Erie Innovation District to launch ‘accelerator’

Erie Times News
By Jim Martin (March 20, 2018)
Posted at 2:01 AM

The innovation district’s CEO says it needs growing the sort of companies that would make up such a district. The accelerator program is an important step in that direction.

The development of the Erie Innovation District is taking another step forward.

The district, led by CEO Karl Sanchack, is expected to announce today that it has signed an agreement with Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based think tank, to run a 10-week accelerator program that will provide an opportunity for up to 10 entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into a startup business through an on-site business boot camp of sorts.

Startup companies invited to participate in the program will be trained at the Erie Innovation District headquarters at 717 State St. during the program, which is expected to be held this summer. Participants will work with trainers from Singularity, which also has a campus in Columbus, Ohio, as well as with Erie-based trainers employed by Erie Insurance.

Sanchack, who was installed as CEO of the district five months ago, has said from the outset that Erie can’t simply declare itself to be an innovation district specializing in the area of cyber security.

It needs to begin attracting and growing the sort of companies that would make up such a district. The accelerator program is an important step in that direction, Sanchack said.

“The intention here is very straightforward,” he said. “We are putting Erie out on the stage. It should create a buzz. It should create an attraction point. It is an opportunity to Erie on the map in terms of high technology.”

Founded in 2009, Singularity University describes itself as “a global community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.”

Ben King, a senior director at Singularity, said successful applicants will receive training from both Singularity faculty and local mentors who will work with them on a long list of topics.

“They need help with their elevator pitches,” King said. “They need to learn marketing. They need to learn to scale their businesses.”

Participants will be making a substantial commitment of time and effort, Sanchack said.

“For 10 weeks, you are covering a lot of material and working full time,” he said. “This is not a part-time activity. It’s intense.”

For others, particularly in a community with a long history of producing intelligence studies graduates, it is an opportunity to take the first steps from transforming the seed of an idea into something larger.

Both Sanchack and King expect the accelerator program will attract a mixture of local and out-of-town participants.

King said he thinks the accelerator can prove to be a significant step for reaching some lofty goals that Sanchack has set for the Erie Innovation District.

“You have to start somewhere by setting the right tone and getting some quick wins for a city that is really looking at changing itself,” he said.

Participants will also receive software development and cloud publishing capabilities designed as part of the Innovation District’s collaboration with Dell EMC, which began in October.

Additional information and application instructions will be available soon at www.erieinnovationdistrict.com.
Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.