News for VDOs

SSTI Update
SSTI Annual Conference Heads to Chicago on Sep 14-16, 2014

Hosted by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, SSTI's 18th Annual Conference will be held in Chicago at the Westin Chicago River North Hotel on September 14-16, 2014.

Chicago provides an excellent backdrop for SSTI's 18th Annual Conference. Illinois has a vibrant technology community that is using innovative approaches to bring together state and local partnerships to positively impact the economy.

Keeping with years past, the agenda will be set by SSTI member recommendations to ensure the conference will be packed with the most timely and relevant sessions. Look for more information on SSTI's conference website at: Sponsorship opportunities are available; contact Noelle Sheets at for more information.


Accelerator Roundup

Note: This story first ran in the SSTI Weekly Digest for June 12, 2013.

As summer begins, there continues to be news across the accelerator community, as some classes exit, some classes enter, and new accelerator programs begin across the country. Here is the accelerator roundup for late spring.

In Virginia, the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) is launching MACH37, a cybersecurity accelerator which will start its first class in mid-September. MACH37 companies will receive $25,000 in equity funding with an opportunity to receive another $200,000 at the end of the program through an investment from the MACH37 Fund and other investors. The three-month program connects startups to cybersecurity professionals, investors, and early technology adopters. Read the CIT press release...

Two accelerators are opening their doors in Nebraska this summer. Straight Shot will open in July in Omaha for technology entrepreneurs in ecommerce and web services. The first class consists of seven companies from Nebraska, California, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Minnesota. Straight Shot has an extensive network of mentors to assist, and Dundee Venture Capital provides $20,000 to each startup in exchange for 6 percent equity in the company.

The second accelerator in Nebraska is NMotion in Lincoln, which opened its first 12-week program with five companies at the beginning of June. Similar to Straight Shot, startups at NMotion receive $15,000 in seed capital in exchange for 6 percent equity in the company. The funding comes from a combination of Invest Nebraska Corporation, Nebraska Angels, and other individual investors. NMotion works with companies focusing on software and technology in financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, communications, and agriculture.

The first week of June also marked the start of New York University's Summer Launchpad, a 10-week accelerator that provides $7,500 to 10 student teams and pairs them with entrepreneurs and investor mentors from NYU alumni and the city's startup community. Milwaukee, WI, is also launched a new downtown seed accelerator called Revolution Labs at the beginning of June with $100,000 in public money from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Revolution Labs will be managed by VETransfer. The pilot program contains five companies which will receive a $10,000 grant at the completion of the program.

In Arizona, an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Mesa and Arizona State University would create the Mesa Technology Accelerator on the Arizona State Polytechnic campus. The city will provide the funding and administrative overhead, with Arizona State contributing office space for the accelerator. This agreement must garner approval from the Mesa City Council this month.

Although not new, four bioaccelerators working in the health fields also are accepting applicants for their summer classes — Blueprint Health (New York, NY), Iron Yard Digital Health Accelerator (Greenville, SC), Healthbox (Jacksonville, FL), and Tigerlabs Health (Princeton, NJ).

Internationally, Ignition Lab near Sydney, Australia currently is taking applications for its program that will begin in September and focus on health and medical technology startups. Two points distinguish this accelerator for an American audience. First, it uses a model based on the Memphis, TN, accelerator Zeroto510 to determine the eligible businesses for program inclusion; and second, at the conclusion of the program in November, the companies engage in a roadshow throughout Australia, Europe, and the United States.

In addition, the University City Science Center is collaborating with the Philadelphia Canadian Consulate to open the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Philadelphia, which is based on similar programs in New York and California. Started in May, the program will use the Science Center's resources to support Canadian health IT companies.

Recent class intakes include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Founders' Skills Accelerator. The 14 teams in this summer's class are a mix of MIT students and international teams. TechLaunch in New Jersey began its 16-week summer program in mid-May with eight companies, and 500 Startups in California have brought in 28 companies from ten countries, including its first from Africa and the Middle East.


Accelerators Making News in the Start of the New Year

Note: This story first ran in the SSTI Weekly Digest for February 27, 2013.

In the first two months of the year, a number of venture accelerators have initiated new classes, publicized their work through demo days or launched new initiatives or expansions.  Here are some of the highlights that have occurred in the last few weeks. 

One of the most expansive accelerator networks in the country, TechStars, is joining forces with the London (UK)-based accelerator Springboard and opening TechStars London, which extends the network to seven cities, after Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Seattle, and the headquarters in Boulder, CO.  The London program will start in July 2013, with startups receiving $18,000 with an additional $100,000 convertible note.  In addition, TechStars Boston has announced the intake of their latest class of companies.

In Detroit, the VDO TechTown and the accelerator Bizdom are partnering with Invest Detroit to create the Detroit Technology Exchange.  Funding for the Exchange comes from a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Strategic Fund.  The Exchange will run four programs, which includes a ten-week summer boot camp for college students wanting to learn how to start tech-based companies, and an executive-in-residence program.

Surge Accelerator (Houston, TX) and Acceleprise (Washington, DC) have both recently announced their intakes for their next accelerator classes.  Surge’s second class of twelve companies in energy and water software will spend the next three months in the accelerator with a demo day in late May.  Acceleprise welcomed the first of three classes of eight companies for this year in late January. 

At the other end of the accelerator process, Rock Health (San Francisco, CA) and StartX (Palo Alto, CA) companies have participated in their accelerators’ demo days, and have completed their program.  Rock Health focuses on digital health startups, and provides $100,000 in funding to each company for the three-month program.  Fourteen digital health startups completed the Rock Health program.  StartX is funded by the Stanford University Student Enterprises, which is the financial arm of the Stanford student body.  At its eighth demo day in early February, eleven companies pitched their ideas.

As the accelerator trend continues to expand, both New Jersey and Boston have announced they are planning to open new accelerators.  The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is launching a life science and healthcare IT accelerator and will partner with the private sector to operate the accelerator.  It is expected that ten companies would participate in the program, with each company receiving between $20,000-$100,000.  In Boston, a group of entrepreneurs have announced the creation of LearnLaunchX which will open in June.  The program will last for three months, which each company receiving $18,000 in seed funding in return for a 6 percent equity stake.  The initial class is planned to have up to eight companies.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 1, 2013


Federal Funding
Innovation Corps Winners Announced

Late last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the grant awards for their Innovation Corps (I-Corps) which prepares researchers and broadens the impact of NSF-funded projects.  A total of more than $11.2 million was distributed to three university consortia to create “nodes” for innovation, infrastructure, and research.  The grants will begin on March 1 and last through February of 2016.

The NSF Bay Area Regional I-Node Program at the University of California-Berkeley in collaboration with the University of California-San Francisco and Stanford University.  It is receiving $3.75 million in support of the universities’ entrepreneurship platform, the implementation of the Lean LaunchPad methodology in classrooms and training, and researching commercialization outcomes.

The University of Maryland, along with George Washington University and Virginia Tech, is awarded nearly $3.75 million.  The award will be used to implement two initiatives.  First, the creation of a DMV I-Corps Mentor Network which will attract and train mentors; and second, a post-I-Corps Support program to assist teams with additional activities such as customer development, tech transfer, fundraising, and legal services.

The New York City Regional Innovation Node is at the City University of New York working with New York University and Columbia University.  This group is awarded $3.74 million to support leveraging of the New York City innovation ecosystem and nationwide access to that ecosystem.  The node will also develop an open-source software suite for Lean analytics and startup operation, as well as providing workshops and seminars.

