February 16, 2015

Local Entrepreneurial Groups Get $500,000 From Commerce

Liz Segrist  /  Charleston Regional Business Journal

The Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation and The Harbor Entrepreneur Center each received $250,000 from the S.C. Commerce Department's Innovation Office to help execute on their missions of expanding Charleston's knowledge-based economy.

The Digital Corridor foundation will use the funds to upfit the incubator space in the planned Flagship3, according to Charleston Digital Corridor Executive Director Ernest Andrade.

The Charleston Digital Corridor plans to build Flagship3 at 999 Morrison Drive this fall to expand on its Flagship1 and Flagship2 spaces that house tech companies and coding classes off East Bay and Calhoun streets in downtown Charleston.

Flagship3 will also have incubator space for startups, as well as longer-term space for more established, high-growth tech companies. Andrade is seeking financing from the local tech community and other funding for the project. Flagship3 will be the anchor for the city-planned tech district on the upper peninsula.

The Harbor Entrepreneur Center's funding will help support its co-working spaces in Mount Pleasant, Summerville and downtown Charleston, its business accelerator program in Mount Pleasant and its forum groups and events into 2016, according to co-founder and director John Osborne.

"This is as much an endorsement of what all is happening in the Charleston region to grow entrepreneurship and innovation as it is about The Harbor itself. ... This kind of runway provides opportunity to develop additional partnerships to make The Harbor a sustainable organization for a long, long time," Osborne said.

The 14-week Harbor Accelerator program is designed to take startups from concept to revenue. Once accepted, teams of entrepreneurs work full time from their free space in Mount Pleasant to test their ideas in the market, practice pitching, learn from mentors and seek financing.

Overall, Commerce's Innovation Office awarded $2.6 million to 19 organizations around the state to further innovation, entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development, according to a news release.

The S.C. Innovation Challenge received nearly 60 submissions totaling $10.5 million in requests for this funding round. To be awarded, projects must meet at least one of the goals in the S.C. Innovation Plan. The maximum grant is $250,000, which must be matched by funding not appropriated by the state.

"Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical components to the success of our economy," Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said in a statement. "We want to enable and support a stronger innovation ecosystem in South Carolina and help the state become a top place in the nation to start and build high-growth businesses."

The Office of Innovation launched in fall 2013 and is headed by Amy Love, Commerce's former spokeswoman.

In May 2014, 14 S.C. organizations received $2.4 million in innovation challenge grants, including the Charleston Digital Corridor, Lowcountry Local First, the Harbor Accelerator and the College of Charleston's International Cross-Curricular Accelerator for Technology.