By Eric Peterson | Jan 10, 2022
Manufacturing accelerator and facilities
Co-founders Jay Dokter and Dan Kamrath, both also of Vergent Products, started The Warehouse Business Accelerator with a novel concept in mind: Unlike many accelerators and incubators, the goal is not helping businesses that are just starting out.
"The concept is: It isn't startup companies, it's mainly grow-up companies," says Dokter. "Companies that are into revenue, that have an international focus, are tech-based. We prefer companies in the manufacturing space."
When Seabeck joined The Warehouse in late 2019, she saw it as a good match for her background and skill set. "I had experience helping a business that I led go through the scale-up phase, and I experienced the challenges and the different types of changes that go with leading a company through scaling up," she says.
As the sole full-time employee, Seabeck now leads a team of contractors and volunteers in collaboration with the City of Loveland and the Loveland Business Partnership. The Warehouse took a major step forward when it moved to 48,000 square feet at the Forge Campus -- the 811,000-square-foot former Hewlett-Packard facility in southwest Loveland that's home to Lightning eMotors -- in early 2021. That includes office space, a conference room, and a 32,000-square-foot industrial production floor.
The focus remains squarely on scale-up -- as opposed to startup -- companies in manufacturing. "We are gathering resources not around how do you form an LLC, how do you raise initial capital -- those resources exist in the ecosystem in other entities," says Seabeck. "What we focus on are the different challenges that come into play when you're trying to scale. The other differentiator is our focus specifically on manufacturing and technology."
She adds, "The reason that the founders of The Warehouse focused on advanced manufacturing and technology businesses is because of the impact that those companies had on the local economy," says Seabeck. "In economic development terms, they're primary employers -- people who make things or produce services that are used by people outside of the region, and the revenue comes into our regional economy from the outside. That focus on primary employers and creating jobs that drive economic prosperity for Northern Colorado is at the heart of the reason The Warehouse was founded."
Several current members of The Warehouse are located onsite at the Forge Campus, and other members have graduated to their own dedicated facilities (including Opterus R&D).
The current roster of member tenants includes Essential Extraction Corp., IKJ Data, and Ink Professr. "The member companies that are in The Warehouse space today are smaller companies," says Seabeck.
Look for the number of members to grow as The Warehouse embarks on a buildout. The Warehouse is looking to raise funds to match a $250,000 Advanced Industries grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to stand up a shared equipment lab, she adds. "As soon as we raise a match we'll be able to buy the equipment to put in the shared equipment lab. Right now, [members] have their own equipment for their own processes, and are looking forward to that shared equipment lab as soon as we press go."
Beyond the shared space and equipment, The Warehouse also offers "mentorship and resource navigation services," says Seabeck. "That helps companies get ready to raise money. A lot of the companies we work with have bootstrapped to where they are."
As of early 2022, The Warehouse has space for several more manufacturers, and the buildout could lead to space for as many as 20 more businesses. "We're focused on companies that need between 500 and 1,500 square feet," says Seabeck. "Typically, they would be in some kind of industry that's producing and making a product. They have already gotten to the point where there's demand for their product, and they need to figure out how to build that at scale, so battery technology, Internet of Things, agriculture technology with electronic components connected to it would be a great fit here, plus clean energy, oil and gas. We want this to be a landing spot for the things that are being created here in Northern Colorado."
The Warehouse's metrics already paint a compelling picture: From 2018 to 2020, the accelerator worked with 13 companies (up from eight from 2017 to 2019) with $62 million in revenue (up from $31.6 million) and 133 employees (up from 115).
Challenges: "There's a challenge of building awareness of what we are doing and getting in front of the right decision-makers," says Seabeck. "The types of businesses that we could help are often the types of businesses where the leader is head-down in their work, and it's not an easy, quick answer on how you get those target members of The Warehouse aware that we exist."
Opportunities: The prime objective is job creation, says Seabeck, "but the other really exciting area where I see a lot of opportunity is collaboration and building unique relationships with other community partners. We're part of an ecosystem, and we're one step in the process of growing and building a company."
Needs: Capital. "We're looking at a total buildout budget of $4.8 million when all is said and done, but we're up and running now," says Seabeck. "We believe in the model and we see the sustainability of our organization as a nonprofit serving this specific part of the ecosystem, but the first step is getting the space built out and that requires capital."
Another need: "The Warehouse thrives on volunteer mentors who have experience scaling up companies. We're always looking for folks who want to give back to the next generation of companies growing in Colorado." There are opportunities for "lead mentors" who get paired with specific companies as well as "subject matter experts" focused on specific business processes and operations.