CONCORD, Calif. – The City of Concord is partnering with John F. Kennedy University, an affiliate of the National University System, to support an innovative business accelerator, as part of the University’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership (IEL). The accelerator works with business startups and businesses that need expertise to move them to grow and expand their business model. The business accelerator will be located at Salvio Pacheco Square office building adjacent to Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord and will be available for use by entrepreneurs in the IEL’s Entrepreneurship Certificate program.
In a recent presentation on the business accelerator program to the City Council, Joyce Davidson Seitz, Concord’s Economic Development Specialist, described the accelerator as "economic development at its very core." Mayor Laura Hoffmeister referenced the immediate need for local job creation as part of economic recovery, and Vice Mayor Ron Leone described the accelerator as having "the potential to be a job generator and a local economic booster." The Council is hopeful that almost-free pricing for the accelerator office space will reduce the burden often associated with starting a business.
JFK University’s IEL provides a unique formula combining training, mentoring and extensive interaction between student entrepreneurs and angel investors. The Institute is supported in part through agreements with the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center, Heritage Bank of Commerce, the Everest Foundation, Youth Business America, and the Keiretsu Forum. Some prominent Bay Area angel investors are serving as mentors to the individual start-up businesses.
"This mentoring from business experts is crucial to success, but one of the major differentiators that sets our Concord program apart is the free office space at the accelerator for nascent businesses,” explains Dr. Raul Deju, director of the IEL. “This type of direct support from the City will give local entrepreneurs a much better chance of establishing a strong foundation to their businesses.”
The 6,300-square-foot accelerator, complete with workspace furniture and donated computers, will open its doors in November , coinciding with the third cohort of the IEL’s fast-paced Entrepreneurship Certificate program. The Certificate offers a New Ventures and an Advanced Track – both of which start with an 11-week boot camp course; the Advanced Track includes access to the accelerator.
"We are very grateful to the City of Concord for helping us offer free space for business development to local entrepreneurs,” says Deju, who has been at the helm of several international engineering and energy companies. “The space that Concord is providing combined with the University’s high-quality business education and personalized training and mentoring will ensure each student has every opportunity for success.”
One student from the IEL’s initial pilot program last January is Steven Douglas, CEO of Dataphysics Research, a new medical technology business that just completed its Series A Fund Raising round of approximately $2 million while currently testing a technology for advanced MRI analysis.
"Based on participation in the IEL program, I completely revamped the business plan and was able move forward in successfully raising the funding we needed,” recalls Douglas.
Although Douglas won’t be housing his company in the Concord site, many of his classmates are looking forward to the business accelerator space. Jerry Hart will soon be a Concord tenant as he builds Healthy Food in Schools, a nonprofit organization that promotes fresh, healthy foods in public schools, with success in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District on revamping salad bars.
About John F. Kennedy University
Founded in 1964, John F. Kennedy University was among the first institutions of higher education in California committed to lifelong learning for adults. Today, the University’s three Colleges and Continuing Education division provide innovative higher education opportunities to more than 2,000 professionals who, despite a full range of life responsibilities, are determined to advance their education and improve their future. The Continuing Education division provides professional development education to more than 2,500 individuals per year. A pioneer of education that integrates theory and practice, John F. Kennedy University and its students touch the lives of more than 30,000 people in Bay Area communities every year through their support of outreach centers and public programs. For more information, visit www.JFKU.edu.
About the National University System
The National University System was established to meet the emerging challenges and demands of education in the 21st century. The System is uniquely aligned to connect a diverse population of students to a network of innovative educational programs that are relevant to their lives, careers, and the marketplace and are delivered in a format that respects competing life priorities. Dr. Jerry C. Lee has served as the System’s Chancellor since it was founded in 2001. In addition to John F. Kennedy University, the affiliates of the National University System are National University; National University International; the Division of Pre-College Programs consisting of National University Virtual High School and National University Academy; Spectrum Pacific Learning; and WestMed College. Entities related to the System include the National University System Institute for Policy Research, the National University Golf Academy, and the Center for Integrative Health. For more information, visit: www.nusystem.org.