Lakeshore Advantage’s SURGE program has opened a pilot business incubator, The SURGE Center, in downtown Holland.
The SURGE program, founded over six years ago, provides high-potential product and technology entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to launch and commercialize successful companies.
The new center offers a space where entrepreneurs can “hot desk,” receive mentoring, build community and attend educational events.
“This SURGE Center is more than a business incubator,” said Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “This is a place where our vibrant startup community can gather, make great connections, and get that powerful boost forward into further growth and opportunities.”
Lakeshore Advantage is in the Colonial Clock Building in Zeeland. The SURGE Center is an approximately 4,000-square-foot space at 44 E. Eighth St., Suite 400, in downtown Holland — co-leased with the software developer Collective Idea — and its goal is to build the density of the startup community, shining a light on all the innovation happening in the region.
The Holland SmartZone contracted Lakeshore Advantage to administer the SURGE program in 2016. The SmartZone provides funding through tax increment financing to pay for programming and infrastructure designed to support product and technology startups with the potential to create jobs and economic vitality for the region — functioning similarly to the Grand Rapids SmartZone, which is administered jointly by Start Garden and Spartan Innovations.
Currently, the SURGE Center is being supported by the Holland SmartZone, Lakeshore Advantage and membership dues. Memberships range from $95 to $350 monthly.
SURGE leaders hope creating this gathering place will attract other startups, talent and investments to Holland. Already the SURGE Center has 20 member companies — including Lilypad Labs, Virtual Sandtable, Hoom House, Orindi Gear, Tech to My Door, Quint Workspaces and G3 Acoustics — which is double the number the SURGE Center expected to see in its early days of operations .
Amanda Chocko, Lakeshore Advantage’s director of entrepreneurship for SURGE, said the center probably could accommodate up to 40 member startups with its drop-in model.
“What the membership numbers indicate to me is that there is such a desire for a space like this,” Chocko said.
“We’re trying to build an ecosystem within the space for startups, so it (houses) entrepreneurs, but it also includes our mentors, who are here a few days a week to be available for the entrepreneurs, and some of our partners, ” such as Hope College’s Office of Possibilities, the Hope Entrepreneurship Initiative and Seamless, a platform that matches startups and corporations to partner on proof-of-concept projects, Chocko said.
The incubator space will offer programs and resources to meet startups at whatever stage they’re in, including the following:
- Proof-of-concept program that allows to get customer and market feedback entrepreneurs to ensure they’re on the right track
- Founder roundtables consisting of five to six noncompeting companies per group that meet monthly to provide peer-to-peer insights
- Happy hours and SURGE Coffee Talk for community-building and networking
- Lunch-and-learn events
- Mentor office hours
- Whiteboard strategy sessions
- Investor reading training
- SURGE Boostcamp
“Emerging companies need more than just financial capital to thrive and grow. They require social and intellectual capital,” said Brian Burch, managing partner of Burch Partners and chair of the Holland SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority. “By bringing those elements together with startups into a single space, the SURGE Center can help foster interactions between startups, support resources and more. As the community matures, more people are bouncing more ideas off each other, creating new businesses and further developing Holland’s ecosystem startup.”
The SURGE Center is open to high-tech, high-growth startup companies and the organizations that support them. The space offers meeting rooms, private phone booths, coworking spaces, high-speed fiber internet, monitors, a kitchen, bathrooms and the ability to use the center’s mailing address as the startups’ business address.
“The SURGE Center provides a low-cost professional office setting for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs,” said Dana Lowell, Lilypad Labs CEO and a SURGE Center member. “The amenities and location are perfect for our stage of development. The SURGE Center ecosystem allows for like-minded innovators and risk-takers to exchange ideas, experiences and support related to scaling their dreams.”
Chocko said her hope is this incubator space will shine a light on the exciting things happening in the region’s startup scene.
“There’s a lot of activity and people working on really great things, but it’s been invisible,” she said. “…This is the next phase of us growing the startup community.”
More information on the SURGE Center and its resources can be found at lakeshoreadvantage.com/surge.