Local Businesses Receive Over $1 Million In Funding From A Startup Fund

Local Businesses Receive Over $1 Million In Funding From A Startup Fund

The Fuse Fund, a local startup accelerator consisting primarily of local investors, has invested in six Tri-Cities-based businesses and still has money to spend.

Founded to assist entrepreneurs with resources, such as the coworking space at the Richland Parkway, Fuse is a business and community accelerator in the Tri-Cities.

In order to help link startup companies with capital, Fuse naturally evolved into The Fuse Fund in 2019.

Marty Conger, the managing partner of Fuse Advisors and a former CFO at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said that it is the only startup fund devoted to small firms in the Tri-Cities.

In order to support new businesses that “ideally have a physical presence here in the Tri-Cities but more importantly are doing business here,” he founded Fuse Fund.

Despite a brief setback caused by the pandemic, the Fuse Fund has raised $2 million and put 60% of that money into six startups thus far.

According to Conger, he raised money from roughly thirty largely local investors. Furthermore, even though it would be great to see a return on their investment, this is a charitable endeavor.

According to Conger, “they are all interested in the Tri-Cities and think it’s a good place for startup businesses.”

The Fuse Fund has taken on a variety of roles for the firms, entering the market as a minority investor in half of them. Fuse Fund was their initial investment for the other half.

According to Conger, a firm may be able to get more funding outside if it has just one investor.

According to Conger, there is still more money available for entrepreneurs today.

The hitch is that the company must be based in Benton or Franklin counties, or conduct business there, in order to have a Tri-Cities link.

The investors on the board of the organization can establish a new fund if the Fuse Fund runs out, but for the time being, they can continue to participate in many firms.

Conger underlined that no industry is off limits since Fuse Fund has made investments in a wide range of businesses. However, local relationships are less negotiable.

Fuse Fund is a shareholder in LiveGrowBio, Carbitex, Brook, STARS Technology Corp., and Innov8Ag.

According to Conger, companies inherently face failure, as seen by the failure of the sixth business in which the Fuse Fund invested.

Fuse collaborates with unfunded companies as well.

Conger stated, “Many people are surprised when we say we’ll help you even if we don’t invest in you. There are several other startups that we have been there for without investing in.”

He urged nearby startups to get in contact if they needed resources, assistance, or were considering submitting a funding application.

At first, Conger was concerned that not many businesses would submit funding applications, but this proved untrue. About 20 companies have requested it thus far.

The Fuse Fund Investment Committee must hear their plans.
Conger stated, “We’re finding good companies here that could use our help and are meeting our criteria of being local, which has pleasantly surprised us.”

Although most firms fail, realistically, the board hopes that investors can quadruple their return over the fund’s tenure.

“It’s been a great journey so far; we’ve got some great investments, but it’s a tenuous path here to see them through to creating enough value,” Conger said.

Conger, Brett Spooner (Fuse founder), Ron Boninger (entrepreneur and former CEO of Carbitex), Meghan Rose (founder of Iron Mountain Management), and Jerry Cochran (newly joined startup investor at PNNL) comprise the Fuse Fund Board.

The board members and three new members, agriculture tech firm entrepreneur Jonathan Cox, former CFO of Washington River Protection Solutions Brian Thomas, and tech startup founder Ken Arneson, make up the Fuse Investment Committee.