Long Beach State, city aims to help entrepreneurs

Published April 18, 2019

Long Beach State and Long Beach’s city government have teamed with investment firm Sunstone Management to form a new business accelerator that will help tech-minded entrepreneurs thrive in the city.

Long Beach Accelerator is in development as a public-private partnership, and will be a place for entrepreneurs to collect intellectual and financial capital by establishing office space within downtown Long Beach’s World Trade Center as a place to receive mentoring. It also will help make connections with angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity firms.

President Jane Close Conoley, joined by Mayor Robert Garcia and Sunstone Management Founding Partner John Shen, announced Long Beach Accelerator’s formation Thursday during the 2019 Long Beach Regional Economic Forum.

“The university and city of Long Beach are natural partners in promoting economic development,” Conoley said. “Annually, Long Beach State contributes about $562 million to the city’s economic activity, and, included, about $1.5 billion to the economies of Los Angeles and Orange counties."

Long Beach Accelerator will be the first university-affiliated business resource of its kind in Long Beach, she said.

By announcing Long Beach Accelerator during the Long Beach Regional Economic Forum, the partners signaled they are specifically looking for entrepreneurs who are interested in being a part of the local business scene.

“We’re focused on companies that are focused on the tech solutions to current business problems,” said Wade Martin, director of the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Long Beach State. “These may be in the health care sector, the supply chain, goods movement, things that are already a strength in the Long Beach economy, but need some innovation.”

Long Beach Accelerator’s establishment will also contribute to the development of stronger ties between the campus and Long Beach’s urban core.

“We’re also doubling down on our university partnerships, and we’re very excited about these,” said Garcia, a Long Beach State alumnus.

The Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship already is involved in multiple programs fostering start-ups. Among them are the annual Innovation Challenge, a student-centric competition that helps teams develop business plans around ideas for new products, services or applications. It also is involved in boot camp programs designed to guide would-be entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business.

The new accelerator will not be a competitor to other service providers aiding local business, Martin said.

Plans for Long Beach Accelerator still require the Long Beach City Council’s approval to go into effect, and partners expect to recruit start-ups this summer. The Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship would bear responsibility for day-to-day management, recruiting start-ups and implementing programs to help participating companies grow into stronger businesses.

Sunstone’s role would include hosting office space with room for seven to 10 start-ups, and city government’s responsibilities would include helping start-ups access public resources, such as small business loans. All three partners contribute to the work of attracting investors to participating companies.

“Our goal is to not only retain the best start-ups in the city, but also attract the top high-tech startups, not only from Southern California, but also from all over the world,” Shen said.