Recipients of RAINMaker Award Announced

Lawger founder Alec Hankins

Two University of Oregon student-led startup companies, Lawger and the Common Ground Music Project, have been named first-round 2015 recipients of the Paul Anthony Troiano RAINMaker Seed Grant. The award provides student entrepreneurs with $5,000 in seed funding to help launch their companies.

They will also receive coaching, mentoring and access to other strategic resources.

“Startups are all about pushing forward to reach your next milestone and this grant is going to put a ton of wind in our sails to continue our growth and expansion,” said award recipient Alec Hankins, a third year law student and founder of Lawger, an online service that connects clients with qualified lawyers and delivers affordable a la carte legal services.

The other awardees, graduate students Peter Avelar and Justin Ralls, said the grant would help them grow their company at a critical time. Their startup, the Common Ground Music Project, connects artists with nonprofit organizations.

The RAINMaker Award is funded by music entrepreneur and artist Paul Anthony Troiano, who launched the music startup company Rumblefish out of his University of Oregon dorm room in 1996. The company is now the world leader in music micro-licensing, with more than 75 million songs licensed. Rumblefish serves major clients such as YouTube, Google, Vimeo and Shutterstock.

But Troiano had help along the way, including a well-timed investment of $5,000 from one of his first major backers. Funding the RAINMaker Award is his way of recognizing the support he received as a fledgling innovator and paying it forward to the next generation of student entrepreneurs.

“The RAINMaker Fund rewards and encourages student-entrepreneurs who demonstrate true entrepreneurial talent by proactively starting a business,” Troiano said. “I encourage other alumni to make additional contributions to the fund in order to magnify the impact.”

Troiano stresses that the grants are not necessarily targeted toward students with high grade point averages. Instead, it rewards entrepreneurial aptitude and music students are especially encouraged to apply — Troiano attended the UO School of Music and Dance.

Avelar and Ralls are both pursuing graduate degrees in music composition. One of their first goals for Common Ground is to establish a new website to facilitate collaboration between artists, musicians and social activists.

Hankins, the Lawger founder, is further along in the evolution of his company. Lawger was part of the first cohort to go through the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) Eugene Accelerator program in 2014. The intensive, multi-week program offers training and mentoring to early growth-stage startups in the Eugene area. It is part of the local node of RAIN, a partnership of entrepreneurs, governments, higher education and the business community to advance the formation and growth of tech-based startups regionally.

“This award is helping to cultivate student innovation on campus and we are extremely grateful to Paul Anthony Troiano for his vision and his generosity, ” ,” said Patrick Jones, associate vice president for research and innovation. “Thanks to the RAINMaker Fund, these recipients will receive the resources they need to jump start their careers as entrepreneurs.  

The next round of RAINMaker applications will be accepted in April. The award is open to all UO students. Visit the RAINMaker section on the Office of the Vice President for Research & Innovation website for more information.