The full press release on the grant recipients is available on the NSF website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 26, 2013


Startup 3.0 Introduced in the Senate

Following up on the failures of the first two attempts at similar legislation in 2011 and 2012, Senators Moran (R-KS), Warner (D-VA), Blunt (R-MO), and Coons (D-DE) introduced Startup Act 3.0 (S.310) last week.  This version of the Startup Act has many similarities to Startup Act 2.0 introduced last May.

Specifically, the legislation calls for:

  • Creating a new visa for up to 50,000 foreign students who graduate with a masters or doctorate in a STEM field.
  • Creating a new visa for up to 75,000 immigrant entrepreneurs who hold an H-1B or F-1 visa and who create a new business that employs at least two individuals and raises capital investments of at least $100,000.
  • Eliminating country caps for employment-based immigrant visas.
  • Making permanent the capital gains tax exemption for investments held for five years in “qualified small businesses,” which have less than $50 million in total assets.
  • Creating an R&D tax credit for startups with less than $5 million in annual receipts and less than five years old.
  • The use of existing federal funding to support innovation initiatives at universities to accelerate commercialization.

For more on Startup Act 3.0, see the legislation information on Sen. Moran’s website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 19, 2013


Blackstone Charitable Foundation Awards $1 Million to Support Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced the winners of its annual $1 million Blackstone Organizational Grants Program which supports entrepreneurship and innovation.  Among the nine winners, the VDO community was well-represented, with Idea Village (New Orleans, LA) and Pacific Community Ventures (San Francisco, CA).  Ideal Village is receiving $100,000 to scale its support network, and Pacific Community Ventures will receive $120,000 to pilot its Remote Business Advising Platform which is an automated version of PCV’s support across the country.

Other awardees include the Stanford University accelerator StartX, a partner of the Stanford Student Enterprises, the financial arm of the Stanford student government, which received $100,000 to expand its program to other cities around the country. Arizona State University also received $145,000 for a pilot education and support program for non-traditional entrepreneurs, such as retirees, veterans, and skilled but unemployed workers.

Funding for the Blackstone Organizational Grants Program comes from a five year, $50 million Entrepreneurship Initiative begun in 2010.  In August of 2012, Blackstone put out an RFP for organizations working in innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was founded in 2007 and aims to support entrepreneurship, specifically in areas most impacted by the current economic recession.  Read more about the grant winners on the Blackstone press release.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 13, 2013


White House Announces Second Presidential Innovation Fellows Program

The White House has begun accepting applications for its second round of Presidential Innovation Fellows. Last year, 18 Fellows worked on five projects in the inaugural round.  This year, Fellows will be selected in nine projects – five new projects as well as continuations of four of the projects from last year – for a period of 6-12 months.  Applications will be accepted until March 17th.

The nine projects are:

Disaster Response and Recovery will build tech tools for health and economic response in emergency and natural disaster situations.

MyUSA (formerly MyGov) will simplify access to information and government services, which will help businesses.

RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools (formerly RFP-EZ) makes it easier for government to contract and buy from small, high-growth tech companies.

Cyber-Physical Systems is a collaboration between government and industry to create standards for “smart systems” and “industrial internet” to help grow new jobs.

Open Data Initiatives will make government information resources more accessible online and in more appropriate formatting.

MyData Initiatives would assist access to persona health, energy, and education data.

Innovation Toolkit would create a toolkit which would enable the federal workforce to better respond to national needs.

21st Century Financial Systems would move federal agencies’ financial accounting systems to more flexible and less expensive options.

Development Innovation Ventures will help the federal government to find, test, and scale solutions.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 5, 2013


Innovation Center of the Rockies Forms New Partnerships for Biotech Commercialization

The Innovation Center of the Rockies is entering into a partnership with the University of Colorado Tech Transfer Office to develop a pilot program to assist in the commercialization of biotech research through working with faculty teams with short-term commercial potential.  Through the Innovation Center of the Rockies, the teams will be matched with advisors and given the opportunity to present their projects to investors.  The program will be run out of the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority Life Science Campus.

“Starting with our long-standing relationship with the University of Colorado, the [Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority]initiative is planned to expand statewide, and is poised to become a powerful engine of medical innovation and economic growth for Colorado,” said Innovation Center of the Rockies Executive Director Tim Bour.

More information on the partnership and the project is available on the Innovation Center of the Rockies website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 18, 2013


Mississippi Technology Alliance now Innovate Mississippi

The Mississippi Technology Alliance announced at their 13th Annual Conference that it is changing to a new name – Innovate Mississippi.

The concept behind the rebranding is to better encompass what the organization does for the state – supporting startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs and the overall TBED community in Mississippi. 

“The name change is an attempt to make sure the public understands the broad areas where we drive innovative company growth,” said Innovate Mississippi President Tony Jeff.  “We've focused our efforts in the innovation economy in Mississippi since our founding, but 'technology' has come to be too limiting in describing the innovation opportunities in agriculture, energy, the biosciences and even manufacturing.”

For more on the organization, visit the new Innovate Mississippi website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: November 16, 2012


Florida Innovation Hub Showing Quick Dividends

In January Innovation Hub, located in Gainesville adjacent to the University of Florida, opened.  The incubator was built with an $8.2 million grant from the EDA.  Now, the preliminary results are starting to be seen.

Between October of last year through the end of the fiscal year in June, twenty-five companies have created 85 jobs and received $7.2 million in private investment, including a $250,000 investment to Gamedayr, an online sports reporter.  Several companies have graduated from the incubator into other office space, such as Shadow Health, which is developing animated medical training technology licensed from the University and now employs 24 people.  Other companies operate in the IT, mobile app, and social networking areas, as well as medical devices.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: October 9, 2012


Federal Funding
Make it in America Challenge to Help Investment in American Businesses

Last week, the Departments of Commerce and Labor announced a new $40 million competition to improve investments in domestic businesses, particularly those who engage in insourcing, or reshoring – whereby companies bring jobs back to the United States; and also foreign investment with international companies establishing production centers in the country and hiring local American workers.

Starting in 2013, the competition will provide financial and technical support through three-year grants available to states, municipalities, nonprofits, universities, and economic development districts.  This includes infrastructure improvements and skilled workforce development.

The competition funding is a collaboration of the Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Employment and Training Administration.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: October 1, 2012


Federal Funding
Winners of Strong Cities, Strong Communities Challenge Announced

Late last week, the Department of Commerce announced the winners of the inaugural Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge – Greensboro, North Carolina, Hartford, Connecticut, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Led by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), SC2 is a two-step program.  The first step entails teams of economic planners submitting an economic development plan for their city and region.  In the second stage, cities evaluate these plans and charge the best teams to develop a comprehensive plan for the city.

The Greensboro plan focuses on leveraging industrial clusters currently in the region for long-term economic growth; Hartford is attempting to attract serial entrepreneurs and expand advanced manufacturing companies; and the Las Vegas plan centers of workforce training skills commiserate with local business needs.

An additional challenge is being planned to assist three other municipalities.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: September 24, 2012


Federal Funding
2012 i6 Challenge Winners Announced

The Administration announced yesterday the winners of the third round of the i6 Challenge.  The seven winners will each receive up to $1 million to fund Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums.  The goal is to create expert networks to support innovation and research, achieve better capital access, and connect mentors and advisors to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

The i6 Challenge was first awarded in 2010, awarding six teams, one in each EDA region, $1 million to support technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.  In 2011, the challenge was rebranded as i6 Green, focusing on clean energy innovation.

