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Startup finds growth at business cluster

  • Lynton Auld, chief technology officer of the startup Pix2o, on Thursday perches in front of the company’s flexible LED screen. The company is one of the success stories of the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster in Rohnert Park. (Kent Porter / PD)

The LED screen, 10 feet high and 6 feet wide, rolls up into a scroll, a brilliant image of red roses playing across it. Then the screen unfurls, dropping down to its full length, the movement silent in the former high-tech assembly plant.

As the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster enters its fifth year, its hopes rest on companies like the creator of the flexible LED screen, Pix2o.

It is the type of startup that the cluster’s executive director, Michael Newell, is thinking of when he says: “One or two good success stories can be very transformational.”

Pix2o says it just inked a deal to send its screens on a world tour with a pop production whose name the company cannot yet disclose.

That signals the type of promise that the incubator holds out of becoming a force in the North Bay economy, Newell said.

“Companies that come out and turn into $50 million companies — that’s going to create a lot of jobs,” he said. “They are a company that has the real potential to be a really exciting company for the region.”

Pix2o, with 10 employees, started at the incubator three years ago with its two founders. It’s expanded to two offices and some manufacturing space and its officials say the incubator helped them concentrate on developing their business rather than, say, finding copy machines.

“Having an eco-system helps,” said Lynton Auld, the company’s chief technical officer. “You walk in and you start working immediately.”

The incubator’s turnkey nature is one of its chief attractions. But the entrepreneurs who operate there say the people are key too.

“You get networking, you get mentoring, you get the ability to work with a community of like-minded people who are focused on the growth of their business,” said Mike Gunion, CEO of AspenAir Inside.

The company, which is based in Martinez and makes air filter systems, staffs its incubator office with a single part-time salesperson, but Gunion says being associated with the project has paid off.

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