In September, Lafayette will launch the first energy and health care accelerator for the entrepreneurial community.Acceleration, in entrepreneurial terms, is the stage at which a company is ready to spread its wings, but is not yet at the point of sustained growth. This is commonly where the term “scaling up” will be used and identifies the point at which many companies stall in the early stages. As such, receiving expert advice and mentored guidance in a business accelerator can reap significant benefits. The accelerator is designed to give a company that can stand and walk the power to run and jump through systems, processes and connectivity.
The soon-to-be-launched Accelerate Acadiana program is a collaboration of Winrock International, UL Lafayette, the Community Foundation of Acadiana, the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, the Acadiana Economic Development Council and the Opportunity Machine.
In the program, selected companies will receive business training from subject matter experts, access to angel capital and expert mentoring. The program is designed to connect these entrepreneurs to other local companies, helping with business expansion and job creation in multiple sectors.
Companies such as Waitr, Academy of Interactive Entertainment and Rader Solutions have benefited from acceleration and, as a result, have expanded operations within the region while pulling in revenue from outside the community.
“The new accelerator will give companies the opportunity to do the same things Waitr did,” notes Chris Meaux, CEO of Waitr, an Opportunity Machine accelerator graduate. “It can enhance some of the things we had such as putting a focus on helping raise money, access to key people and meeting the right customers — which are all things entrepreneurs need to grow their business.”
The Accelerate Acadiana program has been a longtime goal of INNOV8 Director Pete Prados. “This is such an exciting time,” Prados says. “We have more than 50 highly successful mentors, 200 local and statewide accredited investors motivated to partner with great founders short and long-term, and some of the best entrepreneur business training around.”
“While oil prices are still recovering and the Lafayette tech sector booming, now is a great time to see this type of program implemented,” says Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of research and economic development at UL. “This is an opportunity to grow companies that can add value to our energy and health care mix, so when the energy sector rebounds, we are positioned for huge growth in jobs and wages.”
Accelerate Acadiana is now accepting applications for the 14-week program. Companies at all stages of development are welcome to apply. Application review and program acceptance is managed by the Acadiana Angels (which I wrote about last summer in the column “Angels Among Us”).
Zachary Barker is executive director of the Opportunity Machine, a LEDAbacked initiative that focuses on cultivating Lafayette’s entrepreneurial and technologybased industries.