This year’s winners are:

  • Arrowhead Center, Las Cruces, NM – At New Mexico State University, to develop the Arrowhead Innovation Network;
  • FirstWaVE Venture Center, Tampa, FL – Will serve the Tampa Bay region through a five-year goal of helping 50 start-ups capture $500,000 in funding;
  • Southern Indiana Development Commission & Battery Innovation Center, Crane, IN – Will partner together to create an Energy Storage Proof of Concept Center;
  • Wisconson Innovates for Success Proof of Concept Center, Madison, WI – Commercialize research from the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research;
  • Digital Sandbox Proof of Concept Center, Kansas City, MO – Create a new commercialization system though digital innovation clustering and technology infrastructure;
  • Virginia Innovation Project, Charlottesville, VA – This partnership project between the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and SRI International will lead proof of concept projects throughout the state;
  • UC-Davis & SARTA, Davis, CA – Working in Sacramento region, this partnership will create a Proof of Concept Center to spur commercialization of sustainable agriculture technologies.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: September 20, 2012


Canada Announces Its "EB-5"

Last week, Canada announced plans to create a new visa for entrepreneurs looking to immigrate to the country.  The new visa, which will commence later this year, would be issued to individuals believed to be candidates to create start-ups in the country, and with the hopes of attracting foreign talent – and the money that comes with them.  This visa system is similar to the EB-5 program of the United States.

Potential entrepreneurs would be identified by venture investment groups, perhaps those who are stymied with the United States’ visa system.

In the former system, an immigrant entrepreneur could start a business and hire one employee, then leave at the end of the year.  The new program will reserve 2,750 visas for entrepreneurs and their families, and will include safeguards and spot checks to ensure the investment funds are being used properly.

In addition, the government also plans to change the investor class visa, which allowed immigration if they provided C$400,000-C$800,000 in loans to a province.  Further details can be found here.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: September 18, 2012


National Network Manufactuing Innovation Workshop

The EDA has announced a public regional workshop for the planning of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).  The meeting will take place at the Arnold and Beckman Center of the National Academy of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California on Thursday, September 27.

The workshop will include administration officials, and representatives from industry and local and state entities. 

NNMI is a new initiative announced by the White House as part of the FY13 appropriation request, with the goal of increasing the United States’ competitiveness and innovation in the manufacturing sector, specifically on scaling new product and process technology.

Pre-registration is open until September 18.   For more information and to register for the workshop, visit the workshop website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: September 14, 2012


Federal Funding
SBA Re-Launches Loan Program

In an attempt to serve and extend capital to underserved communities, the SBA announced the relaunch of the Small Loan Advantage Program, SLA 2.0, which is intended to increase the amount of SBA 7(a) loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities, and allows lenders to receive an indication from the SBA that a business has the required credit for consideration for additional capital and loans.

The 7(a) loans have a maximum of $350,000 with a guarantee of  85% of loans up to $150,000 and 75% for loans greater than $150,000.  The 7(a) loans can be used for various business uses, including working capital, and equipment and property purchases.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: September 10, 2012


New Online Tool Announced to Measure Economic Development Projects

The Economic Development Administration, in partnership with Portland State University and additional partners the University of Arizona, PolicyMap, and the Reinvestment Fund, has developed a new online tool to predict and measure project impacts.

The Triple Bottom Line Tool (TBL) takes into consideration economic, social, and environmental factors to help communities determine the costs and benefits of projects and economic development planning.  The TBL uses multi-criteria decision analysis to develop a score for economic vitality, natural resource stewardship, and community well-being, which are in turn comprised of measures of performance areas.

Information and data requirements for the TBL can be found at the PDF here.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 31, 2012


Boston Globe Reports Increase in Perofmance Tracking by Nonprofits

In a recent article, the Boston Globe reports more nonprofits are now taking stock of their efforts, performance, and outcomes.  By tracking outreach and impact, nonprofits can find better success in attracting funding, and in streamlining their efficiency in delivering services and focusing their mission.  This in turn helps to provide better services to their target audience.  Elisabeth Babcock, President of the Crittenton Women’s Union said, “If you aren’t measuring what you’re doing, then you’re not evolving what you’re doing.”

However, they caution it is difficult to purely capture a nonprofit’s value based on efficiency, as you would with a private sector enterprise.  Areas addressed by nonprofits often do not conform well or lend themselves easily to traditional means of measurement, such as revenues.  Instead, measurements of social change can be harder to capture and quantify.  This can lead to a loss of funding if a nonprofit’s results are not seen as significant.

This greater emphasis and recognition of the importance of tracking impact is reflected in VDOs.  One of the fundamental aspects of VDOs is their continued ability to capture and publish their results – specifically in jobs created, revenues earned, wages paid, and additional investments attracted.  This, as the Boston Globe article points out, makes them and nonprofits more attractive as beneficiaries of investment.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 24, 2012


GAO Finds Redundancy Among Economic Development Programs

The Government Accountability Office in a study released yesterday found that extensive overlap and tracking measures of the success and criteria met exist across found government agencies.

Conducting a study of 52 economic development programs in the Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and the Small Business Administration, the GAO reports that all overlap with at least one other program in terms of either financial and technical assistance or the intended service population.  This can lead to confusion and frustration among individuals seeking federal programmatic assistance.

In addition, the agencies are not tracking the activities and outcomes of their programs.  Of the 52 programs studied, 32 do not have program evaluations.  Further, 19 of the programs are not meeting their annual goals for entrepreneurial assistance, including the SBA’s 504 loans, the USDA’s Rural Business Opportunity Grants, and Commerce’s Economic Development/Support for Planning Organizations.

The GAO recommends increased collaboration and cooperation among the agencies to reduce redundancy and to provide better tracking and program evaluations.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 24, 2012


VDO News
OCTANe Sees Increase in Investments in Portfolio Companies

OCTANe’s LaunchPad program works with startup companies in technology, life science, and clean tech industry.  Through the first six months of 2012, LaunchPad companies have raised more than $25 million in funding.  This represents a 30% increase in investments from the first half of last year.  To date, almost $250 million has been invested in LaunchPad companies.

Included in these investments were $1 million dollars to Pivotshare, and $2 million for MelRok.  A full list of the investments is available on OCTANe’s website.

OCTANe is a VDO located in Aliso Viejo, California, and works in to connect innovators and entrepreneurs with capital and other resources in Orange County.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 21, 2012


SSTI's 16th Annula Conference Agenda Announced

SSTI will host its 16th Annual Conference, The Power of Re- in Atlanta, Georgia on October 29 & 30, with the opening reception at the Georgia Aquarium Arctic Room on the evening of the 28th.

The Conference will be held at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, and will feature four policy tracks – Redesigning Your Strategic Direction, Refining University Economic Development, Reimagining Theory & Practice, and Revitalizing Investment & Capital – as well as addresses by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and Clyde Tuggle, Senior Vice President, Global Public Affairs and Communications at Coca Cola.

Full information on the Conference can be found on the SSTI Conference website.  A brochure of the conference is available here.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 13, 2012


Federal Funding
Winners of the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Announced

On August 1, the winners of the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge were announced.  The Challenge awarded $9 million in varying amounts to thirteen projects around the country to spur economic growth in rural areas.  The money is provided by a combination of funding from the Economic Development Administration, the USDA, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, and further support is provided by nine other federal agencies.

These grants are intended to leverage local funding to promote job creation and improve the capacity and growth of high-potential industry clusters in rural areas.

