Students standing in a kitchen

Maui Accelerator Program’s first cohort

The University of Hawaiʻi announced that two of its accelerator programs, XLR8UH and the UH Maui College Maui Food Innovation Center (MFIC) at UH Maui College, were recipients of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2016 Growth Accelerator Competition awards. This marks the second straight year that both programs received the prestigious award and a $50,000 cash prize.

XLR8UH and MFIC are two of the 85 winners selected across 37 states and the District of Columbia who will collectively receive a total of $4.25 million to boost the economic impact of accelerators. The purpose of the SBA’s annual competition is to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including those not readily supported by the private sector.

“We are again pleased that XLR8UH and MFIC were recognized nationally by the SBA,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “As we continue to build our innovation ecosystem through the aggressive commercialization of our research, this award is a validation of our efforts to help diversify the state’s economy.”

XLR8UH is one of the first public university investment programs in the nation, revolutionizing the way innovation and research is commercialized. To date, 19 companies have been developed through the program, generating more than $1 million in revenue and $8 million funding.

“It is a huge honor for us to be among the 2016 top accelerators. Winning a second time in a row speaks to the strength of Startup Paradise and the commitment to Hawaiʻi’s entrepreneurs,” said Tarik Sultan, co-founder and managing partner of XLR8UH and Sultan Ventures.

“There is a great camaraderie in Hawaiʻi among the entrepreneurial community and what we’re all working to achieve. The $200,000 coming into our State from SBA will support the continued growth of our startup community and accelerators holistically,” Sultan added.

Incubator for future food industry leaders

Through its Maui Food Industry X-Celerator Program, MFIC provides an incubator program to support businesses in the form of training, community resources and access to a certified commercial kitchen at UH Maui College. To date, the program has received 47 applications and graduated 24 businesses in two cohorts—of which 90 percent are women entrepreneurs.

“We are thrilled to receive SBA national recognition and continued validation of UH Maui College and our Maui Food Innovation Center programs for a second consecutive year,” said Chris Speere, site coordinator for the Maui Food Innovation Center. “The funding award speaks to the effort of our graduates, business, government, food industry leaders and community partners that help us build a successful and winning program.”

As competition winners, both XLR8UH and MFIC will report metrics such as jobs created, funds raised and startups launched. This will allow SBA to continue building upon its database of accelerators and their impact and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.

“The creation of great, living wage jobs in Hawaiʻi through the establishment of a vibrant innovation sector is the goal of the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative,” said UH President David Lassner. “National recognition like this illustrates the validity of our programs and the direction of our efforts to create at $1 billion innovation, research, education and training enterprise here in the islands.”

In the official announcement, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said: “SBA created the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition in 2014 as a way to make new connections and strengthen existing bonds within America’s small business support network, bringing entrepreneurs and innovators together and connecting them with local and national resources that support small business job creation and growth. These awards deliver on a longstanding commitment at SBA to strengthen and modernize these support systems especially in parts of the country where access to capital has been a major barrier to starting a business. This year’s winners show that our efforts are bearing fruit and further cementing our nation’s most pioneering accelerators, incubators and innovation hubs as major players driving America’s technology startup ecosystem.”

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