About Us

Get to Know the NWIRC

The NW Innovation Resource Center assists entrepreneurs to create, build and grow innovative businesses that strengthen the economic diversity of NW Washington.

Young business people are discussing together a new startup project. A glowing light bulb as a new idea.

Our Story

Where It All Started

Started in 2011, the NW Innovation Resource Center was formed by a group of business leaders who wanted to give back and support other entrepreneurs as they worked to build their startups.  10 years later, we’ve accomplished alot in serving entrepreneurs and building an innovation ecosystem in NW Washington.  

$

2014 Sustainability Challenge

One of the first challenges outreach challenges to the community.  The winner Apana is still going strong. 

$

2018 BuildIt NOW

Our first cohort designed for Inventors, with multiple graduates launching new products. 

$

2015 First Look Forum

Bringing a long standing NWEN program to NW Washington.

$

2020 Amazon Catalyst Competition

Working with Amazon and 8 cities to bring big ideas to life.

Who We Are

Our Team

Tom Doughty - NWIRC Board of Directors

DIANE KAMIONKA

Executive Director

Diane has a strong background in general management of both large corporate growth and the entrepreneurial start-up arena. In 1987, she founded Cintech Solutions in Ohio and served as the President & CEO. Since relocating to Washington, Diane has been working to facilitate entrepreneurial activities and support. She facilitated the establishment of the NW Agriculture Business Center to support development of value-add agriculture product businesses in a five county area in northwest Washington and was instrumental in the creation of the NW Innovation Resource Center.

lara

LARA MERRIAM-SMITH

Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services

Lara started out as a Higher Education Geography teacher for 10 years before inventing the product that started her entrepreneurial journey. In 2006, she started her own company based on her product the Bra Barrette, which she took from concept through patenting to a national selling spot on QVC in 2010. Today her company is in a licensing pipeline, so she can focus on educating future entrepreneurs. In 2010, she earned her MBA and began sharing her experience and expertise with other entrepreneurs as a mentor, coach and entrepreneur educator at various colleges throughout the Puget Sound.  Her passion is to provide experiential learning opportunities for entrepreneurs to embrace their innovative ideas and reach new levels of success.

Tom Doughty - NWIRC Board of Directors

TESSA MONTGOMERY

Strategic Communications

Tessa is a creative problem solver with experience in digital marketing and paid social media strategy. With a passion for storytelling and branding, she loves being able to work with brands to develop, launch and monitor their social media campaigns. 

carrie

CARRIE ANDERSON

The Lab Assistant

Carrie has an enthusiasm for supporting innovation and brings her project management, marketing and retailing experience to NWIRC. As a boater and mountaineer, she has a passion for finding efficient and productive solutions to life’s challenges. Carrie earned her Bachelors of Science in Business Management from Western Governors University and is committed to building entrepreneurs through essential resource development.

seth zeldenrust

Seth Zeldenrust

Strategic Communications Intern

Seth is a Senior majoring in Integrated Strategic Communications at Washington State University Everett. While at WSU, Seth has gained valuable experience and knowledge with search engine optimization, multimedia content creation, and qualitative research. He also has interests in creative writing and brand storytelling. As our Fall intern, Seth will be assisting us with our internal and client-side projects.

Steve Cherewaty

Steve Cherewaty

The Lab

Steve began his career in aerospace but has found a more natural fit in entrepreneurial projects. Experienced technician, thinker & founder of American Virtual Makerspace, Steve is a friend of the NWIRC and a growing fixture in the Seattle startup industry.

Our Board of Directors

debbie

DEBBIE AHL

Board of Directors

As the Founder and Managing Partner of Edgewater Advising, Debbie leverages 30 years of experience in strategy development, business growth and corporate leadership on behalf of her clients. An experienced CEO and Board Director, her career has included successful start-ups; leading the growth of Sterling Life Insurance Company to $1 Billion in revenue; four corporate acquisitions and successful integrations.

grace borsari

GRACE BORSARI

Board of Directors

Grace is Owner and CEO of Altair Advanced Industries Inc. Founded in 1978, AAII is a certified Woman-owned Business Enterprise that produces standby power supplies for the cable TV and communications markets. As a member of the Alpha Group, AAII is a manufacturing organization serving all Alpha Group companies across the US and Canada. Also President: Argus Techologies; Altair Energy; Bravo Electric Vehicles; Alpha Distributors. In addition to involvement with Western Washington University, Grace has extensive flying experience and is a 25-year ski instructor veteran.

