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Regional actions to support entrepreneurs, capital access in 2019

December 05, 2019
By: Jason Rittenberg

Entrepreneurial support and capital access remain key concerns for regional innovation economies, as evidenced by the abundance of new activity in 2019. From accelerators, many of which are sector-specific, to seed funds, we highlight 26 of the most interesting developments from the past year. This is the latest in our series of articles highlighting innovation system activities in states across the country in 2019. Our previous coverage included stories on new university incubators, accelerators and funds launched in 2019; research universities and their partnerships with industry; higher education and commercialization programsfree tuition offeringsclimate changeclean energy; and broadband.


The commercial Techstars accelerator opened several new sites this year, the most notable of which may be the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator. A utility, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, and the state’s Department of Commerce joined to recruit Techstars. The new accelerator, which will accept its first cohort next summer, will focus on startups innovating around smart cities, electric transportation and connectivity.


San Diego made a $2.5 million, four-year commitment to a new, CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center accelerator. The program is located in 4,300 square feet of co-working space in a historically-underserved community. CONNECT’s support will focus on low-to-moderate income and diverse entrepreneurs, who are receiving free services and give up no equity. The first cohort included 13 startups.  


The Delaware Division of Small Business created a new program this year — the Encouraging Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) grants. Awards provide a three-to-one match against dollars spent by a new, small business on capital, marketing or prototyping expenses. The first round of funding included five awards of $100,000 for STEM businesses and five awards of $50,000 for all others.


Elevate Ventures in Indiana is working with Wisconsin-based gener8tor to launch a new accelerator, Elevate Origins. The accelerator will focus on entrepreneurs based on and around Indiana’s institutions of higher education. Training resources will focus on helping entrepreneurs to develop business models and pitch decks en route to participating in Elevate Nexus pitch competitions. Participation is free, thanks to funding from the state’s economic development office and a U.S. EDA Regional Innovation Strategies grant.


An NIH Institutional Development Award has supported the creation of a Driven Biomedical Technology Accelerator Hub in Maine that will also work with innovators in Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The hub will provide mentorship, training and funding to innovations and startups with commercial promise.


TEDCO created a new Task Force for Women Entrepreneurs. The advisory group will help the state-backed organization address the gender disparity among startup founders by supporting the recruitment, funding and support of women-owned and women-led startups in the state. The task force’s announcement makes a parallel between this effort and TEDCO’s earlier engagement with minority entrepreneurs, which led to the creation of a fund targeted to socially- or economically-disadvantaged entrepreneurs.


Massachusetts launched two initiatives to strengthen the state’s robust life sciences innovation economy. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative received $500,000 from the state to create the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, which provides financial assistance and access to regulatory sandbox initiatives for digital health startups. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has leveraged a U.S. EDA Regional Innovation Strategies award to create a new seed fund specifically for startups located outside of Boston’s venture capital hub. Funding, which is being administered in partnership with the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center, is intended to be a first, non-priced round for innovation life sciences startups.


Two new resources in Michigan are available to innovative startups. A Detroit-area fintech cluster worked with a local bank to create a mortgage technology accelerator, which claims to be the first service focused exclusively on this sector. Companies do not receive funding, nor do they pay a fee, and the provided resources include a “bespoke acceleration roadmap.” Entrepreneurs based in Detroit and working in multiple sectors can now access Invest Detroit Ventures’ newest seed fund. The Wilson Foundation provided $3 million and the state provided $2.5 million to launch the fund, which intends to provide $250,000 investments.


The state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development created Launch Minnesota this year to provide a suite of support activities to emerging companies. The $2.5 million initiative provides grants to organizations that provide training to entrepreneurs, grants to entrepreneurs to receive R&D or business services from training providers, $7,500 grants to entrepreneurs for housing or childcare expenses, and an SBIR/STTR matching program.


Nebraska’s legislature ended the state’s angel investment tax credit, which had provided $4 million in credits to individual investors in startups. The state plans to redirect this funding toward the Business Innovation Act, which authorizes direct programs supporting startups. However, due to recent flood emergency in the state, the next fiscal year’s savings will be directed to victim relief before the going to innovation programs starting with FY 2021-2022.

New Jersey

The state has doubled its angel investor tax credit from 10 percent to 20 percent of qualifying investments. A 25 percent credit is now also available for investments in targeted companies, including those with women or minority owners or located in Opportunity Zones. The legislatively-driven report recommending the increase pointed to the greater generosity of similar programs in Maryland (50 percent) and Massachusetts (30 percent) but did not identify impacts for New Jersey’s credit.

New York

NYC Economic Development Corporation is supporting two, sector-specific projects to support startups. The Grid initiative is a new association to bring together urban tech startups and organizations to develop the city’s emerging cluster, which NYCEDC says has claimed $8 billion of investments. In a related effort, a new pilot program will facilitate proof-of-concept activities for property technology by connecting innovators to the city’s more than 300 million square feet of real estate.


Rev1 Ventures in Columbus partnered with Grange Insurance to create G-Force Innovations, an accelerator focused on insurance technology. The goal is to develop new insurance products and operations, including customer experience and automation. The accelerator is staffed by employees from both Grange and Rev1.


In order to encourage diversity in workforce opportunities, Prosper Portland has created a $10,000 grant opportunity for traded-sector businesses. Companies can use the funds internally or externally on activities that encourage inclusion, such as developing a hiring plan or career pathway, or establishing partnerships with relevant initiatives.


Philadelphia has created a new, StartupPHL Venture Program to support entrepreneurs from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds looking to form a technology-related company. The $5,000-$25,000 grants can be awarded to companies or programs that increase employment in the city, with additional emphasis on efforts to educate potential entrepreneurs or to create opportunities outside of the central business district.


Innovators in central Virginia have new resources available to accelerate their ideas and startups. Charlottesville has created Cville Match to provide matching funds for federal SBIR/STTR awards and Commonwealth Research and Commercialization Fund grants, as well as Virginia Jobs Investment Program awards. Companies can receive up to $25,000 per award. The city is also hosting a regional accelerator, Catalyst, that is providing entrepreneurs with $20,000 grants, workspace, founders-in-residence, and connections to additional resources.


For investors in the Milwaukee region, the Technology Innovation Center received a matching grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) to create a $200,000 angel fund. The award is part of WEDC’s capacity building program, which supports local and regional efforts to bolster entrepreneurship.


A significant change in Wyoming’s economic development strategy began to reach entrepreneurs in 2019. Two new grant programs, Kickstart: Wyoming and SBIR match, made their first awards this year. Kickstart provides $5,000-$50,000 grants to new and expanding companies, and the SBIR match is for companies receiving awards through the federal program.

Additionally, the University of Wyoming launched two entrepreneurial education opportunities. The High Plains Mentor Network, operating in partnership with the Wyoming Business Council, is looking to make connections between entrepreneurs and in-state or alumni business mentors. The university and Central Wyoming College have created a statewide, four-week “Start-Up Intensive” training opportunity to educate a wide variety of potential entrepreneurs. This initiative builds on a 10-week version that is estimated to have supported the creation of 100 jobs averaging $40,000 over the past six years.

states, capital, entrepreneurship