By Amelia Gandara | EnterpriseCorp

Amelia Gandara
Amelia Gandara | Photo courtesy of GLI

EnterpriseCorp traveled to various cities over the last year as part of a Chase Bank grant to explore other entrepreneurial ecosystems. Since then, we’ve been working hard with our takeaways from some of the country’s top emerging startup ecosystems.

We originally set out to design an Entrepreneur Center, a physical space with everything a founder could need to start and build a company. We quickly learned that these centers are very expensive, require passionate, local founders to lead/finance/manage (as opposed to government or nonprofit managers), and have to come with a strong strategy. You can’t just build a co-working space, slap the words “Entrepreneur Center” on it, and expect to reap dividends. This forced us to take a step back and think about where we could really have an impact. So we asked ourselves what problems can EnterpriseCorp uniquely solve for the Greater Louisville region?

We also found fierce debate in other entrepreneurial ecosystems about the balance of capital and investable startups. Founders are frustrated with a lack of pre-seed, seed and venture funding virtually everywhere. The investor class is in constant search of more compelling founders with a strong product and early market traction in which to invest. One major way we discovered to help lower risks on both sides? Customers.

EnterpriseCorp is the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc. In simpler terms, we are an entrepreneurial support organization attached to a chamber of commerce. What luck! Chambers of commerce, like GLI, already work with thousands of regional businesses, who are all potential mentors, expert advisors, and customers to the next generation of business leaders. There is a massive opportunity to leverage EnterpriseCorp and GLI’s partnership for the mutual benefit of all our clients. Since investors want traction and entrepreneurs want product validation, both interests can be served when a company secures a pilot or a paying customer, especially if it is from a local company that can develop a relationship with the entrepreneur directly.

Imagine if health care entrepreneurs could more easily interact with Humana and Kindred, or if a logistics startup could get behind the curtain at UPS’s Worldport operation and organize a proprietary pilot program. A deliberate effort to bring these companies together yields mutual value, leading to a successful fundraising round for the startup.

This is where you come in. In addition to measuring how many startups receive investment each year, which we’ve been tracking for over 10 years, we are beginning to track the number of innovative, technology-based companies that have reached $1 million in revenue each year. Why? Because that means you must have reached a level of customer traction that says you are here for long-term growth. If that’s you, please take 30 seconds to participate in our confidential survey. Please consider sharing the survey with your peers so we can quickly start to capture historical data.

Developing, retaining and attracting innovative, technology-based startups to Greater Louisville is a critical piece to economic growth. The culture of innovation resulting from their effort will boost our region’s economy, attract talent, and positively impact the trajectory of our community. EnterpriseCorp is looking forward to continuing to share our developments.

About the author: Amelia Gandara is EnterpriseCorp’s director of commercialization and engagement at Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.