$1 Million Grant from Kauffman Foundation Aimed at Making Community Colleges a 'Front Door' for Entrepreneurship

Media Contacts:
Rossana Weitekamp, 516-593-2413, rossana@weitekamp.com, Weitekamp Communications
Barb Schulte, 816-932-1103; bschulte@kauffman.org, Kauffman Foundation

'Innovation Fund America' program will replicate Lorain County Community College model to connect entrepreneurs to mentorship, education and capital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (May 31, 2012) – A model for entrepreneurship education and early-stage funding for startups, born in a community college in northeastern Ohio, will make its way to the national stage with the support of a $1 million grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The partnership with Lorain County Community College Foundation (LCCC) aims to replicate nationally the Ohio community college's very successful model for mentoring and funding high-growth startups, educating new founders and, in turn, spurring regional economic growth. The project, named Innovation Fund America, will begin with a pilot in three communities around the country, to be selected in the coming months. Kauffman and LCCC aim to eventually scale the model to more schools around the country and build a national network to support them.

"Kauffman has a rich history of working with colleges and universities to build entrepreneurship education programs and curricula because entrepreneurship is a long-term strategy for job development and economic growth," said Thom Ruhe, Kauffman Foundation vice president of entrepreneurship. "With community colleges embedded in more than 1,200 communities across the United States, we see a tremendous opportunity to employ their resources to support, educate and inspire local residents to pursue entrepreneurial ventures."

The Innovation Fund was launched by the Lorain County Community College Foundation in 2007 to support high-growth technology entrepreneurs in the historically manufacturing-centered northeast Ohio. In its first five years, the Fund made nearly 100 awards totaling close to $6 million, leading to $62 million in follow-on funding.

"The Innovation Fund was founded by the Lorain County Community College Foundation to help rekindle entrepreneurship as part of a 'grow your own' strategy for economic advancement," said Dr. Roy Church, president of LCCC.

Kauffman Foundation leaders said the LCCC Innovation Fund, which is now self-sustaining, stood out because of the three critical provisions of its approach to supporting new and young firms: an emphasis on founder mentorship, experiential entrepreneurship education, and improving access to early stage funding.

"Despite being situated in one of the more economically depressed areas of the state, Lorain County Community College, through its Innovation Fund, has had a tremendous and positive impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of northeast Ohio," Ruhe said. "We believe it's a model that LCCC and Kauffman should replicate in other regions, and we will show that community colleges can, with the right resources, be at the center of local entrepreneur-led growth."

Church concurred, emphasizing that the collaboration between LCCC and Kauffman will lead to a new class of entrepreneurial community colleges.

"This partnership with the Kauffman Foundation places community colleges at the forefront of supporting entrepreneurship," he said. "By showcasing how this model can be replicated, we can enhance community colleges' capacity to accelerate innovation in their communities."

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About the Lorain County Communication College Foundation
The Lorain County Community College Foundation, a separate 501c3 organization, serves as the direct support organization for Lorain County Community College (LCCC), a comprehensive community college serving over 17,000 students annually. The LCCC Foundation generates and manages resources to support LCCC's mission with a focus on entrepreneurship and regional economic development through the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) – an incubator on campus that has advised more than 2,600 entrepreneurs and formally mentored over 100 companies and is a partnership between LCCC, the Lorain County Commissioners and the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce – and the Innovation Fund, a pre-seed fund that has awarded $5.6 million to 80 early-stage, technology-based companies.