San Diego Opens First Business Accelerator To Spur Economic Growth In Underserved Communities

On Monday, May 20th, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer opened the first business accelerator – CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center – to grow local early-stage businesses in San Diego’s most underserved communities as part of his commitment to bring new opportunity to every San Diego neighborhood. Through a public-private partnership between the City, Jacobs Center, and CONNECT and San Diego Venture Group, $2.5 million has been committed to the effort over the next four years. Others contributing to the project were MUFG Union Bank with a three-year grant, and bkm OfficeWorks, which provided a full-suite of modern office furniture.

The goal of the Jacobs Center Accelerator is to provide opportunity for low-to-moderate income and diversity focused entrepreneurship to thrive and to stimulate economic development in historically underserved communities.

The Accelerator is located in the Diamond neighborhoods, the heart of a historically-underserved community identified as part of San Diego’s federally designated Promise Zone. The Jacobs Center is providing nearly 4,300 square feet of flexible co-working space complete with office equipment, wifi, mentorship and support services.

The very first cohort features 13 different startups, representing businesses in retail, technology, health, and beauty. These startups were chosen through a competitive selection process, with one qualifying factor being their commitment to hiring low-to-moderate income San Diego residents.

This new program provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to scale their businesses, including expert mentoring, business management assistance and investment relationship assistance.

Chosen as the initial guest speaker to kick off the CONNECT ALL center’s first cohort was one of the founders of CourseKey, Marc Barron. The workshop he conducted focused on the importance of setting achievable milestones and how entrepreneurs can reverse-engineer their business plan using measurable deliverables to monitor the growth of their business.  

Coming from an underprivileged community himself, Marc understands the importance of mentorship, support, and resources to new entrepreneurs. When he and his co-founders started CourseKey, they did much of their work through the Zahn Center (now ZIP Launchpad), an accelerator at San Diego State University. During that time, the CourseKey team received invaluable input and advice from mentors that greatly contributed to the growth of the business. Because Marc knows firsthand how critical good mentorship is, he took the opportunity to become a mentor at the Jacobs center, volunteering his time and business acumen to help its entrepreneurs become successful. Since kicking off the first cohort with his milestones workshop, Marc has been chosen to be an official mentor of the Jacobs Center by Director Alex Waters. He’ll help entrepreneurs develop their network, participate in pitch events, and figure out sustainable and repeatable processes in order to scale their business.

“Creating more opportunities for San Diegans to succeed is what this business accelerator is all about,” said Mayor Faulconer about CONNECT ALL. “The fact that we’re launching this in a historically underserved neighborhood will be a game-changer for the community. It will provide unprecedented access to free resources and support that will help entrepreneurs transform their ideas into thriving businesses.” This accelerator, aiming to spur business development in underprivileged communities, is one of the first of its kind in the United States. CONNECT ALL at the Jacobs Center is setting an example for other cities around the country, and will continue to lead the way in driving social change through entrepreneurship.

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