This year’s winners are:

  • Alaska: Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, $405,023
  • Connecticut: New England Food Hub Cluster Initiative, $568,150
  • Illinois: Henry-Rural Rock Island-Mercer County Economic Development Consortium, $193,500
  • Kansas: Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kansas State University, $715,000
  • Louisiana-Arkansas: I-20 Corridor Regional Accelerator, $964,134
  • Mississippi: Mississippi State University, $1,065,000
  • New Hampshire: Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator, $708,750
  • North Carolina: WNC AgriVentures -- Cultivating Jobs and Innovation Project , $815,000
  • North Carolina: Northern Carolina Eastern Region Aerospace and Automotive Cluster Project, $715,000
  • South Carolina: Southern Carolina Alliance Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, $650,000
  • Virginia: Appalachian Spring – Using Asset-Based and Creative Economy Methods to Catalyze Rural Job Acceleration, $815,000
  • West Virginia: Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator Partnership, $717,985
  • West Virginia: Value Chain Cluster Initiative, $815,000

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: August 8, 2012


VDO News
CONNECT Presents at Clinton Global Initiative, Commits to its Nearsourcing Initiative

CONNECT, a Venture Development Organization in San Diego, presented at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in Chicago last week on San Diego’s “nearsourcing manufacturing and services initiative.

The nearsourcing initiative focuses on matching companies’ need and interest in outsourcing with the local talent pool in the San Diego region.  This includes education workshops and a program which matches manufacturers and innovators to production resources.  The goal is to prevent companies from outsourcing jobs and retaining production and jobs in the regional economy.

As a result of CONNECT’s presentation, CONNECT will expand the nearsourcing program over the next three years with an estimated value of $100,000.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: June 14, 2012


EB-5 Permanance Introduced in the Senate

If your organization or region participates in the EB-5 program, then recent legislation could provide stability to the program.

Introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT) and co-sponsored by Senator Grassley (R-IA), the legislation would grant permanent authorization to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program.

The EB-5 program grants visas to foreign individuals investing in startup companies and enterprises in certain regions of the country.  Investors must invest into qualified companies at least $1 million ($500,000 in high unemployment or rural areas).  The company must create at least 10 full-time jobs within two years of the investment.  For more background from a practitioner of the program, see our RIAN webinar which was presented in January by Rodrigo Cintra of the Center for Innovation’s North Dakota/NW Minnesota Regional Center.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 31, 2012


White House Announces Presidential Innovation Fellows Program

Are you an enterprising innovator interested in working with federal innovators on dynamic projects?  Then consider applying for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program.  This program will connect and pair non-governmental innovators from nonprofits, universities, and the private sector to work with federal innovators on five projects to help job creation and deliver better services.

The five projects, which will begin this summer, are:

The Open Data Initiatives Program will speed and expand the release of government data, and voluntarily-contributed private sector data, in health, education, energy, safety, finance, and the nonprofit sector to help develop new apps and services which utilize this information.

Blue Button for America would expand the use of Blue Button, which allows users to download health information, nationwide.

MyGov would provide a more efficient system for online public access of government information for use.

The RFP-EZ project would allow the federal government to more quickly gain access to small business-developed innovative technologies.

The 20% Campaign is led by USAID and would work to shift federal program payments in support of foreign policy, development assistance, government operations, or commercial activities away from cash payments and towards electronic payments.

Fifteen innovators will be selected to participate in 6-12 month Fellowships in Washington DC starting this summer.  To receive information and updates about the projects, or to receive the application for a Fellowship, go to the White House Fellows page.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 24, 2012


Startup 2.0 Introduced in the Senate

Four senators, Moran (R-KS), Warner (D-VA), Rubio (R-FL), and Coons (D-DE) introduced Startup Act 2.0 (S. 3217), which is intended to build upon the success of the passage and singing of the JOBS Act earlier this year and to continue to support the creation of new enterprises.  Senators Moran and Warner introduced the first Startup Act in December of last year, but Startup 2.0 also includes aspects of Rubio and Coons’ AGREE Act, also introduced last year.  You can find summaries of Startup 2.0 on the senators’ pages, but see Senator Moran’s website for the most complete version.

Among the provisions in the Startup 2.0 are:

  • Visas for up to 50,000 foreign students who graduate from an American university with a masters or Ph.D. in one of the STEM fields.

  • Creates a new “Entrepreneurs’ Visa” for up to 75,000 immigrants who currently hold a visa to enable these entrepreneurs to create new businesses.

  • Eliminates country caps for employment-based immigration visas.

  • Capital gains tax exemption for investments in qualified small businesses made permanent.

  • Limited research and development tax credit for qualifying startups.

  • Use of federal funding to support innovation initiatives to accelerate commercialization of university research and development.

The senators held a joint press conference yesterday on Startup 2.0 that you can see here.  The legislation has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee, where it awaits review.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 23, 2012


VDO News
Congratulations to Tom Walker for his New Position with TechColumbus

Tom Walker, President and CEO of the Venture Development Organization i2E in Oklahoma, has resigned to take the same position with TechColumbus, in Columbus, Ohio.  Mr Walker will continue to fulfill his duties at i2E during the transition, and i2E is conducting a national search for a new leader.

“I’m honored to accept this opportunity and excited to join the Columbus area’s entrepreneurial community,” Mr Walker said. “With the region’s outstanding entrepreneurs and the committed resources and collaborative activity from the city, state, and partners, such as the Ohio State University, Battelle, Columbus 2020, and the Third Frontier, TechColumbus is positioned to achieve even greater outcomes and to enhance its national recognition as a model of new company formation and job creation.”

Prior to accepting his new position with TechColumbus, Mr Walker helped found i2E, and became President and CEO in 2007.  Since assuming the leadership of i2E, Mr Walker has overseen significant growth in the organization’s investment funds and additional angel capital attracted to client companies, as well as becoming a leading figure in the tech-based economic development field.  “When we founded i2E a decade and a half ago, I had no idea of just how fulfilling and exciting the job of helping build Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was going to be,” Mr Walker said.

During his years at the head of i2E, the organization brought in $40 million of investment capital and attracted over $700 million in angel and venture capital investments to client companies.  These companies have had employment growth over 25 percent over the last three years, and contribute more than $50 million to Oklahoma’s GSP (GDP).

“Tom’s legacy is an entrepreneurial ecosystem that has a much better opportunity of commercializing intellectual property and thereby creating Oklahoma-based jobs,” said Howard Barnett, President of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and Oklahoma State University-Center for Health Sciences, and vice-chairman of i2E Board of Directors.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 17, 2012


New SBIR/STTR Rules Proposal

Are you a small business or otherwise have an interest in or wish to comment on new size standards rules for SBIR/STTR? 

On May 15, the SBA published in the Federal Register seeking comment on proposed rules for size standards related to SBIR/STTR.  Simply, the new rule would allow for a small business to be majority owned and controlled by Venture Capital Operating Companies, hedge funds, and/or private equity firms and still be allowed to compete for SBIR/STTR funding.  In addition, foreign ownership of a small business is addressed.

The rules include, among others, definitions and programs subject to size determinations, ownership and control, and certification.

A full description of the new rules, as well as an opportunity to comment, is available on the Federal Registry.  Comments are due by July 16.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 16, 2012


CJS Amendments Voted on in House of Representatives

On May 8, the House of Representatives voted on two amendments pertaining to the EDA as part of the debate on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013.

The amendment introduced by Mike Michaud (D-ME) would have restored $38 million to the EDA.  It failed 190-218.

A second amendment introduced by Mike Pompeo (R-KS) would have eliminated the EDA. It failed 129-279.

A third amendment was approved by voice vote.  This amendment, introduced by David Cicilline (D-RI), would move the regional innovation program language (Section 27 of the amended Stevenson-Wydler Act of 1980) from the America COMPETES Act (the relevant language begins on page 49) to be included into the EDA budget.  This would allow for awards for, among others, planning activities and technical assistance, “facilitating market development of products and services developed by a regional innovation cluster;” “developing relationships between a regional innovation cluster and entities or clusters in other regions;” and “interacting with the State and local governments to meet the goals of the cluster.”

President Obama requested $25 million in funding for the Regional Innovation Strategies Program.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: May 9, 2012


President Obama Signs JOBS Act

Today, President Obama singed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act.  The bill had passed the Senate last week by a vote of 73-26, with 26 Democrats joining all but one Republican in supporting the bill.  Twenty-five Democrats and one independent voted no.

