast so students from the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State and Fresno Unified School District’s Pãtino School of Entrepreneurship can learn business strategies from the guest presenters.

The program enjoyed a successful first cohort in fall 2017 as 11 entrepreneurs from primarily California, as well as Brazil, Chile and Malaysia, are now in the latter stages of raising between $3.5 million to 5 million in venture capital.

Besides the workshop interaction, more than half of the fall cohort companies tested their products on the 1,000-acre University Agricultural Laboratory and received feedback from campus farm staff and Center for Irrigation Technology water management specialists. The companies also leveraged their networking potential with the Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center and product evaluation by the BlueTechValley water and energy innovation cluster.

“We saw companies experience everything from generating their first $100,000 in revenue to a 20-percent increase in monthly revenue growth,” Francis said. “The members also appreciated the instruction on subjects such as advertising, distribution, industry recognition, lead generation, online presence, referral strategies and sales processes and teams.

“All the fall cohort companies were impressed with the Fresno-area entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a majority are trying to establish some portion of their business in this area. That means more jobs for a key Central Valley sector that continues to grow and the further development of a healthier local economy, thus providing more career opportunities for Fresno State students.”

The three-year accelerator program is coordinated by the International Center for Water Technology at Fresno State. Funding was made possible by a $500,000 federal grant through the Regional Innovation Strategies i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support Grants competition and the BlueTechValley innovation cluster funded by the California Energy Commission.

For more information on the program, visit or contact Benjamin Francis at 559.270.7121 or