Secure Erie Accelerator’s Round 2 – Something good happened in Erie, 5/17/2019

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:

https://www.eriereader.com/article/gem-city-playbook-the-secure-erie-accelerator

Do you love Erie? Do you occasionally feel like you’re out on a limb, alone cheering on whatever little victories our city has to offer amongst a sea of balcony muppets and negative Nancy’s?

Apparently these guys’ names are Statler and Waldorf. It seems their entire family tree and has moved to Erie to spread pessimism about our economic prospects.

After a week that saw Roar on the Shore leave the shore for higher ground, more structure fires ruining apartments and restaurants, and enough rain to keep us from enjoying what is supposed to be one of the six months of the year we can sit outside in the sunshine around here – the good news got buried.

There was good news, however, if you looked for it. For example, did you know the Erie Innovation District has something called the Secure Erie Accelerator? I’ll let Rebecca Styn of the Erie Reader explain what that is:

“For those who are not familiar with the SEA, over 10 weeks [in 2018], the organization hosted (alongside Singularity University) a business boot camp that brought nine tech-focused startups to Erie. Each received a $50,000 investment from the Innovation District, in addition to intensive training and mentoring.

That’s an incredible thing to have happened right here in Idiotville, and I’d never heard of it. Nine companies times $50,000 each comes to $450,000 – almost half a million to help Erie businesses get off the ground. The article goes on to state that of the nine companies, five of them decided to stay in Erie, establishing a nice business tech cluster on which others can build.

When you think of where Erie is now and where it wants to go to find a tax base, what comes to mind? Tourism? Erie Insurance buying the rest of downtown? Trump rolling back regulations until Hammermill once again joins hands with Erie Coke until the air is thick with jobs and carcinogens?

Whatever comes to mind, I’m guessing “technological cutting edge” was nowhere on your radar. It wasn’t on mine. That is one possible direction though and it’s because instead of heckling from the sidelines, someone did the hard work of raising money and spending it wisely to foster a whole group of businesses focused on the new economy.

So why is this a story now? Two reasons. First, another SEA will be held in June 2019, so there are more opportunities for local startups to leverage some much-needed cash and mentorship into a business ready to stand on its own two feet. Now that Erie already boasts five tech security companies, let’s see if we can improve on last year’s retention rate.

Secondly, the timing for these type of startups is perfect. Have you heard the hype about 5G? It could be the foundation upon which entire industries are built. Industries such as the ones already beginning here in Erie as a result of the EID’s and SEA’s work.

It seems the greatest roadblock to progress, as of now, is the vocal group of naysayers among us. Let’s go back to the Erie Reader article to hear from Ali Al Jabry, the founder of Erie-based startup Kwema and a graduate of the 2018 Secure Erie Accelerator, on why he chose to plant his flag in Erie:

“The main reason was the sense of community. Right from the onset, I felt embraced and welcomed by varying groups in both a social and professional perspective.”

I was surprised and heartened to hear someone describe my hometown that way. It doesn’t sound like someone surrounded by balcony muppets telling him his idea will never amount to anything. That is a terrific thing.

As we go forward, let’s continue to cheer on the Al Jabry’s of our town in the hopes that we can be known not for our negativity and nostalgia for the economy of the past, but for a can-do attitude that charts a new course to the economy of the future. A step in that direction is very deserving of this week’s “Something Good.”

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