Springboard opens second application round

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Springboard, a new regional prize competition, has opened its second round of applications. The contest, which supports organizations that work to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, will grant $600,000 in total awards this year.

Focused on Western New York, the prize program targets Greater Buffalo, Greater Rochester and the Southern Tier. It aims to assist those expanding and contributing to entrepreneurship in the region.

“Springboard is a unique program aimed at stimulating more entrepreneurial activity across the Western New York geography,” says James Senall, president of NextCorps, a partner organization in the Springboard initiative. “These funds will help bring new participants to the table, who may have had great ideas for growing the local startup ecosystem, but up to this point didn’t have the funding to support their initiatives. Now, with this kickstart from Springboard, we’ll get to see many of these ideas come to fruition!”

The Center for Regional Strategies, Main Light Strategies, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Victor & Company and other community partners are the collaborators behind the pilot program that seeks to provide incentives for events, initiatives, and programs that connect entrepreneurs with resources, information, and other organizations, organizers say. 

Prizes will be awarded in three rounds. The first application round, launched in March, drew 131 applications. These applicants included businesses and nonprofits with prizes ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Winners will be announced at an event on June 24 in Rochester. Applications for the second round are due June 21. 

Ideal candidates have a product, service, program or initiative that benefits entrepreneurs or businesses and need funding to expand or bring the idea to market, officials say. They can choose any round to apply but can apply only once. Up to 10 winners will be chosen for each round. A majority of the funds (75 percent) will be given upfront to implement an initiative, and the remainder will be delivered upon completion.

Typically, applicants eligible for the program would include entrepreneur support organizations; high schools, colleges and universities that support up-and-coming entrepreneurs; and capital providers. Organizations that foster diverse ownership or entrepreneurs from disadvantaged communities with less than $2 million in gross revenue, and businesses that support new ventures are encouraged to apply.

Springboard doesn’t require equity in an organization, nor does it have reporting requirements. The cash prizes can be used for any activity. The only ask: sharing a success story. 

Judges will consider product or service design; ability to address current gaps in the marketplace or ecosystem; a clearly defined target market; funding needs to test an idea that otherwise wouldn’t be able to launch; and representing an underrepresented voice in the ecosystem such as race, gender, sector, geography, or socioeconomic status, officials say. Also among the criteria is the ability of an initiative, product or service to boost the chances for entrepreneurs to launch or grow a business successfully.

Winners of the second round will be announced at an event in Buffalo on Aug. 22. The final application round opens at the end of June; those awardees will be named at an event in the Southern tier in October.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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