The recent rethinking of funding for startup support organizations by the state of Oregon has raised a few questions. Not least among them was questioning why a new focus was proposed if most of the same organizations still received the funding they had always received. Note I said “most.” Because that’s where another question arose: Why wasn’t a long-time climate tech resource funded this time around — especially given the dire need for climate-conscious solutions right now?
The organization in question, VertueLab (formerly known as Oregon BEST), was conspicuously absent from the funded orgs, this biennium. And that shortfall is going to put a significant dent in the support for climate focused startups and startups interested in pursuing SBIR funding.
Juan Barraza, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at VertueLab and founder of Pitch Latino and the Latino Founders Accelerator, shared the impact that the lack of funding will have on VertueLab in an email, today. With his permission, I’ve included that email in its entirety, below.
I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out to share some difficult news.
On September 18th, VertueLab learned that after 16 years of continuous funding, Business Oregon has decided not to continue funding VertueLab’s core programming and operations in Oregon. This decision came as a surprise just a few months into the new leadership of VertueLab and while we were in the midst of a big organizational transition in which we had just begun to reimagine VertueLab’s new chapter in the region.
The loss of this contract with Business Oregon has a profound impact on our current and future programming in Oregon, and the entrepreneurs and innovators we serve. Despite the board and staff’s best efforts to find a path forward to maintain our current staffing and programming in Oregon, we find ourselves in the position of having to make some extremely difficult decisions.
The staff at VertueLab: On Monday, VertueLab had to make the decision to drastically reduce our staff. This loss of our valued and talented team members has been a massive blow to our team. Each individual whose position was eliminated made invaluable contributions to our mission, and their presence will be greatly missed.
The 11 team members remaining at the organization will be taking on the responsibility of executing funded programs and seeking additional funding for our programs in Oregon, continuing our existing programs in Washington, and re-charting our future as an organization.
The Climate Impact Fund: With funds reserved for this purpose, we will continue our work stewarding our portfolio from our Climate Impact Fund I and supporting our entrepreneurs for the full life of the fund. Our fund manager will continue to manage the fund and is committed to continuing the same high level of diligence and fiduciary responsibility.
Where we go from here: We are deeply grateful for those like you, who have supported and partnered with us over the last 15 years and we know your continued support is critical to our future. We believe that our role in the climate innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem is needed and pivotal in catalyzing a just transition that embraces underserved entrepreneurs and centers them in solving the problems of our warming world, especially to benefit their communities of origin. In the coming weeks we will share more about how we aim to move forward with intention and transform to better meet the needs of our region.
In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions or would like to find a time to connect more.
Thank you for all your support
Juan Barraza (he/him)
Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
For more information, visit VertueLab.