Sacramento landlord offers free rent to promising companies

Sacramento property owner Ethan Conrad is sponsoring a competition for free rent.  Prizes range from $20,000 to $50,000 in rent stipends.

Goal is to make this an annual event for small businesses


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In what is likely a regional first, one of the area’s largest property owners is offering free rent to promising small businesses as a way to stimulate local job growth.

Ethan Conrad, whose company owns more than 5 million square feet of Sacramento-area office, retail and industrial space, is awarding the rent credits to three companies that will be selected in a “first annual” competition his firm is holding over the next five months.

“We really want to support Sacramento business growth” by backing small firms that can develop into major employers, said Ken Miller, Chief Financial Officer with Ethan Conrad Properties and a former partner with Granite Bay Ventures, a venture capital firm.

Miller said the competition will be different from those aimed at raw startups. This one targets firms that have a successful track record, with revenue over $100,000 and annual growth rates of at least 20 percent.

“It’s not for (companies) that just opened last week or wrote their business plans on a napkin and turned it in,” he said.

The plan is to select five finalists from those that apply through the company’s website,, by the Aug. 31 deadline. The finalists will make presentations to a selection committee in October that includes Conrad and several prominent venture capitalists, including Corley Phillips, Curt Rocca and Roger Akers as well as Miller.

The first-place winner will get $50,000 in free rent, with the second- and third-place finishers getting $30,000 and $20,000, respectively. They also could end up getting mentoring from some of the judges.

There is no obligation for any of the winning firms to stay in the Conrad-owned space after the stipend runs out, Miller said.

“But,” he said, “if they can get to the point where they pay rent (for the space), that would be nice.”

Miller said the goal is to make the ECP small-business contest an annual event.

Bob Shallit: 916-321-1017[email protected]@BobShallit