andy

ANDY BUCHAN

Board of Directors

Having spent over 20 years in the aerospace and defense industry, Andy has become a trusted business leader capable of delivering both tactical and strategic growth. As President and CEO of Deep Blue Strategic Advisers, Andy and his team provide exceptional technical acumen and ability to build strong relationships across organizations to develop strategies that drive organic and inorganic growth. His proven ability to identify, define and execute medium to large M&A transactions has seen him complete a number of deals ranging in size up to $4Bn. His strong understanding of IP and technology as a value creation driver, has led to proven results in delivering balanced investment decisions and business growth across a range of technical and manufacturing businesses. Andy has international experience across all levels of commercial and military OEMs and government entities and all levels of seniority up to c-suite and flag officers. Andy’s personal passion includes supporting STEM education and entrepreneurial growth for startups and small businesses focusing on technology and manufacturing.

personal weblink: www.andrewsbuchan.com
deepblue: www.deepbluestrategicadvisers.com

bob brunkow

BOB BRUNKOW

Board of Directors

Bob founded ICOM America in 1971. Icom Inc.’s roots are in designing, engineering, and manufacturing highly advanced, compact solid-state radio equipment for use in the amateur (ham) radio industry. The company’s product line has since expanded to include communications equipment and products based in the marine, avionics, land mobile and wide-band receiver industries. As an active pilot, Bob has served on the board of Seafair in Seattle for over 40 years and is the Past President of the San Juan Pilots Association. He volunteers with Angel Flight and San Juan Eagles for medical transport. Bob graduated with a B.A. from WSU and attended the Seattle University MBA program. He retired from ICOM in 2011.

ross clawson

ROSS CLAWSON

Board of Directors

Ross Clawson’s career spans more than 30 years in finance, accounting, operations and strategic leadership for privately held businesses. Ross held positions at The Homax Group of President, CEO, and CFO, leading a team that drove significant growth. The Homax Group is a leading manufacturer and multi-channel marketer of branded, specialty products in the hardware, home improvement, mass merchandising, paint, and grocery/drug channels. Ross excels in sales management, channel development, strategic sourcing, working capital management, financial analysis and accounting operations. He has a demonstrated ability to provide effective leadership while increasing profitable growth and building enterprise value. Ross earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. Ross is a CPA (inactive status).

duffy cox

DUFFY COX

Board of Directors

Duffy is currently the president of Bon Dente International which specializes in new product development. His specific technical expertise includes food safety, food product development, neutraceuticals and pollution control. Duffy holds over 20 patents including a heat based pasteurization method for in-shell eggs and Ultra Rice, which was recognized with the Tech Award Laureate by the Tech Museum of Innovation as a technology benefiting humanity. In addition to his responsibilities at Bon Dente, Duffy provides consultation to international companies such as Monsanto, Owens-Corning, and Prax Air.

tom doughty

TOM DOUGHTY

Chairman of the Board of Directors

Tom Doughty spent 36 years in operational, administrative and strategic leadership positions in both public and private sectors.    Tom excels at leading small & large groups, teamwork, organizational communication, and strategy development & implementation.  Tom enjoys mentoring young leaders, particularly in the areas of technology and resource management.  A graduate of The United States Naval Academy and a Naval Flight Officer and Designated Surface Warfare Officer, over the course of his 22 year Navy career, Tom had multiple shore, ship and squadron tours. Tom has been a member of numerous Advisory Boards and Committees, particularly in the area of Economic and Workforce Development in Skagit County.  He is an avid outdoorsman, skier, and fly fisherman.

ken marzocco

KEN MARZOCCO

Past Chairman

Ken is a Mechanical Engineer who started his career at Gulf Oil. He moved into Project Management and has led conventional and alternative energy as well as, infrastructure projects throughout North and South America. Ken has had bottom line responsibility for a number of profitable companies with revenue up to $400 million per year. He is based in Bellingham where he is active in the local arts and business community having served as Chair of the Pacific Energy Association, President of Mount Baker Theatre, 2009 United Way Campaign Chairman, Rotarian and participant in numerous sporting events.

rod proctor

ROD PROCTOR

Board of Directors

Rod Proctor has over thirty years of experience managing technology companies. He has had leadership positions in product development, manufacturing, business development, sales and marketing. Rod has been the CEO of five technology companies. He is experienced in medical and wireless technologies and has seven patents in wireless data communications. Rod has provided consulting and mentoring to many turn-around situations and startup companies. He has also been on the boards of several non-profit organizations.

