Here at the Akron Global Business Accelerator, we provide solid programming with business development consultation and investment advice to some of the area’s most creative and intelligent entrepreneurs. However, I believe the key to a robust startup community is also providing the “extras” entrepreneurs need to thrive and grow their business. This includes collaboration spots, co-working areas, maker spaces, accelerators and coffee shops, to name a few.
Akron is well on its way in all of these areas. Here at the Accelerator, we are at critical mass with more than 300 employees, and 41 businesses in our Technology Accelerator Company (TCA) program. We’re concentrating talent and fortifying the entrepreneurial spirit in a number of our own ways.
Bits and Atoms Innovation Center
This has been a journey that started two years ago, but we are on track for an exceptional maker space and a progressive and collaborative co-working space in downtown Akron in 2017.
However, in the past two years, the landscape has changed. The needs and the expectations for entrepreneurs and innovators have evolved; so we need to make sure our value proposition will still be compelling on the day we open. To do that, we, a City of Akron initiative, and our partners including The University of Akron, and Stark State College and a number of private companies, have expanded our advisory board to include additional members from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds. The potential from this group is tremendous, as we focus on customer discovery and membership structure. We want to give our users a voice in what the space is going to be and this is a great next step to providing community-accessible resources, collaboration opportunities and business consultation for talented individuals who aspire to create.
The Bit Factory
Things are looking good at The Bit Factory; we now have eight clients all with big upsides. To help meet the needs of Akron’s software startups, we’ve eliminated the six-month program limit. This ensures that our clients have a location and a team of mentors for as long as they need to reach a specified success point. If a business is moving forward, we will be there to assist. In addition, we have committed to invest $145K in our client companies so far this year. As well, we are exploring offering The Bit Factory as co-working space to members of the outside community and have been host to a number of non-profit and civic engagement events, including arts events to bridge the gap between the startup and art communities. Last, we are excited to announce our first pitch competition to be held at The Bit Factory on Nov. 17. FUEL will showcase some of the best tech ideas from around the area, as teams compete for investment and to become a client of The Bit Factory – keep an eye out for more information to come.
Café at the Accelerator
Things are moving along and we are targeting opening our café and collaboration space by first quarter of 2017. The café will be the perfect complement to our already extraordinary ecosystem that will foster spontaneous collaboration and talent discovery among our current client population and Canal Place neighbors. I can also report that we are keeping our commitment to bringing in someone who is a true entrepreneur to operate the cafe, who will not only provide a much-needed service to employees of the Accelerator, but who will benefit from being in the Accelerator and being a part of our TCA program.
Recently, we decided to host what we call “Plug-ins” here at the Accelerator. These are internal gatherings where people in the building can come together, find synergies and share knowledge. From founders’ breakfasts to building-wide lunches, we are encouraged by the collaboration and networking we see at each of these events.
It’s exciting to see how the landscape of Akron’s entrepreneurial community is constantly changing and we are adjusting and adapting right along with it. As you can see, there is much going on here and much more to come. Stay tuned!