'Innovation Fund America' will help communities in California, Kansas, North Carolina access key resources for high-growth tech startups
KANSAS CITY, Mo., and ELYRIA, Ohio (Jan. 31, 2013) – As the nation's economy continues its sluggish recovery, community colleges have emerged as important engines for entrepreneurial activity and job creation. An innovative new program, created and proven in a community college in northeastern Ohio, is hitting the road to help schools and the communities they serve to launch and grow technology-based startups.
Innovation Fund America (IFA), a 501(c)3 partnership between Lorain County Community College (LCCC) in Elyria, Ohio, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, has selected Long Beach (Calif.) Community College, Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., and Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C., as the first schools to pilot its program that invests in, mentors and motivates high-growth entrepreneurs.
"The IFA partners share a vision and passion for democratizing technology-based entrepreneurship," said Thom Ruhe, Kauffman Foundation vice president of entrepreneurship and IFA board member. "Together we aim to make community colleges a front door for entrepreneurship across our country."
Leaders of the Kauffman Foundation and LCCC will introduce their pilot IFA partners on Feb. 2 at the 2013 American Association of Community Colleges' Workforce Development Institute in San Diego.
Last May, the Kauffman Foundation made a grant of $1 million to fund the creation of the IFA organization and is working with LCCC to replicate nationally the successful Innovation Fund model for mentoring and funding high-growth startups, especially first-time founders, that has seen considerable success in spurring sustainable economic growth in northeast Ohio, a hard-hit region dominated by manufacturing.
Launched by the LCCC Foundation in 2007, the Innovation Fund offers vital support to new and young firms through pre-seed-stage access to capital for proof of concept, intensive coaching and mentoring, and education and internship opportunities. To date, LCCC's Innovation Fund has invested $6.5 million in 94 companies that have created more than 300 jobs, provided more than 150 paid internships, generated $17 million in revenue, and raised $71 million in follow-on funding.
"We've seen tremendous success in developing and growing the Innovation Fund, and our portfolio companies are yielding jobs, innovative technology and enhanced economic prosperity across northeast Ohio," said Dr. Roy Church, president of LCCC and the IFA board. "We believe our new IFA partners will achieve similar success in their efforts to fund, mentor and accelerate the growth of startups that, in turn, benefit regional economies."
Upon announcing the program expansion in May, IFA received applications from community colleges across the United States. The three pilot schools were selected after several rounds of interviews, site visits and study of entrepreneurs' needs in each community. IFA seeks to prove the viability of its model in the pilot sites before expanding the program to additional community college campuses nationwide.
"Our partner schools in Long Beach, Kansas City and North Carolina already are doing standout work to support entrepreneurs in their regions, and they have clearly demonstrated the innovative spirit needed to take on such an ambitious, game-changing program," Ruhe said. "I expect our IFA pilot will provide a replicable baseline methodology that can advance the movement already under way to position community colleges as front doors to high-growth entrepreneurship in under-resourced communities across the country."
For more information about IFA, visit sites.kauffman.org/ifa.
About Lorain County Community College
Lorain County Community College, a comprehensive community college serving over 17,000 students annually, supports its community through the four cornerstones of its mission: education, economic, cultural and community growth. The college's focus on innovation and entrepreneurship has led to its emergence as a regional leader in economic development. In 2001, the college, in partnership with the Lorain County Commissioners and Lorain County Chamber of Commerce, launched the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), an incubator on campus that has advised more than 2,600 entrepreneurs and formally mentored more than 100 companies. GLIDE's success led to the 2007 creation of the Innovation Fund, a pre-seed fund that has awarded $6.5 million to 94 early-stage technology-based companies. The Innovation Fund's innovative and collaborative approach to funding and mentoring entrepreneurs is now serving as a national model with the launch of Innovation Fund America.