To help reinvigorate the area, the $1.2 billion Technology Credit Union in San Jose, Calif., has partnered with consulting and management firm Access Growth LLC to support laid-off engineers and software development executives who have started their own companies and existing outfits seeking ways to grow their operations. All of the services will be available to Tech CU members at a special rate.
"From the service aspect, we were providing the financial support, but when it came to growth strategies to survive, that's what we were looking" for in a partner, said Sarah Samuel, assistant vice president of business services at Tech CU. "It's all about providing the support for [the businesses] to survive and thrive."
To make that happen, three of Access Growth's programs are available to Tech CU members. The Start-Up Access program provides several solutions for early-stage businesses that need help raising capital or commercializing their product or service. Features include financial forecast and funding analysis, growth evaluation, and marketing and sales plan reviews.
The SMB Growth program targets established small- and medium-size businesses that want to maximize their growth potential and maintain a strong company year over year, according to Access Growth. Business owners will have access to cash flow and financial strategy, human resources plans, competitive analysis, and sales team performance and training plans.
The Venture Center provides office space including executive offices and cubicles, free business phone lines, wireless Internet access, data center support and mail and package services among other offerings. Companies like Yahoo!, Intel and Oracle are located nearby.
Samuel said part of the goal is to build relationships in the community with nonmembers as well. Since launching its business services division in July 2006, the credit union has opened more than 1,500 business accounts. The top five industries among its business members are professional, scientific and tech services, information, educational, management of companies, and enterprise and manufacturing.
When a growing number of clients started asking Access Growth for recommendations on who to bank with, the firm felt the time was right to start a due diligence search of what the area had to offer, said Mark Godwin, CEO of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.
"For many years, we stayed very neutral," Godwin said. "We found many of our clients were running around the valley trying to find the right one to hook up with. We heard them say a lot of the financial institutions had made promises but couldn't deliver on them."
Access Growth began its search in the spring and by August, a mutual connection was made between it and Tech CU, Godwin recalled. The relationship jelled right away mainly because the cooperative had built a reputation in the technology realm that spanned nearly 50 years when it first started serving employees of Fairchild Semiconductor.
Samuel said the partnership goes beyond just being a referral service. Tech CU takes a vested interest in getting to know the companies it may link up with through Access Growth. The two built a group site to keep track of referred companies and list events that credit union employees might attend. Godwin said the site also contains videos and other educational tools to help Tech CU's staff learn details about a specific company before attending an event a firm is hosting. Employees provide feedback on whether the event was a good fit and if it is worth attending in the future, Samuel said.
"People here in the valley are very tech savvy. Someone coming in from a financial institution may come in and not have an understanding of a particular industry," Godwin explained. "We really want to give [Tech CU staff] cutting edge info so they can be up to speed."
Access Growth also provides the credit union with an entry to its database of 3,000 companies to help minimize risks among other reasons. Godwin said plans are in place to add features like "success factors." Indeed, the businesses with the greatest potential may need more hand holding in the beginning, he pointed out.
To build even more relationships, Tech CU has co-sponsored iPhone development and micro-lending events. Samuels said there's much buzz around Google events that feature the company's latest solutions, Android and Chrome. The turnouts to Access Growth events have been strong with nearly 100 persons attending, Godwin said. "Anything Google related has been huge," he added.
Even though the alliance is only a few weeks old, Access Growth has already referred 10 people over to Tech CU who have since opened up accounts there, Samuel said. While the CU has started distributing flyers at its branches and plans to roll out a series of brochures, most of the responses have come from word of mouth and through the co-hosted events.
The two partners are hoping to help bring Silicon Valley back to its glory days. Godwin said large companies here are having growth issues. The resources are there, but they're trying to figure out where to invest, he noted. Some firms have seen success through large acquisitions, which has helped to stimulate jobs. Still, many venture capital firms are hurting as they work overtime to raise funds, Godwin said. He's optimistic that momentum will build in the second and third quarters of 2010.
"We think the Silicon Valley will grow sooner than in other places because there's still a need for technology in places like China and India," Godwin said.
Samuel said like many credit unions, Tech CU has money to lend to businesses and nearly four years after its business services launch, has kept a steady pace.
"Our lending has remained the same because we've always been careful in terms of our lending criteria We never turned off the faucet."