North Carolina Incubator Wins SBA Prize

First Flight Venture Center in RTP Winner in SBA $50,000 Accelerator Fund Competition
Release Date: 
Monday, October 30, 2017
MIke Ernandes 704-344-6588

Charlotte, NC - The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today 20 winners of the fourth Growth Accelerator Fund competition. The accelerators represent a broad set of industries and sectors from manufacturing to tech start-ups to farming with a diversified range of demographic groups.

Each organization will receive from the SBA a cash prize of $50,000. In accepting these funds, the accelerators will be committing to bi-annual reporting for one year and will be required to report metrics on jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained, among other pieces of information. These metrics will allow the SBA to maintain a useful dataset of accelerators and their impact, and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities.

For the third year, the SBA has awarded a prize to First Flight Venture Center (FFVC) out of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. FFVC is a technology incubator that helps entrepreneurs and early-stage companies commercialize their technology. According to FFVC President Andy Schwab, the incubator used previous prize awards to grow its LIFTOFF Program and its Workplace Immersion for New Generation Scientists (WINGS) program. LIFTOFF helps startups in seeking federal grants, while WINGS provides first-hand work experience opportunities at high science startups to science, technology, engineering and math students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This latest award will be used to further expand LIFTOFF with an emphasis on women- and minority-owned businesses in the local community.

“Congratulations to Andy and the FFVC team on winning the competition again in 2017,” said Lynn Douthett, director of SBA’s North Carolina Office. The fourth annual SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Contest presents another opportunity for the SBA to continue to engage with and support organizations whose sole purpose is to help start-ups to grow, become commercially viable and have real and sustained economic impact.”

Winners were selected through a two-tier review panel process with experts in entrepreneurship, investing and business plans both inside and out of the federal government. The finalist expert judges reviewed the applications and pitch videos submitted by the finalists.

The purpose of the competition is to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. There are entrepreneurial activities taking place in all 50 states, but some are better supported by private sector ecosystems than others.

The 20 winners are:

  • First Flight Venture Center- Research Triangle Park,, N.C.
  • EparaTodos: Negocios Exitosos- Lowell, Mass.
  • Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development- Portland, Maine
  • MergeLane- Boulder, Colo.
  • Hera Labs- San Diego, Calif.
  • KiiLN- Manhattan, N.Y.
  • Local Works- Charleston, S.C.
  • WiSTEM/1871- Chicago, Ill.
  • The JunipHER Project- Williamsburg, Va.
  • Bioscience & Technology Business Center- Lawrence, Kan.
  • MORTAR- Cincinnati, Ohio
  • WIN Life Sciences Start Up Accelerator Program- Seattle, Wash.
  • FirstWaVE Accelerator- Tampa, Fla.
  • XLR8UH- Honolulu, Hawaii
  • I-Corps Puerto Rico Accelerator- San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Native Entrepreneur In Residence- Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Fannin Innovation Studio- Houston, Texas
  • Circular Board- Houston, Texas
  • Peninsula Technology Incubator- Hampton, Va.
  • Veterans Future Lab- Brooklyn, N.Y.

For more information about accelerators, the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition and a full list of award winners past and present, visit:  





The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.