This week is National Small Business Week, and in celebration, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the third annual round of its Growth Accelerator Fund competition to award accelerators and startup ecosystems that empower aspiring startups.

"As we celebrate National Small Business Week this week, it is only fitting that we launch our third annual Growth Accelerator Fund competition to empower more of America's small businesses," said Mark Walsh, associate administrator for the Office of Investment and Innovation.

"Accelerators provide valuable resources to potential startups: a physical infrastructure to work in their infancy, mentoring, business-plan assistance, networking, opportunities to obtain venture capital, and introductions to potential customers, partners and suppliers," Walsh added. "All critical elements to ensuring that small businesses flourish and succeed."

Seeking Women & Underrepresented Accelerators

Through the competition, the SBA supports successful models of startup and small business development throughout the country, especially those that work in underrepresented or underserved sectors of the economy.

The SBA, for example, is calling out for accelerators that are headed by women or other underrepresented groups. For last year's competition 44 percent of the winners were run by women and 41 percent were classified as underrepresented groups, such as Latino-run accelerators.

Special consideration is also given to startup accelerators that fill geographic gaps, so if your accelerator, incubator, or startup community is working outside of the usual hotbeds of economic activity, it's definitely worth applying.


That said, the competition is open to any organizations that provide networking, mentorship, and a working environment (online or physical) for startups. It's not limited to the technology industry, nor is it restricted to the standard accelerator or startup incubator model.

Providing equity to startups is optional for qualification, but winners must demonstrate plans, or the ability, to raise a 4 to 1 match of prizes awarded, either in cash, donations, or sponsorships.

Applicants also have to have an entrepreneurial program modeled on a timeline, in which the startups in their program "graduate" and move on to independently operating in the small business economy.

Apply: There's a Big Prize Pool

Winners are awarded $50,000 in prizes each, out of a total fund of $3.95 million -- so there's plenty of winner spots to go around.

A panel of expert judges from both the private and public sectors will select winners. You can read more about qualifications and apply at the SBA's 2016 Growth Accelerator Fund page here.

The deadline for this year's applications is June 3.

SBA Expanding Partnerships

This year is the third year of the Growth Accelerator Fund, and the SBA has expanded to partner with several other federal agencies after the success of the past two years.

"Last year's competition was so successful, we've added more federal partners including our very own Office of Native American Affairs and Office of Veterans Business Development to help bring more Native-American-owned, veteran-owned, women-owned and minority-owned small businesses into the fold," said Walsh.

Native American-owned accelerators applying only need to demonstrate the ability or plans to match the winning funds on a one to one basis.

Other partnering agencies and organizations this year include the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture. The SBA's Office of Investment and Innovation is also partnering with the Inter-American Development Bank to provide prizes that assist African descendant startups in Latin America.