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FAU Launches Tech Runway Incubation Program for South Florida A new program aims to jumpstart entrepreneurship in South Florida.

By Michael Solomon

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The term "runway" has taken on a new meaning with the launch of Florida Atlantic University's Tech Runway. It is the new South Florida public-private partnership formed to foster technology startups.

Headquartered in the newly renovated, 27,000-square-foot building, the former home of hurricane-glass manufacturer Illumiglas, companies are selected through an application process that is open to anyone with entrepreneur cravings who wants to apply.

FAU Tech Runway is a partnership formed to foster technology startups. Through Tech Runway, entrepreneurs find the complete ecosystem to house, educate, mentor and fund their companies from inception through venture funding.

The cornerstone of Tech Runway are the Venture Mentoring Service, based on MIT's proven VMS, and Stanford's Lean Launch entrepreneurship curriculum, supported by the National Science Foundation.

Related: A New Program to Support Entrepreneurs

FAU's program consists of seven points of entrepreneurship. The first being Ideation, which takes the creation of a new concept through thought and innovation and moves it along through Invention Research. From there the applicants receive mentoring and build their business plan. After building a market strategy and the entrepreneur validates their concept, the fund-raising process begins. This can be accomplished through various means, such as the FAU Business Plan Competition or other I-Start competitions, Kickstarter funding or angel investors, or applying to be a participant in Tech Runway.

The startups get assistance from FAU students, who can work as interns and from faculty who can act as consultants and include actual problems facing the companies as projects in their classes. In this way the partnership between academics and the business community is drawn tightly together; the students work on real problems and have an impact on these startups, and the startups have a support community that will help them succeed.

The program was the shared dream of several leaders at FAU, especially Kimberly Gramm, assistant dean of the College of Business, who has spearheaded the effort that has made this dream into reality. The State of Florida believes the program will help create and boost new business startups, thereby creating much needed jobs while bringing forth new technology. With this belief, it has given the program its blessing in the form of a $1 million grant. The program is seeking additional funding from corporate and private sources.

Launched on October 17, 2014, Gramm has taken on a new title, CEO (Chief Entrepreneur Officer). Both Gramm and co-founder and former interim president of FAU, Dennis Crudele, are working on advancing and scaling the operation in south Florida.

Related: Thinking of Joining an Incubator? Check Off These 5 Things First.

Five companies knows as "Venture Vintage 1" were selected for the first pilot group to go through the program and will start immediately.

BedaBox, Founder Jan Bednar – Worldwide shopping and shipping of much demanded made in America products.

Design Comfort Shoes, Founder Ilene Greenberg – A patent-pending high heeled shoe redesign that is revolutionizing the women's shoe market.

Interact T.E.A.M., David G. Wolf, Ph.D – Education, training and consulting services to the long-term care industry.

Modulux Lighting, Founders Bill Cummings and Tim Clark – More light with less power with breakthrough LED lighting fixtures.

Stand4, Founder Andy Hill – A Mobile app that empowers you to change the world without your wallet by donating while you exercise. Stand4 is a for profit social enterprise.

Two of these companies are former winners in the FAU business plan competition and have shown great promise as new startups. It is expected that a full complement of companies will be ready to get on board in time for the formal facility ribbon-cutting in the fall of 2015.

For those who are accepted in the program, Tech Runway's support includes:

  • Provision of a "cool" techy collaborative space at the Tech Runway facility.
  • A formal 16-week education program.
  • Active mentors using the MIT VMS model.
  • Seed money in the form of a $25,000 grant.
  • Introduction to angel and institutional investors.The possibility of funding through a private angel fund associated with Tech Runway and shared services model to support the companies.

So those who want to get on board and believe they have an idea for the next new mousetrap better get to the gate before the plane leaves without you.

Related: Social Innovation Reigns at This New York City Incubator

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