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The Rady School Blog

  • Day at the Movies Inspires Business Incubator for Women

    September 30, 2014
    by Maria Contreras-Sweet

    Recently posted on the SBA.gov blog by Maria Contreras-Sweet

    Four years ago, after a marathon grant-writing session at University of California at San Diego, scientists Lada Rasochova and Rosibel Ochoa decided they needed a break and went to the movies. Playing at their local theater was Social Network, the motion picture loosely based on the founding of Facebook.

    The two doctors watched with keen interest the depiction of how a company like Facebook could grow from a small start-up to a global behemoth. Afterward, while discussing the movie, they both had the same question: Wouldn’t it be great if more women in technology could benefit from the type of dynamic start-up environment depicted in the film?

    So the scientists did what came naturally to them: research. They learned that only one percent of venture-backed startups have a female founder, and that women-led startups get only 4 percent of total VC funding. This inspired them to launch mystartupXX (XX stands for the female chromosome), a business accelerator at UC-San Diego founded to help women entrepreneurs turn their technology ideas into successful small businesses.

    In just two years, six teams led by female entrepreneurs have taken their ideas commercial after being mentored in mystartupXX. Their small businesses have raised more than $2.6 million and created 130 jobs. One of the startups specializes in human genome sequencing; another has created a cutting-edge video game that teaches young children how to do computer coding.

    All in all, it was a momentous day at the movies for Dr. Rasoochova and Dr. Ochoa in their quest to empower the next generation of female technology entrepreneurs.

    In San Diego, I recently announced the winners of SBA’s first Growth Accelerator Fund competition – a $2.5 million contest created to export the small business support structure perfected in Silicon Valley to communities across America. My startupXX was one of 50 winners selected among more than 800 applications judged by a panel of experts with experience in entrepreneurship, investment, and business planning in the public and private sector. Each winner will receive $50,000 to support its accelerator operations.

    The SBA competition was focused on seeding accelerators in parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We were especially concerned with providing a support structure for underserved entrepreneurs – including women, minorities, and veterans – and on lifting up new businesses in critical industries, such as advanced manufacturing.

    Accelerators provide valuable resources to potential startups: a physical infrastructure to work in their infancy, mentoring, business-plan assistance, networking, opportunities to obtain venture capital, and introductions to potential customers, partners and suppliers. The SBA looks forward to working with the entrepreneurs in these accelerators to help them go from zero to 60 in record time so they can commercialize their business ideas, create good jobs and grow our economy.

    About the Author:

    Maria Contreras-Sweet

    SBA Administrator

    Maria Contreras-Sweet is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

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