ROHNERT PARK – The Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster has formed a strategic relationship with Wavepoint Ventures, it announced today.

The venture will identify and support innovative startups throughout the North Bay region, according to SMBC Executive Director Michael Newell.

Wavepoint, a venture capital firm with offices in El Dorado Hills and Menlo Park, manages seed-stage investment funds that search out startup opportunities throughout Northern California, including smaller markets that are frequently underserved by the venture-capital community.

SMBC is the coordinator of the North Bay Innovation Hub (iHub), recently designated by the state of California through the governor’s Office of Economic Development. It’s one of only seven hubs certified.

“This partnership with Wavepoint is great news for the technology community in the Greater Bay Area,” said Dr. Newell. “People too often think entrepreneurial work happens only in Silicon Valley or places like it, but innovators are everywhere. This should be a real magnet for startups seeking an environment that fosters growth, collaboration and mentorship, while providing access to capital – often the missing link.”

“We are excited to partner with the SMBC team and gain greater access to innovative startups in the North Bay region,” said Peter Gardner, a managing director with Wavepoint Ventures. “SMBC does a tremendous job of fostering economic development and community collaboration. It’s a great model for bringing entrepreneurs and investors together to build profitable and sustainable technology businesses.”

Candidate startups will be invited to apply for SMBC’s new Venture Investment Preparation (VIP) program, which includes a rigorous evaluation and mentoring element designed to make a proper assessment of a startup’s potential and to improve its ability to attract investment and achieve success.

“As a first-time entrepreneur you normally only get one chance to present to a potential investor, so we strongly encourage startups to seek out well-qualified business mentors and carefully vet their businesses before trying to get in front of angels or VCs,” said Ivo Austin, business development manager at SMBC.

“Mistakes made with us are a learning experience, not a costly missed opportunity. Participation in the VIP program will help improve your chances of attracting investment interest.”

SMBC, located at Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, incubates about a dozen high-tech and clean-tech startups. It offers space, mentoring from local business experts and a network of professional services to early and growing companies.

Aspenair Inside, Azonde Corporation, BarSpace.tv, Case Homepage, Codding Steel Frame Solutions, Pix2o, West Coast Solar Energy and MosaicAssist are among the startups located at the former Agilent Technologies campus, now a showcase of green-building technology.

“We hope our incubator companies will benefit from the partnership, but we’re not limiting our services to them,” said Dr. Newell.

Wavepoint Ventures will open an office at SMBC, he said.

For more information, visit www.sonomamountainbusinesscluster.com.