heidi ray

HEIDI RAY

Board of Directors

My professional diversity has empowered “big-picture” leadership in construction management, real estate, and facility maintenance. Helping business recognize their road-map to growth for success we partner to bring that concept to design and occupancy. My role is to listen and then produce the vision in accord with company mission.
Excellent listening, and communication skills bridge successful leadership to manage large scale movements of people and resources to ensure safe work is performed at all times. I am able to work in conjunction with ownership, stakeholders, contractors, employees, and customers to schedule and track projects with the least amount of impact on daily operations. I am a team player, highly organized and able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Past Board Members

Jeff Kochman
David McInnis

Partners

Community Collaboration and Support

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I contact you to find out more?

Contacting us is easy!  You can email us at lsmith@nwirc.com or call 360-255-7870.

Who have you helped?
The NWIRC has been around for four years and in that time we’ve helped many entrepreneurs and inventors launch their products and businesses.  Check out our Startup Stories to see who’ve we’ve helped.
What do you charge?
The NWIRC does not charge a fee for its services.  As a non-profit organization we depend on donations rather than fees or membership dues.
I see your offices are in Bellingham, do you work in other places?
The NWIRC has a mission to help strengthen the economy in NW Washington.  While our office is located in Bellingham we work work individuals from Snohomish, Skagit, San Juan, Island and Whatcom counties.
How long have you been around?
The NWIRC was started in 2011.
Who is the NWIRC?
The NW Innovation Resource Center (NWIRC) is a 501(c)(3) that was set up to create economic opportunity and jobs through supporting innovation with the intent of connecting start-up businesses to resources that can help them grow. There is no other organization that offers the full range of customized services in the NW region. You can see who our current Executive Director, Staff and Board Members are on our About page.

For Entrepreneurs

Do I need to have a business started before talking with you?
No, it is not necessary to have an existing business before talking to us.  We work with you at whatever stage you are in building your business, whether it is an idea or a full formed corporation.
How do I contact you to find out more?
Contacting us is easy!  You can email us at lsmith@nwirc.com or call 360-255-7870.
How are you different than other entrepreneurial help organizations?
The NWIRC has a focus on supporting pre-startup and early stage startup businesses with highly innovative ideas.  Each of the entrepreneurial support organizations in NW Washington have important roles to play in supporting business owners in the local area.  We often work with these organizations to help entrepreneurs utilize all the local resources available.

For Inventors

Do I need to have a patent before meeting with you?
It is not necessary to have a patent before talking with us about your idea.   We can help connect you to local patent attorneys who can help you through the patent process.
How advanced does my idea need to be before seeking NWIRC assistance?
The NWIRC can help any inventor who has just an idea to a working prototype or even an already manufactured product.  We work with you at whatever stage your business is in and help you develop a road map to get to where you want to be.
How do I contact you to find out more?
Contacting us is easy!  You can email us at lsmith@nwirc.com or call 360-255-7870.
How are you different from other invention help organizations?
The NWIRC is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping inventors and other entrepreneurs bring their business or product ideas to life.  Our services focus on helping you develop a strategy to get your product idea to market or launch your new business.  When you meet with us, we take the time to evaluate your idea, identify tools and resources you will need and a community of business mentors to ensure your strategy is sound.  Contact us to find out more about our services, mentors and programs.
I think I want to license my product, do you do that?
We can help you in many aspects of determining if licensing is the right option for your product.  We will work with you to evaluate the product and identify potential licensors.  It is important for inventors to realize that licensing is not a one-size fits all proposition, every product is different and the resulting path to get a product to a licensor will be different as well.
How is my idea protected when I talk with NWIRC?
As an inventor you need to be cautious about sharing your idea, prior to getting any Intellectual Property Protection.  It is not recommended that you disclose any proprietary information without a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or patent protection in place. When you work with the NWIRC we have confidentiality agreements we use to protect your idea when you are talking with us and our mentors.  Consult with your patent attorney to determine when you have enough protection in place to disclose your idea to other parties.

Ready  to Get Started?

Click below to learn more about the programs and resources best suited to your needs.

Not sure where you fit in?

Contact us today, and someone from the NWIRC will be in touch shortly to help you make the best use of our resources.