Silicon Valley is synonymous with ground-breaking innovations and market-shaping exports, and I’m not just talking about gadgets and social media apps. The world’s global capital of high technology also produced a game-changing model for empowering entrepreneurs who wish to transform small smart-ups into "the next big thing."
This morning at the White House, I met with a group of leaders who are exporting the Silicon Valley-style incubator to America’s heartland and beyond. They are the winners of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) first-ever Growth Accelerator Competition.
As SBA Administrator, I talk a lot about "entrepreneurial ecosystems," because we know successful new enterprises aren’t created in a vacuum. Incubators, or accelerators, create a multi-faceted support structure to help startups quickly launch and commercialize their ideas.
They offer entrepreneurs a physical infrastructure to work during their infancy; hands-on mentoring; peer support; expert help developing business plans; opportunities to network with funders, angel investors, and venture capitalists; and introductions to potential customers, partners and suppliers.
The research is clear: Entrepreneurs supported by strong ecosystems scale up faster, create more jobs, and have a greater chance at success. Accelerators minimize entrepreneurial growing pains and turn cool new ideas into job-creating enterprises. As a native Californian, I saw their transformative impact in the Silicon Valley, and I’m confident this model can work in communities across America.
So this May at Twitter headquarters, I announced the SBA’s first-ever Growth Accelerator Competition to identify the best players in this space. We recently announced the 50 winners who are committed to delivering this model to every corner of our country. Selected out of 832 applications, they will focus on lifting up underserved populations, including women, minority and veteran business owners.
One of our winners is the myStartupXX accelerator at University of California at San Diego. Its founder was inspired by watching the movie Social Network. She saw the dynamic start-up environment depicted in the film and thought, "We need to do something like this for women." The startups in her accelerator are all women-led, high-tech companies, and they’ve already raised more than $2.6 million and created 130 jobs.
Another winner, Smarter in the City, was founded by a graduate of MIT’s city planning program. After earning his master’s degree, he didn’t want to just build buildings; he wanted to build human capital to provide ladders of opportunity to people of color whose families had lived in the Boston suburb of Roxbury for generations. The accelerator has recruited its first cohort of minority high-tech entrepreneurs in the predominately African-American suburb of Roxbury. One of those entrepreneurs, an 18-year-old son of Nigerian immigrants, is building a new social media platform where athletes can go online to find practice partners to help improve each other’s game.
And that’s fitting, because upping our game is precisely what the Accelerators Competition is all about. Stay tuned for big things from our 50 winners.