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].
Founder Institute Pushes For Social Entrepreneurship
Ashley Connell co-founded Austin-based Prowess Project to pair women looking to reenter the workforce with companies seeking to fill project manager positions. The mission is important — the backbone of her company, she says, so much so that she’s told investors not to fund her if they’d get upset if she chose mission over profitability.
“I was getting a ton of people telling me, don’t even bring up the social impact piece, only talk about the solution and how it’s going to save the business money,” she said. “And after hearing that over and over and over again, I got so frustrated and was like, that is complete bullshit.”
Connell is one of about 5,000 entrepreneurs that have emerged from the Founder Institute Institute, according to the incubator, which has 190 locations worldwide. In a major shift inspired by people like Connell, the Institute is now asking its entrepreneurs to commit to working on one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include points such as no hunger, clean water and sanitation and quality education. The goal is for 80% of the companies built in the Founder Institute to have a social impact focus by 2030.
Founders Institute launched in 2009. Funded via course fees and sponsorships (it costs an entrepreneur anywhere from $99- $1199 to take part, depending on when and where the program takes place), it also includes an Equity Collective, a 15-year fund that each graduate’s company contributes warrants to. Returns are shared between the cohort, mentors and leaders within the incubator.
“We’re trying to really create this ecosystem where there’s alignment for all of the different players and this startup journey to help put companies out there that can make money, but also make an impact,” Founder Institute co-founder Jonathan Greechan said.
“I think that you can make a ridiculous amount of impact building a for profit company that can also do some good in the world.”
Take Ben Moore, who graduated from the Founder Institute’s Greenville, S.C. program in 2015. When he founded his packaging company, tForm, recycling was an important part. The Williamston, S.C.-based manufacturing plant developed recyclable plastic for medical equipment, which needs to be packaged in a plastic or a plastic-like material in order to stay sterile and is typically single-use. Moore also founded Bubble Paper in 2019, which produces a recyclable bubble wrap made of paper.
The quality is still there — the medical equipment remains sterile in the recyclable packing and the paper bubble wrap protects valuable shipments from breaking inside the box– but the company hopes to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up on the Earth, he said. tForm has raised about $1.5 million in funding, he said.
The Sustainable Development Goals can feel impossible to reach, Greechan said, so the Founder Institute asks its entrepreneurs to focus on just one small goal that can contribute to solving the large issue.
“Not every entrepreneur needs, or, frankly, can change the world, but every company can just do their part and make a little bit of progress towards the SDGs,” Greechan said. “Because even though one small company can’t make the impact of a Tesla, or a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the number of new companies being formed every year is insane. So even if just the percentage of those companies [do], even though each of them will have a smaller impact, cumulatively, they can have a much larger impact.”
The Institute has launched a competition, which is open for startups creating a social impact. Entrepreneurs can submit a 1-minute pitch and apply to participate in the global demo day, which will be held virtually. The incubator is accepting applications until May 28.
Louisville Incubator and Bellarmine U Partner to Support Women of Color
A new incubator program in the Bellarmine University Rubel School of Business is setting out to uplift women of color. It’s partnered with the recently-created Russell Technology Business Incubator, which is a free incubator program for minorities in Louisville, The Lane Report writes. The Rubel School’s program, called the Women of Color Entrepreneurs—Leadership Certificate, is taught by women leaders from the University and other minority leaders in the community, according to the article. It’s geared toward women with less than two years of entrepreneurial experience
The partnership allows two Russell incubator entrepreneurs priority registration to the Rubel program, and the leader and runner up of the Certificate program will be automatically admitted to the Russell incubator. The incubator’s founder David Christopher told Times of E in February about the importance of getting everyone involved to boost minority entrepreneurs, who often struggle to build businesses because of unaccessible funding and lack of information.
“We’re about partnerships, and bringing everybody in,” he said in February. “It’s not about us trying to do everything. This is a big problem, so we got to fix it together.”
