SparkLabs and ASU kickstart innovation with accelerator program

Last year, state startups secured a record number of investments from venture capital firms; in fact, 2018 was the best year for startups in over a decade. Entrepreneurship is thriving in Arizona, and venture capitalist SparkLabs and Arizona State University are capitalizing on that trend.

SparkLabs Frontier-ASU, a collaborative startup accelerator program, will launch in July. Available to ASU students and alumni, the program will offer training, mentorship, and potential funding opportunities for Sun Devil entrepreneurs of all ages.

The accelerator features a pre-program component where SparkLabs mentors help founders develop and refine their startup ideas and products. These entrepreneurs can then apply to the accelerator program and have the opportunity to further enhance their venture in a rigorous four-month program.

Associate vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise Development Ji Mi Choi notes that the accelerator will begin with roughly 350 teams and will accept between eight and twelve for the post-acceleration program.

Frank Meehan, the co-founder of SparkLabs Group, explained why ASU is the perfect fit for his company’s accelerator frontier. “SparkLabs Frontier-ASU’s mission is to identify, nurture and scale the development and growth of outstanding startup founders from ASU’s world-leading blend of engineering, business and management talent and technology,” Meehan said in a statement.

When it comes to startup climates, there isn’t a hotter place than Arizona. According to a report by PitchBook and the National Venture Capitalist Association (NVCA), state venture capital firms invested over $538.9 million over 89 deals in 2018. This represents a 93 percent increase over last year and its best year since Pitchbook/NVCA started collecting data in 2006.

Choi notes that many startups will likely utilize future technologies such as machine learning, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and more, but the accelerator isn’t exclusive to software- and engineering-based entrepreneurs. “It’s not exclusive to just that,” she said. “We decided to have this just be a general accelerator program. Many startups are based around engineering but not exclusively.”

The program is an excellent opportunity to help ASU students and alumni continue developing their ideas post-graduation. “SparkLabs will be working with startup founders, wrapping them around with mentorship, training, and investment,” Choi said. “We [currently] do that while students are here at the university, but we felt like taking it to the next level. It gives our students a pathway for the next level up to help scale and accelerate their startups.”

Ben Norman

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