A conversation with EPIC Prize Winner Austin Technology Incubator: 

OTT: Congratulations on receiving $50,000 as part of OTT’s EPIC prize! First, please tell us a little more about your company/who you are.

Austin Technology Incubator: The Empower Studio is a joint venture between the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) and DivInc. For over 30 years, ATI has used a customized approach to support entrepreneurs addressing the world’s most complex problems by connecting deeptech startups with the expertise, relationships, and funding sources they need to succeed in the marketplace. Founded June 2016, DivInc's mission is to bridge the gap between underrepresented entrepreneurs and the resources they need to build profitable, high-growth companies. DivInc is an entrepreneur innovation ecosystem builder exclusively focused on creating authentically diverse, equitable and inclusive startup entrepreneur ecosystems.

OTT: Will you give us a brief description of your winning program plan?

ATI: The Empower Studio supports underrepresented Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II recipients as they make the critical transition from proof of concept to scaled enterprise. Through phase-appropriate curriculum, mentorship and hands-on training, we help high-potential startups with all aspects of their growth strategy. We seek entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds in deep tech and work with all our founders to embed the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into the fabric of their businesses.

OTT: How has this program impacted your region/local community?

ATI: The program is set to begin on September 1, 2021. To date, the program has enabled cooperation among the entrepreneurship ecosystem to support underrepresented deeptech innovators.

OTT: When it comes to lessons learned with building out your regional innovation ecosystem, what is one thing that has worked and one thing that has not?

ATI: The one thing that has worked well is the inclusion of all stakeholders during the application review and selection. The partners are all deeply invested in the program as well as the individual innovators. The thing that has not gone well is the reliance on TABA funds to sustainably support the program.

OTT: What does it mean to be an accelerator/incubator during the coronavirus pandemic? What is one lesson learned from this virtual experience?

ATI: ATI was in many ways a “virtual” or services only incubator prior to the pandemic. While we did hold many of our meetings in person, we also serviced companies remotely albeit primarily in Texas. During the pandemic, we have welcomed new companies into our portfolio from across the globe. Several companies have used the admittance into ATI to make a physical move to Austin which has been a good regional economic development opportunity.

OTT: How can we stay up to date on the latest news or events with your company?

ATI: The Empower Studio will be creating an independent social media profile ahead of the program kick-off in September.

In the meantime, following ATI and DivInc on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. is very much welcomed.

ATI LinkedIn

ATI Twitter

ATI Facebook

DivInc LinkedIn

DivInc Facebook

DivInc Twitter

Thank you ATI for speaking with us!

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