A weekly roundup of fund, accelerator and incubator news
Welcome to The Hub, your spot for ecosystem and accelerator news. In this news roundup, we provide you with the latest on organizations working to support, educate and fund innovators and their ideas. We’ll highlight cohort applications, people to know in the incubator world and programs working to give resources to those who typically don’t have access elsewhere. As always, we’re focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs — such as women, people of color, and those geographically outside power centers — and organizations supporting these demographics.
If you have a piece of news or a job listing you think will fit into this roundup, email it to Skyler Rossi at [email protected].
Local Venues Are Struggling. Grants Are Their Lifeline
Music venue operator Tobi Parks and her wife moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Des Moines Iowa in 2015 in order to open her venue, xBk, in the Midwest, where rents were lower. She secured a building and poured her life savings (including the money from selling her property in Brooklyn) into the new space. xBk– which means “ex-Brooklyn”– opened in the fall of 2019.
Then, the pandemic hit. The venue she had spent years building had to close its doors.
“We have been closed longer than we were ever open,” Parks shared during a Thursday panel hosted by Main Street Alliance, a group that advocates for small business owners. “And that is devastating.”
For many music venue owners, the pandemic offered two choices: shut down completely or pivot to serving food. Now, a year later, even as restrictions are lifted in many cities and states across the country, venues continue to struggle as artists stay home and people remain uncomfortable with group gatherings.
It’s something the Small Business Association is recognizing; it’s allocated $16 billion for venue operators through its Shuttered Venue Operator Grant. Applications for that program opened April 26.
Parks and two other U.S. venue owners– Rossi Martin, owner of the only venue in Marion, North Carolina, Spillway Bridge, and Dashiell Brody, managing partner at Friends and Lovers in Brooklyn, New York– shared the challenges they endured during the pandemic during the panel. Each are three of 65 entrepreneurs who received a $10,000 grant from Main Street. The funds were provided by Norwalk, Connecticut-based Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey.
Parks had a profession she could fall back on; a lawyer by trade, she was able to make money to funnel into the business and keep it alive. But it was the funding she received through Community Development Financial Institutions and grants along the way, including the one from Main Street, that made the difference. “If it was not for those programs, we very likely wouldn’t be here today,” she said during the panel.
“I certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Parks said. “I think that in particular after hitting submit on our SVOG application on Monday, that light got even brighter.”
Martin opened the doors of his local venue in April for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. While he’s elated to see his community back in his gathering space, it’s still not the same.
Meanwhile, Friends and Lovers shifted to online streaming of events last spring. But soon attendee numbers dwindled with streaming and pandemic fatigue.
“At first people were very generous,” Brody said. “Then, our patrons and supporters started to realize that this pandemic was going for a very long time and their jobs and their incomes were not necessarily secure. That money dried up pretty quickly.”
Parks predicts that the future of the music industry will be outside the big cities, for the same reason that pushed her out: “I’ve always felt that sort of the next stage of artistic explosion, if you will, is not probably going to be happening in these large metropolitan areas, because it’s cost prohibitive for a lot of artists and younger entrepreneurs to exist there. And so they’re moving to towns like Des Moines to do exactly what I’m trying to do there.”
Minneapolis Twins Team Up with TechStars for New Accelerator
Global accelerator TechStars has partnered with the Minneapolis Twins to launch a new program to advance startups focused on the intersection of sports, technology and entertainment, according to the TechStars website. The group is seeking 10 startups to participate in the 13 week program, which will provide resources such as $20,000 in funding for 6% equity and networking, according to its FAQ section. Accepted companies in mentor-driven accelerators also are offered an optional $100,000 convertible note. Applications open May 10.
The program is a form of brand evolution for the Twins, trying to expand its name beyond the field, its executive VP of brand and strategy growth, Joe Pohlad, told Twin Cities Business reporter Dan Niepow. The goal is to bring more innovation to the Twins brand, he said in the article.