As part of the follow-up to the signing, the White House will hold an off-the-record briefing call on Monday, April 9 at 4:30 eastern.  Dial 800.230.1085 for the call.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: April 5, 2012


VDO News
Boulder Innovation Center to Change Name

Today, the Boulder Innovation Center announced that it is changing its name to the Innovation Center of the Rockies.  The organization will remain based in Boulder.

In a released statement, President Tim Bour stated that the name change reflects the expanded state-wide view of the organization, as it partners with the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines tech transfer offices.

The full press release on the name change is available on the center’s website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 20, 2012


Experts Meet with Rhode Island Governor

Last week, three experienced leaders in the innovation and entrepreneurial fields convened in Providence, Rhode Island to provide expertise and guidance to organizations and individuals in the state, including Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The experts brought in to consult with the Rhode Island community were Chris Coburn, Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations (Cleveland, OH), Rich Lunak, President and CEO of Innovation Works (Pittsburgh, PA), and Jeanne Mell, vice president at the University City Science Center (Philadelphia, PA).

The forum began with an introduction of the state of Rhode Island’s tech-based economic development community, followed by the governor leading a panel discussion with the consultants.  The afternoon sessions included an exploration of how the private and public sectors can work together to build this infrastructure, and the necessity of building a diversified funding network.

Local coverage on the forum includes the Providence Business News and the Providence Journal.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 20, 2012


National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

On Friday, President Obama announced more details on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  The $1 billion proposal first outlined in the FY13 budget request would establish a network of fifteen institutes around the country, which would each serve as a regional hub, to encourage investment and create a more competitive manufacturing ecosystem.

The Network institutes will increase collaboration between industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and states to accelerate manufacturing innovation and developing better connections between basic research and product development.

As part of this program, a $45 million pilot institute will be created with funding provided by the Defense, Energy, and Commerce department as well as the NSF.   The pilot institute would focus on a specific technology area.  $30 million would target investments in advanced manufacturing equipment, $5 million from the NSF would support basic research and workforce development, and $10 million from Defense would support scaling up of technologies developed from the institute in support of national defense needs.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 13, 2012


Halo Report Released

The Angel Resource Institute, the Silicon Valley Bank, and CB Insights have released their 2011 review, the Halo Report, of angel investment community across the country.  The report is intended to track the angel investment activities and trends in North America.  (The compositors of the report are accepting data submissions from angel groups and independent angle investors.  Those interested should email Sarah Dickey, ARI Research Manager.)

Among the findings:

  • The median angel group rounds grew to $700,000, a 40% increase from 2010
  • 58% of angel group investments went to healthcare and internet companies
  • California accounted for 21% of nation-wide deals,  and 29.8% of total dollars

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 12, 2012


House Passes JOBS Act

On Thursday, the House passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act by a vote of 390-23.  All of the Republican delegation voted for the bill, and were joined by 158 Democrats.  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced he will introduce similar legislation in the Senate soon.

Among the components of the bill, an SEC regulation which bans companies from advertising for investors would be removed, as well as eliminating restrictions on “crowd funding,” which enables small companies to raise capital from larger pools of investors.  In addition, small companies could now sell up to $50 million in shares as part of an IPO, and the number of shareholders would increase from 500 to 2,000.

The full text of the bill is on the Library of Congress Thomas website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 12, 2012


Federal Funding
More Details, and the FFO, Announced on the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge

Thirteen federal agencies, led by the Economic Development Administration, the USDA, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, are providing funding, totaling $15 million, and other resources to assist in job creation and economic growth in rural areas.  The effort will leverage local assets and foster connections to industry.  More imformation on the program can be found on the USDA Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge website.

Is it expected that 20 awards will granted, based on applicants and eligibility.  The deadline for applications is May 9.  Find the FFO here.  The USDA has also released a document addressing FAQs on the program and the application process.

Other agencies participating include the USPTO, NIST/MEP, SBA, EPA, and the Departments of Education, Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

Read the Department of Commerce press release.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 8, 2012


VDO News
$3.3 Million Fund Created for Baltimore Start-ups

The Abell Foundation is providing $3 million to the Propel Baltimore Fund, a new investment fund to provide capital to new tech startups in Baltimore.  An additional $300,000 is being contributed by Maryland TEDCO.

The investments will range from $50,000-$100,000, but could reach up to $220,000. 

The Abell Foundation is based in Baltimore and targets finding solutions to urban poverty, through a mix of education, health services, and workforce development, among others.  In addition to this latest $3 million investment, Abell has earlier this year given $100,000 to Baltimore’s Emerging Technology Center incubator, and $75,000 for a survey of the city’s technology community.

Maryland TEDCO is an independent organization dedicated to creating and growing businesses across the state.

More details on this new fund can be found here and the TEDCO press release.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 8, 2012


EDA March Newsletter

In this month's EDA newsletter, three members of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) – Ray Leach, of JumpStart in Cleveland, Ohio, RoseAnn Rosenthal of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and  NACIE co-chair and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman – speak about the importance of supporting small business development and the role universities should play in developing and utilizing an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Mr Leach and Ms Rosenthal responded to several questions on the NACIE project, the importance of public-private partnership, and the successes their respective organizations have had in launching a tech-based startup.

Federal support includes the administration’s $2 billion expansion of the Small Business Administration’s programs providing capital for investment in small, high-potential ventures.  Ms Rosenthal focused on efforts to increase the availability of pre-seed and seed capital.

Also in the newsletter, Ms Coleman writes of the importance of universities across the country in focusing their support of innovation.  “In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, universities and their partners must become more intentional in harnessing the potential of this [entrepreneurial] ecosystem.”

To that end, she points to university programs designed to help students develop entrepreneurship skills, as well as fostering greater connectivity between universities and industry.  This includes a stronger relationship with local and regional economic develop.  An example of this is the Florida Innovation Hub, which opened in January and is designed to better connect the University of Florida with the city of Gainesville and foster new enterprises.

The federal government also has a stake in aiding this system.  The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership will contribute $500 million to help industry, universities, and the government work together to assist in the development and implementation of new manufacturing technologies and methods.

A note: the EDA website has been experiencing issues for some time, and although they are endeavoring to resolve the issue, it is expected to continue to be down for the near future.   This also includes email communication, as well as the monthly newsletter.  A list of EDA contacts is available on the site as it is currently constituted, and several FFOs are also listed.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: March 2, 2012


University of Cincinnati Technology Commercialization Accelerator Formed

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has entered into a partnership with the Midwest EB5 Regional Center to establish the University of Cincinnati Technology Commercialization Accelerator.  The accelerator will be located near campus to help commercialize university basic technology research and to provide a hub for startup companies.  This includes market research and developing a commercialization strategy.

Midwest EB5 has committed $500,000 to create the accelerator, and UC has provided $250,000.  University funding will come from Southern Ohio Creates Companies pre-seed fund.

The goal will be to connect regional resources to the accelerator in order to contribute to the commercialization process.  It is anticipated that four part-time employees, two EiRs and two data analysts, will provide support in the accelerator.

For more details see the UC press release.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 27, 2012


Federal Funding
Commerce Department Launches App Challenge

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department announced a $10,000 challenge to develop an innovative app that utilizes at least one Commerce Department data set to better assist businesses and/or improves the services provided by the newly-launched BusinessUSA website.

