The eFactory is not your father’s factory. In fact, rather than churning out products, it’s churning out companies.
Located in downtown Springfield, the eFactory is a tech-focused entrepreneurship center and business incubator designed to help startup companies grow and create jobs. The facility opened in March of 2013 to fulfill the entrepreneurship component of Missouri State University’s IDEA Commons, a vision of an innovation district in downtown Springfield blending innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts.
The eFactory offers co-working space and rental offices to new companies and provides a place for startups to engage directly with the university.
In terms of full-time leasable space, it focuses on startups in four main sectors – advanced manufacturing, medical services and devices, logistics and supply chain, and technology – while co-working space is available to a broader range of entrepreneurs.
The facility is also home to several other like-minded organizations and partners, including the university’s Small Business and Technology Development Center, Management Development Institute, the Missouri Enterprise, and Minorities in Business among others, that provide additional resources
“We have such a wide range of organizations here that are engaged in the startup and small business culture, so the eFactory has become like a front door to entrepreneurship in Springfield,” said Associate Vice President Allen Kunkel. “If you want space, direct services, or to just connect with more partners, you can do all that without leaving the building.”
Part of the eFactory’s mission is to ensure its clients are making progress and achieving success. In addition to day-to-day engagement, eFactory staff meets formally with each of its client companies on a quarterly basis to assess where they’re at and how they’re doing.
Kunkel noted that every company is different as far as how fast it matures to a point where it can be on its own, so they want to make sure they’re not forcing any company out before it’s ready.
A note from MTC Director Bill Anderson
“Facilities like the eFactory are vital to Missouri’s startup scene. Thanks to the eFactory, entrepreneurs in Springfield have an unbeatable opportunity to learn, innovate, grow, and thrive. It is that kind of support that makes growing and developing our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem possible.”
“Our philosophy is that as long as they’re making progress, they’re welcome to stay here,” he said.
While the eFactory has been helping its clients along, it has also made incredible progress of its own. After starting with only six companies in 2013, the facility was completely occupied in less than two years. Operating at nearly 90 percent occupancy, it is currently home to nearly 40 startups. The companies in eFactory have created over 120 jobs, with the largest company having 15 employees.
Kunkel pointed out that although Springfield has always had an entrepreneurial culture, the eFactory really helped bring it to the forefront.
“The success has been great, and the recognition we’ve received in the community and statewide has been great,” he said. “We couldn’t hope for anything more.”
Speaking of success, helping to make it all possible are investors like the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC).
In August of 2016, eFactory’s first cohort of companies kicked off a new 12-week accelerator program, and its second cohort wrapped up the program this May. MTC invested MOBEC program funds in the seed capital initiative to support the new accelerator, which has to date raised $800,000.
MOBEC program funds from MTC also allowed the eFactory to hire a new employee to run the accelerator along with the eFactory’s mentorship program and other day to day operations.
Kunkel emphasized how great of a partner MTC has been for the Innovation Center program, which governs both the eFactory and Jordan Valley Innovation Center in Springfield.
“It’s really been a great resource in terms of what we’re able to accomplish,” he said.
Looking forward, eFactory’s biggest plan is to continue adding programs that entrepreneurs want and need as well as finding more space to meet the growing demand for the facility.
“It’s a great facility – it’s amazing what you can do renovating an old turkey processing plant and creating an environment like it is today – but we want to keep expanding that opportunity,” Kunkel said.
It is clear that the eFactory intends to continue doing what it does best – support entrepreneurs, churn out successful new businesses, and contribute to Missouri’s innovative startup community.