As city and business leaders gathered Monday at the offices of the downtown architecture firm Studio One Eleven and prepared to unveil new initiatives, attendees asked, “Are your seatbelts fastened?” Faced with a question.
“If they’re not pinned, we’re moving forward, so pin them,” said Bo Martinez, director of the Long Beach Economic Development Authority.
Called “Launch Beach,” the new initiative will spend $25 million with the goal of incubating 100 startups in Long Beach over the next five years.
At a press conference, Mayor Rex Richardson said the program would focus on “the fastest growing industrial sectors” including healthcare, aerospace, logistics, tourism and education.
Richardson notes that Long Beach has relied on income related to oil production for more than a century, and that funding source is set to dry up around 2035.
“We are building a climate-friendly, climate-sustainable economy here in Southern California,” Richardson said. “With this change happening, Long Beach has a responsibility to understand not only how to continue to provide service, but also how to secure revenue streams that allow it to grow in the future.”
The initiative includes the City’s Office of Economic Development, Sunstone Management, Imprint Venture Labs, the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion, the Long Beach Accelerator, the CSULB Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Long Beach Economy8. 2 government agencies and private agencies are partnering. partnership. The Sunstone Community Fund will fund the program.
“This is not Monopoly money,” said Richardson. “This is a serious investment.”
For nearly two years, 37 start-ups have operated through the public-private Long Beach Accelerator. The Long Beach Accelerator provides guidance and education to fledgling companies in addition to an average of $100,000 in seed funding in a large four-month program. Similarly, Sunstone, a privately-owned company, offers hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to startups, including pitching college students.
Vic Hill, CEO of MyRuck, software that keeps military interests up to date for members of the military, is part of the current Accelerator cohort. The company launched in his 2019, but operations were quickly suspended after Hill was deployed. Upon his return in 2020, the startup was put to work.
Starting a business is hard, says Hill, but the $100,000 in funding Accelerator and MyRuck received made all the difference.
“That’s all,” said Hill. “It was not only a financial investment, but it also took time. We realized there was value in what we were trying to offer the military community.”
Suny Lay Chang, chairman of the Center for Economic Inclusion, highlighted the fact that less than 5% of venture capital funding goes to women and minorities. These undervalued companies could generate an estimated $4 trillion in value if given the tools and funding to grow, she said.
“This is a big problem,” Chan said. “But it makes perfect sense that Long Beach is the place to turn it around. That’s who we are.”
The center was established from the city’s Everyone In initiative following the civil unrest that spread across the country following the murder of George Floyd. The focus of this group is to create fairness across the city.
To conclude the press conference, representatives from each group signed an agreement signifying the formal launch of the initiative.
“We are not fighting to keep what we have, we want to build the future of Long Beach,” said Richardson. “So we need to grow our economy and grow our revenues in new directions.”
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