All relevant information, including how to enter, judges and judging criteria, and the submission and awarding timeframe are available on the challenge website.  Data sets can be found on the Business Data and Tools page.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 24, 2012


Federal Funding
White House Announces Rural Jobs Accelerator

On Tuesday, the White House announced the Rural Jobs Accelerator, a national competition for projects that promote innovation regional job creation.  The $15 million for the program will come from the USDA (through the Rural Community Development Initiative), Economic Development Administration, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.  All contributing agencies will contribute administrative and technical assistance to the awardees.  The FFO will be released within the next few weeks.  Read the full White House announcement here.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 24, 2012


BusinessUSA Launches

The BusinessUSA site, a part of, has been released in beta.  BusinessUSA is intended to be a one-stop portal for information and assistance for small businesses.  This is part of the president’s proposal to restructure the executive branch to consolidate the Small Business Administration, US Trade Representative, Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, as well as the business and trade functions of the Department of Commerce into a new department to aid in the creation and development of small businesses.

On the site, organizations can find local, state, and federal government contacts and agencies, and pose your individual questions directly to the government through email and chat.  In addition, a list of publications are available for review.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 22, 2012


Practitioners Assist New Mexico in Creating a New Innovation Economy

In mid-February, Northern New Mexico Connect and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Tech Transfer Office hosted a conference with the goal of creating and integrating a new model for the existing venture angel fund.

Beth Sirull of Pacific Community Ventures (San Francisco, CA), Tom Walker of i2E (Oklahoma City, OK), and Tim Williamson of Idea Village (New Orleans, LA) convened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to assist the various organizations, groups, and investors in creating this new model.

After a full day of presentations from the invitees, discussions, and self-assessment, the group was able to focus on several actionable items going forwards which it is hoped will increase the collaboration between the innovation community in the greater Santa Fe and Albuquerque region and the investor and venture community.

Northern New Mexico Connect is the economic development investment organization of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  They provide coaching and networking and technical assistance to clients in an effort to develop the entrepreneurial culture in New Mexico.

The LANL Tech Transfer office is engaged in moving technologies developed at LANL into the general economy through licensing technology to start-up ventures.

(Pictured: Belinda Snyder and Mariann Johnston of LANL)

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 21, 2012


Federal Funding
Administration Announces FY13 Budget Request

Last week, SSTI published its annual budget review for the administration’s requested budget for Fiscal Year 2013.

Details from the Commerce budget request include a total budget of $8.0 billion, a 2.2 percent increase over FY12 enacted levels.  This includes a request for $182 million for EDA programs (not including administrative costs), which amounts to an 18.2 percent decrease from FY12.

EDA is in the process of transitioning away from capital projects and towards more regionally-focused investment projects.  As part of that, the 21st Century Innovation Infrastructure program would be reduced nearly 53 percent.  The funds would be reallocated into Economic Adjustment Assistance (17.1 percent increase) for community support to develop and implement community asset leveraging strategies, and into the new Regional Innovation Strategies, which would receive $25 million to encourage innovation, regional collaboration, and regional innovation clusters.  This would include the administration of the i6 Challenge and the Jobs and Accelerator Challenge.

The Small Business Administration requested budget increases 3.2 percent to $948.3 million.  This includes $496.4 million for SBA’s three loan programs (Section 7(a), 504/Certified Development Company, and Microloans) which would support more than $22 billion in small business financing.

The Small Business Investment Company would be funded to support $4 billion in debentures.  Small Business Development Centers would receive $111.7 million (8.8 percent decrease).  The SBA also operates twenty Regional Innovation Clusters, and $3.4 million (30 percent decrease) has been requested to continue the program.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 21, 2012


EDA Head John Fernandez Steps Down

On February 16, U.S. Commerce Assistant Secretary for Economic Development John Fernandez announced he was stepping down from that position.  After two and a half years as the head of the Economic Development Administration, Mr Fernandez will now continue to work to encourage and support innovation and job growth through the private sector.

In a statement, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said, “John…has positioned EDA to continue to leverage private-public investments, support bottom-up strategies, and build 21st century infrastructure.”

His successes while at the helm of EDA include the i6 Challenge, the Jobs and Innovation Acceleration Challenge, and the U.S. Cluster Mapping project.

In the interim, Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Erskine will assume the role of Acting Assistant Secretary.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 21, 2012


VDO News
NewSchools Venture Fund Launches New Seed Fund

The San Francisco-based NewSchools Venture Fund has launched a new seed fund targeted towards early stage companies which is intended to support entrepreneurs developing education technology applications and tools geared to improve educational opportunities for low-income communities.  Over the course of the year, up to ten investments are planned from this new seed fund. 

As part of this new fund, NewSchools has already made two initial investments.  First, Goalbook, which is a social and mobile platform to help manage “individual education plans” for special education students.  Second, Engrade, is a set of online tools allowing educators to manage classes.

NewSchools Venture Fund, founded in 1998, is a non-profit funding and supporting entrepreneurs creating innovative solutions to problems in public education.  To date, $180 million has been invested to achieve these goals.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: February 1, 2012


Startup America
Startup America Partnership Expands

Today, the number of Startup Regions has more than doubled, with nine new Regions being launched in the closing days of January, bringing the total number of Regions to 17.  The January additions to the Startup America Partnership are Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.  These join the existing Startup Regions which launched last year.

A Startup Region is intended to provide local entrepreneurial support to young companies.  If you are interested in becoming involved with your state’s or region’s Startup program, or would like to participate in bringing Startup America to your state, visit this page.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 31, 2012


The White House State of the Union Follow-Up

In the wake of President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening, the White House is hosting a series of conference calls and information sessions.  The full schedule can be found on the White House’s State of the Union page.

The White House is holding a conference call on Wednesday, January 25th at 3:30 eastern with business leaders to discuss the economic blueprint the president laid out in the State of the Union.  To register, RSVP to

In addition, the economy-related sessions include:

  • Small Business Owners on Thursday the 26th at 4:00 eastern
  • Energy on Friday the 27th at 2:00 eastern
  • Economy on Friday the 27th at 4:00 eastern
  • Job Opportunities on Friday the 27th at 5:00 eastern

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 25, 2012


RIAN Webinar Series Continues...

On Tuesday, RIAN continued its webinar series with its third presentation, this one devoted to the EB-5 Program, an investment and immigration program administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Rodrigo Cintra, Manager of the North Dakota/Northwest Minnesota Regional Center presented a brief background on the Center for Innovation, the North Dakota organization which oversees the Regional Center, and then detailed the EB-5 process and structure, and the success which the Center has had.  Bruce Gjovig, Director of the Center for Innovation, also joined in the call.

Mr Cintra and Mr Gjovig fielded a number of questions, including the programs applicability to early-stage and start-up companies, the usefulness of closer integration across the EB-5 community, and the challenges of convincing potential investors.

The powerpoint from the webinar is below:


Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 25, 2012


RIAN Webinar Series Continues...

On Tuesday, RIAN welcomed numerous individuals from the VDO and economic development committee for our second webinar in as many weeks.  The focus of this presentation was the creation and inclusion of an accelerator as part of an organization’s overall venture-development strategy.

Presenting were Rich Lunak, President and CEO of Innovation Works, and Jim Jen, Director of AlphaLab, Innovation Works’ accelerator.  A synopsis by Mr Lunak of the Innovation Works and its impact in the southwestern Pennsylvania region was followed Mr Jen walking through the background for the AlphaLab and the early successes it has achieved so far since its inception.

The majority of the time was reserved for a Q&A session, which included a number of interesting questions and further expanded on the structure and operations of AlphaLab and its interaction with new ventures.

RIAN’s webinar series will continue on January 24 with “Financing Your Client Firms: The EB-5 Model

Here is the powerpoint from the webinar:The Role of Accelerators in Regional Innovation


Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 18, 2012


Federal Funding
A Brief on Early Stage SBIC

Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Advisor for Innovation for the Small Business Administration, presented a webinar on the proposed Early Stage SBIC Initiative rules which were announced in December of last year.

