East Tennessee State University’s College of Business and Technology is hoping to become the new home of a regional entrepreneurial accelerator, or in Dean Linda Garceau’s words, “a business incubator on steroids.”
The college is readying its application for the recently announced state program, which will establish and support nine regional business accelerators across the state as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s INCITE plan to drive innovation in Tennessee. One competitive grant of $250,000 will go to support an accelerator in each economic development region, and the hope is each accelerator will help spur innovation and job creation.
Garceau said the main goal of the CBAT’s accelerator would be to create new and better jobs for the region.
“The accelerator program is an business incubator in steroids,” Garceau said. “If funded, we are going to look for six to eight individuals in the First Tennessee Development District who are able to come forward with an idea for a new business that is first of all, feasible, but also has a real impact on the local employment picture, bringing either new jobs or better jobs to this area.”
The accelerator would support the individuals through some type of monetary award until summer 2012, at which time the model would shift to providing more of an educational support system through partners in the region. The entrepreneurs could have education topics such as creating a viable business model, making a strategic plan and seeking out venture capital.
“They would also be given mentors, which may be multiple depending on the issue they are facing,” Garceau said.
In addition, Tennessee has partnered with Startup America to form Startup Tennessee, which will form a network of the business accelerators across the state and provide more mentoring sources to the entrepreneurs.
In ETSU’s model, the budding businesses would be hosted at the Valleybrook property and while there, would be given office space and some level of administrative support, Garceau said.
If funded, the accelerator would have a rigorous selection process, and Garceau said there are no preconceived notions about what type of business ideas would be selected.
“In part it would be readiness, the viability of the idea. We know people in this area who have patents, and would they be ready to commercialize them?” she asked. “It might come from research, from our faculty. It is not just necessarily high-tech or med-tech ideas. It’s all about employment.”
The chosen accelerator would receive $250,000 in state resources and requires matching in kind or dollar contributions from the community. Garceau said she has had no problem securing matching pledges from both philanthropists and local businesses and entities.
“That’s part of the evaluation criteria,” she said. “They want to see the existing business community support.”
Applications are due in Nashville by Friday, and selected accelerators should be notified by Oct. 31; if the College of Business and Technology is selected, it would begin looking at applications in November, Garceau said.