We’re getting the word out on how the federal government can help start-ups. This blog article is the fourth in our series cataloguing programs for high-technology entrepreneurs (sometimes referred to as “high-growth, high-impact firms” or high-tech start-ups). So far, we’ve written about grant programs, loan programs, and technical assistance. This week, we’re featuring programs and organizations that provide education, counseling and other similar services to high-tech entrepreneurs.
Starting a business can be challenging and you don’t have to go through the process alone. There are organizations that offer business counseling and education in the high tech industry. You can couple your business experience with the counseling and knowledge of an expert to help you start and succeed. Think of it this way: let’s say you’ve just landed a customer service job. You’ll benefit from other employees giving you tips on good customer interaction, and you’ll certainly learn from your mistakes. But if you leverage that hands-on experience with educational training – like a customer service workshop, for example – you’ll have a leg up. Hands-on experience is great; but coupling it with education and training is even better. Counseling and training programs can work similarly for high-tech entrepreneurs.
Below are several specific – and free -- opportunities for high-technology start-ups:
Innovation Corps Program (National Science Foundation)
NSF has introduced the Innovation Corps to move scientific research from the university lab to the market. The I-Corps program counsels and funds selected research teams with the goal of attracting investors and business opportunities to scientific discoveries – and bringing academia and industry closer. College and government research teams can apply and see application deadlines in the Program Solicitation.
ARPA E-Fellows and Senior Fellows Program (U.S. Department of Energy)
The Advanced Research Project Agency at the Department of Energy is looking for America’s next generation of energy innovators. If you’ve got a technical science or engineering background plus an entrepreneurial spirit, this fellowship should be on your list. ARPA sponsors (and pays) postdoctorate fellows in a highly structured two-year program that brings together talented engineers and scientists in a “think tank” setting focused on new energy technologies. Check out the requirements for the fellowship and apply here.
For established energy innovators with more experience, the ARPA Senior Fellows program offers some of the same structure for energy researchers from industry, government and academic backgrounds. Click here for details and the application email address.
MBDA Business Plan Writer (U.S. Department of Commerce)
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helps minority entrepreneurs get financing, find local business opportunities, and assess their business needs. MBDA funds local offices throughout the U.S., staffed by business specialists who can help entrepreneurs in a variety of ways, depending on their goals – including finding the right loan, planning an expansion, or getting certified for federal contracts. To get your business involved, find your closest MBDA office. This listing includes a phone number and email address for each office location.
MBDA also offers free online business tools, including the Business Plan Writer. This resource provides tips on business plan fundamentals and assists in the structure and format of this imperative document. Sign up to get free access to the Business Plan Writer and other online tools here.
Technology Ventures Corporation (U.S. Department of Energy/Lockheed Martin-funded)
The TVC is a nonprofit geared toward start-ups that are working on products in national laboratories. The organization can lend a hand to strengthen an entrepreneur’s business case and connect them with equity investment through its primary investor event, the Equity Investor Symposium. If you’re a high-tech start-up, TVC can be a good partner to help get an investor interested; entrepreneurs presenting at its Symposium get funded at a much higher rate than most start-ups, as the TVC website explains:
Nationally, one in a thousand entrepreneurs seeking early stage equity investment receives it. Of the entrepreneurs who have worked with TVC and presented in a TVC symposium, about one in three has received funding. That record is similarly unique.*
If you’d like to work with TVC, submit your business proposal online and they’ll review it.
Counseling and Training from SBA and SBA Resource Partners
SBA and our resource partners also have training and counseling available for hi-tech start-ups, as well as non-technology businesses. SBA has 68 district offices, each offering small business support in every region in the U.S. and U.S. territories. Additionally, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SCORE and Women's Business Centers (WBCs) can give start-ups counseling and trainings to help them succeed.