The goal of this new initiative is to address the investment gap which occurs in the early stages of business growth.  SBA will make a commitment of up to $1 billion over five years to this program.  Other key terms of the proposal include a private capital investment of a minimum of $20 million, with a maximum leverage of $50 million per SBIC.  The commitments have a ten year maturity, and other fees and interest payments apply.

The regulations for the Early Stage SBIC can be found online.  Public comments on the regulations are due by February 7.  A PDF of the proposed program, as well as a brief introduction to the SBIC program as a whole, can be found is also available.  A page addressing FAQs on the changes will be posted soon.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 16, 2012


President Obama Proposes Consolidating Business and Trade Agencies

Today, President Obama requested Congress to grant him the authority to reorganize the executive branch and to radically change the structure of governmental business assistance.  Under the proposal, the Small Business Administration, US Trade Representative, Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, as well as the Department of Commerce’s business and trade functions, would be consolidated to provide a more efficient and effective department for small businesses.  A new website, BusinessUSA would also be launched to provide a single source for information and assistance.

In discussions with small business leaders, it was found that the process for funding and assistance was too confusing, and that the system was too much of a maze.  The President remarked that we “live in a 21st economy, but we’ve still got a government organized for the 20th century.”  The proposed reorganization is intended to modernize and streamline small business assistance.

Not since 1984 has Congress granted a president the authority to reorganize the executive branch, the “consolidation authority” (the Department of Homeland Security was created by an Act of Congress.)

In addition, the President is elevating the Small Business Administration to a Cabinet-level agency, allowing Administrator Karen Mills, provided small businesses a voice in administration decisions.

See the White House press release for more details.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 13, 2012



Florida Innovation Hub Opens!

In June of 2010, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to begin construction on the Florida Innovation Hub.  On Wednesday, the 48,000 square foot facility opened.  U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, and other dignitaries from the community and the University of Florida were in attendance.

The Florida Innovation Hub is a project of the University of Florida, to serve as a business incubator and landing space for companies with technologies which have been spurred from University of Florida research.  The goal is provide these startup companies with the necessary infrastructure and resources to turn these technologies into productive new enterprises.  In so doing, it is hoped these businesses will diversify the economy of not only Gainesville, but also the state as a whole.

The building itself is the result of a $8.2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration, and is intended to be the centerpiece of an “Innovation Square” at the University of Florida.  The Square will help connect the University with the city of Gainesville both economically and physically.

In a message praising the opening of the Hub, Secretary Fernandez said, "America will always depend on its entrepreneurs to be the key drivers of innovation, but they don't operate in a vacuum.  They need an economic ecosystem to thive in - one that includes such elements as wet labs, broadband, research parks and ready access to a population of qualified employees.  The Innovation Hub is just such a place."

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 12, 2012


RIAN Webinar Series Begins

On Tuesday, RIAN hosted the first of its webinar series.  Tom Walker, President and CEO of i2E in Oklahoma, and Amy Coates Madsen of the Standards for Excellence Institute based in Maryland, presented on the process involved in earning the seal from the Institute, and the importance of going through the certification process.

Mr Walker noted that both the process and the certification itself provided value to his organization.  This included reinforcing governance and accountability practice already in place and fine-turning those where needed.  It also helped strengthen existing partnerships while also building new ones.  Ultimately, he believes that going through the process of earning the seal provides a competitive advantage for funding.

The Standards for Excellence is a project of the Maryland Association of Nonprofits.  It looks at 55 benchmarks over 8 guiding principles when reviewing an organization for certification, and has many “replication” partners across the country.  For more information on the Institute or the seal, or to learn how to get started, go to the Standards for Excellence website.

RIAN’s webinar series will continue on January 17 with “The Strategic Role of Accelerators in Regional Innovation."  Note: the title of this webinar has changed.  It was previously known as "VDOs & Accelerators: Effective Parnerships."

Here is the powerpoint from the webinar:Is Your Organization Fit for Funding, Jan 10


Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 11, 2012


Connecticut Innovations Launches TechStart Fund

The new TechStart Fund announced by Connecticut Innovations is intended to encourage early stage technology innovation.  The fund will provide teams of entrepreneurs or students with capital to help determine business viability and/or to target future funding for business launch.

The 10-week pilot program will start in March and take place at the CTech@Science Park at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Through the program, teams will the provided with mentors and make connections to other startup companies, learn about possible sources of capital, and receive assistance in preparing a business plan.  In order to be eligible for the program, the team must be based in Connecticut.

For more detailed information on the fund, visit the TechStart Fund page on the Connecticut Innovations website.

Connecticut Innovations also announced this week $50 million per year for the next five years will be made available for tech-based economic development.  $25 million of the annual funding will come from the State of Connecticut, and the remaining $25 million per year from Connecticut Innovations.  The $50 million is planned for investments in companies through pre-seed program, loans, business accelerators, and follow-on investments, as well as recruitment of technology companies to Connecticut.  Connecticut Innovations has the full details in their press release.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 11, 2012


Secretary Bryson Presents Report on Innovation and Economic Competitiveness

The reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act charged the Commerce Department to prepare a report on innovation and economic competitiveness for the country, "The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States."  On January 6, the Center for American Progress hosted Secretary of Commerce John Bryson to present initial findings and proposed solutions from the report. 

Joined by members of the Innovation Advisory Board, Secretary Bryson stated that the report found three major areas for targeted federal support: basic research, education, and infrastructure.

Specifically, the report found that the federal government share in funding of basic research has fallen from 70% in 1980 to 57% today.  In education, 12.8% of US college graduates are in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, whereas 39% of students in other countries complete their degree in one of these fields.  And in infrastructure, the country needs to create a modern electrical grid and modernize and expand broadband internet access in both urban and rural areas.

The report encourages federal government support for R&D to return to 1960s levels, and that there needs to be a simplified and enhanced R&D tax credit.  In addition, increasing the size and quality of STEM teacher ranks, as well as investing in high-speed internet for private citizens and businesses and the implementation of a smart electric grid were also recommended. 

The full report can be found on the America COMPETES website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 6, 2012


EDA Request for Public Comment

The Economic Development Administration is seeking public comment on proposed regulation revisions to agency regulations.  A brief summary of the proposed regulations can be found here.  They include enhancing customer service through streamlining EDA regulations and supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, which will in turn help to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Comments on the regulations can be submitted through one of three ways: at the Federal eRulemaking Portal, on the EDA website, or by mail to:

Economic Development Administration
Office of Chief Counsel
Suite D-100
US Department of Commerce
1410 Constitutional Avenue NW
Washington DC 20230

Include “Comments on EDA’s regulations” and Docket No 110726429-1418-01 on the envelope.

Comments are due by February 6.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 6, 2012


Federal Funding
SBA Hosts Webinars on Proposed SBIC Rule

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is hosting three webinars in January to familiarize individuals and organizations on proposed changes to the Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC).  The SBA proposed in December an Early Stage SBIC rule to define a new sub-category of SBICs that will focus on making equity investments in early stage small businesses, as part of the Obama Administration’s “Star-Up America Initiative.”  More on the Early Stage SBIC Initiative is available on SBA website.

The first webinar will be help on January 11 at 1pm eastern time, with a registration closing time of January 6 at 11:59pm eastern.  This webinar is geared towards individuals familiar with the SBIC program.

The remaining two webinars will be held on January 13 at 1pm eastern (registration closes on January 10 at 11:59pm eastern) and January 19 at 2pm eastern (registration closes on January 13 at 11:59pm).  These two are targeted towards those not familiar with the SBIC program.

