Despite a technology reach that spans around the globe, SiliconValley businesses have not been immune to layoffs and downsizing,with unemployment in the California hub hovering around 11%.
To help reinvigorate the area, the $1.2 billion Technology CreditUnion in San Jose, Calif., has partnered with consulting andmanagement firm Access Growth LLC to support laid-off engineers andsoftware development executives who have started their owncompanies and existing outfits seeking ways to grow theiroperations. All of the services will be available to Tech CUmembers 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 wewere looking” for in a partner, said Sarah Samuel, assistant vicepresident of business services at Tech CU. “It's all aboutproviding the support for [the businesses] to survive andthrive.”
To make that happen, three of Access Growth's programs areavailable to Tech CU members. The Start-Up Access program providesseveral solutions for early-stage businesses that need help raisingcapital or commercializing their product or service. Featuresinclude financial forecast and funding analysis, growth evaluation,and marketing and sales plan reviews.
The SMB Growth program targets established small- and medium-sizebusinesses that want to maximize their growth potential andmaintain a strong company year over year, according to AccessGrowth. Business owners will have access to cash flow and financialstrategy, human resources plans, competitive analysis, and salesteam performance and training plans.
The Venture Center provides office space including executiveoffices and cubicles, free business phone lines, wireless Internetaccess, data center support and mail and package services amongother offerings. Companies like Yahoo!, Intel and Oracle arelocated nearby.
Samuel said part of the goal is to build relationships in thecommunity with nonmembers as well. Since launching its businessservices division in July 2006, the credit union has opened morethan 1,500 business accounts. The top five industries among itsbusiness members are professional, scientific and tech services,information, educational, management of companies, and enterpriseand manufacturing.
When a growing number of clients started asking Access Growth forrecommendations on who to bank with, the firm felt the time wasright to start a due diligence search of what the area had tooffer, said Mark Godwin, CEO of the Santa Clara, Calif.-basedcompany.
“For many years, we stayed very neutral,” Godwin said. “We foundmany of our clients were running around the valley trying to findthe right one to hook up with. We heard them say a lot of thefinancial institutions had made promises but couldn't deliver onthem.”
Access Growth began its search in the spring and by August, amutual connection was made between it and Tech CU, Godwin recalled.The relationship jelled right away mainly because the cooperativehad built a reputation in the technology realm that spanned nearly50 years when it first started serving employees of FairchildSemiconductor.
Samuel said the partnership goes beyond just being a referralservice. Tech CU takes a vested interest in getting to know thecompanies it may link up with through Access Growth. The two builta group site to keep track of referred companies and list eventsthat credit union employees might attend. Godwin said the site alsocontains videos and other educational tools to help Tech CU's stafflearn details about a specific company before attending an event afirm is hosting. Employees provide feedback on whether the eventwas a good fit and if it is worth attending in the future, Samuelsaid.
“People here in the valley are very tech savvy. Someone coming infrom a financial institution may come in and not have anunderstanding of a particular industry,” Godwin explained. “Wereally want to give [Tech CU staff] cutting edge info so they canbe up to speed.”
Access Growth also provides the credit union with an entry to itsdatabase of 3,000 companies to help minimize risks among otherreasons. Godwin said plans are in place to add features like“success factors.” Indeed, the businesses with the greatestpotential may need more hand holding in the beginning, he pointedout.
To build even more relationships, Tech CU has co-sponsored iPhonedevelopment and micro-lending events. Samuels said there's muchbuzz around Google events that feature the company's latestsolutions, Android and Chrome. The turnouts to Access Growth eventshave 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 hasalready referred 10 people over to Tech CU who have since opened upaccounts there, Samuel said. While the CU has started distributingflyers at its branches and plans to roll out a series of brochures,most of the responses have come from word of mouth and through theco-hosted events.
The two partners are hoping to help bring Silicon Valley back toits glory days. Godwin said large companies here are having growthissues. The resources are there, but they're trying to figure outwhere to invest, he noted. Some firms have seen success throughlarge acquisitions, which has helped to stimulate jobs. Still, manyventure capital firms are hurting as they work overtime to raisefunds, Godwin said. He's optimistic that momentum will build in thesecond and third quarters of 2010.
“We think the Silicon Valley will grow sooner than in other placesbecause there's still a need for technology in places like Chinaand India,” Godwin said.
Samuel said like many credit unions, Tech CU has money to lend tobusinesses and nearly four years after its business serviceslaunch, has kept a steady pace.
“Our lending has remained the same because we've always beencareful in terms of our lending criteria We never turned off thefaucet.”
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