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The XLR8UH team and members of Cohort 5

The University of Hawaiʻi’s award-winning startup accelerator, XLR8UH, was named one of only 20 national winners of the U.S. Small Business Association’s (SBA) Growth Accelerator Fund competition. This marks the third year in a row that the University of Hawaiʻi accelerator has won the competition, which includes a $50,000 cash award.

XLR8UH was the only winner from Hawaiʻi in this year’s SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund competition, which is designed to draw attention and funding to parts of the country with gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Winners were selected by experts in entrepreneurship, investing and business plans from both inside and out of the federal government and based on applications and pitch videos submitted by the finalists.

“We are pleased to have our XLR8UH program take home this prestigious SBA national award once again,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “It further validates our continuing efforts under the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative to diversify the state’s economy by creating a third economic leg based on the commercialization of UH research.”

Building on XLR8UH’s national recognition

This award builds upon the national recognition garnered by XLR8UH in 2017, which also includes being named one of the top 30 accelerators in the country by Forbes. XLR8UH is one of the first public university investment programs in the nation, revolutionizing the way innovation and research is commercialized.

“We are honored, once again, to have won this award and be counted among the top accelerator programs in the country,” said Omar Sultan, co-founder and managing partner of XLR8UH and Sultan Ventures. “The SBA’s recognition over the past three years has helped shine a national spotlight on the strong and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Hawaiʻi and on the innovations generated by UH research.

In accepting the SBA award, the winning accelerators will be committing to bi-annual reporting of metrics on jobs created, funds raised, startups launched, corporate sponsors obtained and more. These metrics will allow the SBA to better understand accelerators and their impact, and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.

Launched in 2014 as a public-private partnership between UH and Sultan Ventures, XLR8UH has mentored and trained five cohorts consisting of 24 companies. In total, these companies have created more than 100 jobs and generated over $5 million in revenue, nearly all of which remains in Hawaiʻi.

“With only 20 awards available this year, the two tiered selection process made the competition even more difficult,” said Jane Sawyer, director of the SBA’s Hawaiʻi District Office. “Our team is extremely pleased that XLR8UH once again was recognized as one of the nation’s top accelerators.”

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