Names to Know
Lars Perkins is the head of the new Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator in Portland, Maine, Mainebiz reports. Perkins is a longtime entrepreneur, investor and consultant, spending most of his career in California. He’s the founder of Picasa, a digital photograph software developer, which he sold to Google in 2004. After that, he spent two years working at the internet giant, and was its director of product management, according to the article.
Margaret Handmaker will be leading the Louisville Accelerator Team, a group established to guide the city’s expected $430 million America Rescue Plan funds, as its executive director, WBRB reports. Handmaker is the president of Ellico, a consultant agency in Louisville, and previously has been Kentucky’s secretary of revenue and Louisville Metro Government chief of international and economic development, according to the article. She will work with city agencies and partners to distribute the federal funds.
Karl LaPan is the new director of incubation services at the University of Florida’s incubator, UF Incubate, according to a university announcement. He is taking over for Mark Long, who will retire this summer. LaPan has been the president and CEO of NIIC, a nonprofit entrepreneur support organization in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since 2000, according to the article.
Nominations Open for the 2022 Aurora Prize
The Aurora Humanitarian Institute is asking for nominations for its 2022 Prize for Awakening Humanity, a global award which recognizes those who “risk their own lives, health or freedom to save the lives, health or freedom of others,” according to a news release. The Yerevan, Armenia-based group is focused on helping “the most destitute” and was founded on behalf of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Those selected for the prize will receive a $1 million award. Nominations are due Oct. 31.
State College of Florida in Manatee- Sarasota Launches New Incubator Program
The State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota has launched a new incubator program, which offers services to startups in the area, according to an announcement in the Bradenton Herald. The program is part of the college’s 26 West Center, which also includes a coding school and will soon include a creative studio. It’s funded by a $3.6 million Florida Job Growth Grant, according to the announcement. 26 West Incubator currently has two programs: one for veterans, which ran its first cohort last year, and this newly launched program, which is more broad. The program is open to anyone in the area, and will offer services such as mentoring, legal help, financial information and marketing. Fees depend on what entrepreneurs are looking to have access to — its smallest package is $100 and the largest is $500. Applications are open on its website.
Kroger Offers Opportunity to Growers and Producers to Get Their Products on Its Shelves
Cincinnati, Ohio-based supermarket chain Kroger has launched an accelerator program for American growers and producers to work with the company, according to a news release. The goal of the program, called Go Fresh & Supplier Accelerator, is for the supermarket to identify new partners to expand its fresh departments, according to the release. It was created in partnership with Gourmet Foods International and Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing and RangeMe. Up to 15 finalists will be selected to participate in the program, which will be held in Cincinnati. Each will pitch their business to a panel of judges, and five winners will receive mentoring, partnership opportunities and their products on Kroger shelves. Applications are due May 31.
DataRobot To Offer One Entrepreneur Working on Healthcare AI Access To Its Program
Boston-based DataRobot is seeking entrepreneurs working on Artificial Intelligence solutions in healthcare, according to a news release. One selected entrepreneur will receive access to DataRobot’s database and mentoring from its team. Applications are due June 11.
DC Policy Advocator Third Way Seeking New Director of Its Entrepreneurship Center
Third Way, a Washington D.C.-based think tank pushing for center-left policy, is searching for a new director for its Center for Entrepreneurial Equity, according to an ad on its website. The position is located in D.C. The center is seeking someone with experience in policy, management and working creatively. It’s currently accepting applications on its website.
UK 5G Accelerator Opens Smart Cities Challenge 5pring, a West Midlands, United Kingdom-based 5G accelerator, has launched a Smart Cities Challenge with West Midlands local authorities, according to a news release. The challenge is calling on entrepreneurs with ideas in scaling 5G innovations targeted at health, social and public sectors. The program will help these entrepreneurs develop their ideas. Some applicants will also have access to the University of Wolverhampton Science Park and mentoring from the local authorities. Applications are due June 25.