To register, you must send an email to  The subject line must include which webinar you would like to include, and the body should include name, title, organization, number, email, and fax.  Registration will be limited.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 4, 2012


VDO Community-building
RIAN Launches Webinar Series in 2012

With the new year, and with everyone back from their winter holidays, RIAN is launching a series of webinars which will be held over the following months on Tuesdays at 2ET (although this time may vary depending on presenters’ schedules).  These webinars will consistent of two streams, Issues and Organization, which combined will help serve to connect the VDO and VDO-like community across the country and help to exchange best practices and new ideas.

Check our Events Page to register.  Here is the calendar and summary for the programs coming up (through January):

Is Your Organization Fit for Funding?

January 10 (3pm ET) – As at the beginning of every year, it’s time to make resolutions.  In the first in our Organization series, Tom Walker of i2E in Oklahoma has taken a course on integrity which he will share with the community about how organizations can change their attitudes and operations.  Joining him will be Amy Madsen, Program Director of the Standards of Excellence Institute which certified Mr Walker and i2E.

The Standards of Excellence Institute is a project of Maryland Nonprofits designed to strengthen nonprofit governance and management.   More than 200 organizations and groups across the country have been accredited under this program since 1998. 

VDOs & Accelerators: Effective Partnerships

January 17 (2pm ET) – The Issues series kicks off with Rich Lunak of Innovation Works in Pittsburgh and joined by Jim Jen ofAlphaLab, a startup accelerator in Pittsburgh and a project of Innovation Works, exploring the relationship between a VDO and an accelerator and how an accelerator fits in with the overall strategy of a VDO.  Innovation Works is one of the leading organizations in the VDO community, and Mr Lunak is a highly-regarded practitioner in the field.

Financing Your Client Firms: The EB-5 Model

January 24 (2pm ET) – Our Organization series continues with a discussion of the EB-5 program.  Rodrigo Cintra, Center for Innovation’s EB-5 North Dakota/Northwest Minnesota Regional Center Manager, will talk about the EB-5 program and how it has benefited his community and the innovation sector in his region.  Joining him will be Bruce Gjovig, Director of the Center for Innovation in North Dakota, and Susan Geib, formerly of the North Dakota Trade Office and recently joined as a staff member of the EB-5 Regional Center.

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program is run by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to encourage foreign investment in US companies and communities.  Individuals who invest in a new commercial enterprise, with job creation requirements, will qualify for an EB-5 visa to immigrate and work in the United States.

Updated by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 3, 2012


VDO Community-building
How Can Startup America Partnership Help Your Client Companies?

The Startup America Partnership provides a series of resources and tools which could be beneficial to your organization and your client companies as you help to grow these young ventures into productive and marketable businesses.  Whatever stage your client company is in, Startup America offers a range of resources to help you begin or grow a venture.  This includes offers from Startup America partners and connectivity to other entrepreneurs and members of the Startup America partnership.

Startup America is also launching the Master Challenge, a national competition for members of the innovation and entrepreneur community who greatly influence this venture-builder network.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: January 3, 2012


Winners Announced for SBA's "App for Entrepreneurs Challenge"

SBA has announced the winners the Apps for Entrepreneurs Challenge.  This was a competition for designers and programmers to build a new app for use by small businesses and entrepreneurs to help with finding loans, venture capital, and access to federal databases.

Seven winners split the $20,000 in prize money.  First place went to an app called SBA Gems, for finding loans and grant permits.  A full summary of its functions and those of the three second place and three third place apps is available on the App for Entrepreneurs website.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: December 26, 2011


Regional Economic and Manufacturing Strengths Measured

Several organizations have released indexes and rankings for measuring various economic and manufacturing strengths.

The Milken Institute, a think tank working to address social and economic challenges, has released its 2011 Best-Performing Cities Index.  This ranks US metropolitan areas based on the creation and retention of jobs and sustaining economic growth.  This includes jobs, wages, salaries, and technological growth.  Nearly 400 cities are assessed, broken into large population cities, of more than 200,000, and small population cities, with less than 200,000.

San Antonio, Texas was ranked as the best performing city.  Overall, Texas as a state performed well, placing four large metro areas in the top ten.  Correspondingly, the top ranked city for Milken’s smallest metro areas list was Logan, Utah.  A complete tally for both lists is available online.

Praxis Strategy Group has measured the 51 largest regions in the country to construct a ranking of the growth of what they are calling the “heavy metal” sector.  This includes machinery and farm equipment, airplanes, cars, and various metal and machine shops.  Overall 148 industries were measured in 10-, 5-, 2-, and 1-year time frames.

Only four regions had net job growth in these heavy manufacturing areas over the past ten years.  Houston, due to its port and involvement in the energy sector, ranked number one.  A summary of the report can be found here.

Finally, Fourth Economy has released its Fourth Economy Community Index, which will take county-level data in five factors – investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity – to provide a gauge for planners and policy-makers to understand their community’s economic capacity and ability to attract and maintain investment.

Fourth Economy will release its Large-, Small-, and Micro-sized categories next year, but has released its Mid-sized category, with Fayette County, Kentucky topping the list.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: December 19, 2011


Federation Funding
SBIR Reauthorization

SBIR, Small Business Innovation Research, has been reauthorized through September of 2017. This reauthorization includes STTR, Small Business Technology Transfer, and the rebranded Commercialization Readiness Program (CRP) formerly the Commercialization Pilot Program. 

While a full summary of the changes to SBIR is forthcoming, some details include an increase in the research budget that each participating agency must allocate from 2.5 percent to 3.2 percent; a corresponding increase in the STTR program from 0.3 percent to 0.45 percent; the inclusion of language to use a portion (3 percent) of funds for outreach to small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantage populations and women; and allows up to 25 percent of awards from National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Department of Energy, and 15 percent from other participating agencies, for venture capital majority ownership.

The long-awaited reauthorization comes through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.  Since its creation in 1982, SBIR has been one of the more successful federal programs to stimulate innovation and technology commercialization. The relevant pages from the legislation can be found here.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: December 16, 2011


Report Cites Failure to Measure For Many State Development Programs

One of the dilemmas of economic development has been how to measure, and report, the impact or the results from the work.  This is particularly true when states, localities, and municipalities provide financial incentives in the way of corporate tax credits, grants, facilities, and other economic development subsidies.

Good Jobs First has released a report, “Money for Something: Job Creation and Job Quality Standards in State Economic Development Subsidy Programs,” which rates the performance standards and job quality requirements of more than 230 subsidies in all 50 states and D.C.  Good Jobs First is a policy resource center promoting accountability in economic development.

Rated on a scale of 0-100, no state scored higher than 82.  Overall, the average score across the country was just under 40.  The best performing state was Nevada, followed by North Carolina, Vermont, Iowa, and Maryland.  D.C. performed the worst, with Alaska, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington also placing near the bottom.

Some of the key findings include 56 percent of programs include job creation, retention, or training as a performance requirement; and 41 percent include a wage requirement, and those requirements have a wide range.

The report recommends that job creation, retention, or training requirements should be included in economic development subsidies, and that a wage standard for these jobs be similarly attached.

RIAN also advocates for improved measurement of economic development programs.  On our Metrics that Matter page, you can find RIAN’s argument for four key metrics, and examples of organizations around the country already employing these standards.

Submitted by Benjamin Au, RIAN Assistant Director: December 16, 2011


Federal Funding
White House Announces $1 billion Early Stage Innovation Fund

On December 8, the Obama Administration announced a $1 billion Early State Innovation Fund, to be administered by the Small Business Administration.  This fund, originally announced as part of Startup America, will provide matching capital to Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC) and target early-stage small businesses seeking private capital.

The Early State Innovation Fund is intended to leverage the SBIC program to allow private investment