OTT EPIC Prize Exponential Impact

A conversation with EPIC prize winner Exponential Impact:

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.

Exponential Impact: Exponential Impact (XI), a 501c3 non-profit organization, was created in September 2017 to catalyze an entrepreneurial ecosystem of high-tech companies in Southern Colorado and address the regional entrepreneurial gap.  XI offers high growth potential startups a series of programs that support their growth from seed to scale. Beyond the programming and mentorship aspects of XI offerings, engaged startups are exposed to numerous community and investor connections. Exponential Impact offers regular networking events for startup founders. The organization also leverages these connections to offer startups introductions to potential customers, partners, and suppliers.

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

XI: Exponential Impact’s program seeks to expand energy entrepreneurship in Southern Colorado.  Building upon the organization’s support of disruptive and emerging technologies startups, XI expanded its focus to startups innovating around green-technologies.

Exponential Impact now prioritizes acceptance for green-technology startups into the Accelerator and Amplify programs. Through the inclusion of these companies, Exponential Impact recruited specialized mentors and identified potential customers in the region. Additionally, XI is putting together an Advisory Committee to guide the green initiative. Beyond supporting existing startups involved in energy and clean technologies, XI will foster the growth of new green companies. While the proposed energy sprint will take place in-person, XI is developing partnerships with universities and startup advocacy groups to prepare for this event as we transition out of the COVID-19 restrictions.

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

XI: Exponential Impact’s green-technologies program has encouraged community collaboration around energy development and entrepreneurship as a key solution.  XI’s support of innovation and entrepreneurship serves as the connector between governmental entities, educational instructions, and other private and public sector players.  The central partners in this ecosystem include Colorado Springs Utilities, City of Colorado Springs, and University of Colorado Colorado Springs. This constellation of partnerships will ensure that the local utility provider, governmental body, and research institution are united behind the advancement of green technology innovation. This ecosystem helps generate commercialization opportunities for green technology startups, and supports local adoption of clean technology  advancement.  Additionally, this initiative has brought in startups into the ecosystem through both the 2021 Accelerator and 2021 Amplify programs to begin building out a cluster of technologies, founders, and mentors.

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?

XI: While building a regional innovation ecosystem focused on sustainability, Exponential Impact benefits from interested and engaged community partners. The major players in the energy innovation ecosystem are excited about the potential growth and opportunities within the region.  By developing a committed network, XI will be able to offer participating startups unique and beneficial pilot and partner opportunities.

On the other hand, a challenge in growing the energy innovation ecosystem is developing distinct support frameworks for software and hardware startups. While the startups share similarities in their focus, hardware companies face distinct issues and barriers compared to software companies. By recruiting specialized mentors and identifying local companies that can support manufacturing needs, XI will build out unique frameworks for the engaged green startups.  Additionally, building a cluster from the ground up will take investments to ignite momentum and build critical mass and connections.

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

XI: During the COVID-19 pandemic, XI provided an unprecedented support system to involve startups and our communities' small businesses.  Exponential Impact, as an accelerator and incubator, was able to quickly expand its capacity and resource networks to address the challenges startups faced during the pandemic.  Additionally, the pandemic highlighted the importance of a holistic model.  XI’s programs are built upon our Six Peak values of story and innovation, health and wellness, awareness, leadership and culture, operational excellence, and mentorship. These values serve as a basis for a holistic model that emphasizes sustainability and resiliency. 

The virtual environment allowed increased accessibility for companies and programs to engage with Exponential Impact, increase efficiency, and expansion of networks beyond geographic boundaries. With that being said, in-person networking and community building is essential to the success of the ecosystem. Exponential Impact is incorporating these learning into future programs.

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

XI: Check out Exponential Impact on social media and sign up for our newsletter at exponentialimpact.com to stay up to date. Follow us on Facebook @xiaccelerator, Twitter @xiaccelerator, Instagram @xi_accelerator, and LinkedIn @ExponentialImpact.

Thank you, Exponential Impact! 

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