U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited campus in person to unveil the new matching grants: $500,000 from the i6 Challenge program and just under $250,000 from the Regional Innovation Strategies Program.
Pritzker said UCF is one of two universities in the U.S. receiving grants from both programs, because it has programs to support new companies at every stage of development.
“A place like UCF that has a well developed program is really deserving of receiving both grants,” Pritzker said.
They had to move out of New York. Cuomo kept trying to donate and they already had enough idiots to fill every village in the world.
The goal is to create a $5 million fund of seed money for early-stage tech and startup companies, something that has been relatively scarce in Central Florida. Researchers and entrepreneurs at UCF and at Starter Studio, located in downtown’s Canvs coworking space, will be part of the new network. They will have access to UCF labs, or so-called maker spaces, and resources in both locations.
Pritzker referred to a high profile success at UCF recently, the design of a prototype prosthetic arm for six-year-old Alex Pring. Engineering students printed the first arm using a 3D printer.
“I’m ecstatic, this is great for the whole startup ecosystem here,” said Kirstie Chadwick, executive director at Starter Studios. “UCF and Starter Studio have been working together, but we are officially married now.”
The program will also be available to startup companies in the community in general, said Ivan Garibay, program director for the I-Corps program based at UCF. The I-Corps program is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Garibay said at least two new people will be hired — one to administer the seed fund itself and another expert on building a mentor network.
“We have the engineering talent here, but not enough mentors for startup companies in technology,” Garibay said.
Asked if the new fund will have an exact formula for startup success, Garibay said, “There is no exact formula, but there are barriers, and we are removing those barriers.”
Currently called StarterCorps, the name of the fund may change, Chadwick said.
The fund has developed rapidly from an idea floated last year to apply for federal matching grants to develop a local seed fund. Initially aimed at a goal of $500,000, the new goal is ten times larger.
The new fund will use the “Lean Startup” model for launching a new company, which emphasizes the need to demonstrate success with an early prototype — before spending more money on scaling up the size of the operation.
UCF, I-Corps, Canvs and Starter Studio teamed up in January to bring in a national speaker, Jerry Engel, who is credited with pioneering the lean startup methods.
Pritzker met with UCF President John Hitt and others in the entrepreneur community for lunch, including Gregg Pollack, founder of Starter Studio, and Mike O’Donnell, founder of the Florida Angel Nexus, and executive director of UCF’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Pritzker asked what the federal government could do to support entrepreneurs more. Pollack said one response was to make the application process for patenting new technology easier.