Another Quantum Startup Incubator
The University of Maryland launched an incubator focused on quantum startups, called the Quantum Startup Foundry, according to an April 23 press release. The program was created with a $25 million investment from the university’s new Discovery Fund and is also backed by a $10 million investment for quantum facilities. The incubator was inspired by the work done at the Mid-Atlantic Quantum Alliance, a quantum research hub housed at the university.
“While the promise of quantum may seem far off, it’s not,” Julie Lenzer, the chief innovation officer at the university, said in the release. “The future is quantum, and it starts now.” The University of Maryland is not the only one who thinks so — earlier this month, the University of Chicago launched an incubator with a similar focus.
Names to Know
Bailey Kinney is the new executive director of Lemonade Day in Houston, a national organization that aims to give kids the tools to become entrepreneurs, the Houston Business Journal reports. Previously, Kinney was the owner of Toys to Love, a local toy retail shop in Houston.
Selecca Bulgar-Medina recently became director of the Maine Small Business Coalition, located in Augusta, MaineBiz reports. Bulgar-Media was previously a fellow at the University of Chicago’s Law School and worked at its IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship, which provides free legal assistance and advocacy for low-income entrepreneurs. She also has experience lobbying, previously working for the Locke Lorde Public Policy Group in Boston, according to the article. She plans to apply this experience in her new role to advocate for the nearly 4,000 businesses in the coalition.
Marco Rolandi was named the director of the University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development earlier this month, according to a university announcement. He’s a professor there and also the chair of the department of electrical engineering. Rolandi will partner with the university’s new Innovation and Business Engagement Hub, according to the announcement. He will step into the role July 1.
Missouri State Efactory Seeks Startups For Its Fifth Cohort
Applications for the fifth cohort of efactory at Missouri State University will be live May 1, according to an announcement written by Paige Oxendine, the assistant director at efactory, in the Neosho Daily News. The accelerator is seeking three-five companies to participate in its 18-week program. Anyone is encouraged to apply, but the accelerator particularly enjoys working with early-stage startups, Oxendine wrote in an email. Each selected group will receive a $30,000 investment for 8% equity of their company. Applications will close May 31.
CU Boulder Aims To Help Its Students Launch Businesses Out of COVID-19 Innovations
University of Colorado- Boulder is hoping to develop CU Boulder student-run COVID-19 research and innovations into businesses through a new accelerator it launched last week, according to a university announcement. The program, which they’re calling the Pandemic Hyper Accelerator for Science and Technology, is backed by Venture Partners at the university. It also received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology Challenge, and a $125,000 local match, according to the announcement. The program will run virtually for six months, starting in June. Applications are open until May 21.
Jason Mraz Joins Chipotle Accelerator For Sustainable Food Startups
Newport Beach, California-based restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has partnered with Jason Mraz, musician and main avocado supplier for the restaurant, for the third year of its accelerator for building sustainable food systems, according to a Thursday press release. The program is run through the company’s Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which has contributed about $5 million to people working to create more sustainable food systems, and a partnership with Denver-based Uncharted, a social impact accelerator. The program will offer resources such as investor introductions and mentorship from Mraz and other leaders. Last cohort’s mentors included Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea and executive chair of Beyond Meat, and Shari Rogge-Fidler, President and CEO of the Farm Foundation, according to Uncharted’s website. Accepted entrepreneurs will also receive a free entree from Chipotle everyday for a year. The seven month program is accepting applications until May 27.
About $27 Million For MENA Startups
Saudi Arabia-focused venture capital firm Nama Ventures is on track to add about $26.7 million to its investment fund, which backs Middle East and North African-based startups, Arabian Business reports. The fund has already launched, and Managing Partner Abdullah Alaraj told Arabian Business it’s expected to close soon. Venture capital has been on the rise in Saudi Arabia, the article indicates, and the trend seems to continue as tech startups spike as a result of the pandemic.