The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 07, 2012

A new model for fostering entrepreneurship

Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Photo Credit: JumpStart, by Laura Webb.

Several years ago, an entrepreneur licensed NASA technology from to start an Ohio company that converts industrial smokestack waste into electricity.  JumpStart, a non-profit accelerating the success of entrepreneurs, helped the owner find investors, contributed $400,000 to launch the company and negotiated a $20 million venture capital investment.

Since then, Echogen Power Systems has grown from 2 to 34 employees and forecasts revenues of over $100 million by 2014. It’s just one example of how new job growth and economic development stems from high growth entrepreneurial companies.

That’s in part why today Knight Foundation is announcing a $1 million grant to support an effort to bring a new model for engaging residents for fostering entrepreneurship to 20 cities across the country.

Knight’s support for the JumpStart America Initiative, a project of JumpStart, is a way to involve new leaders in their community’s economic future.

The community-focused effort will work with regional public, private and philanthropic partnerships to spur the creation of new jobs by developing, identifying and supporting high-impact entrepreneurs.

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, JumpStart America builds partnerships in all 50 states with the goal of aggregating more than $2 billion to create or accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship programs across the United States. It accelerates high growth entrepreneurship in communities across the country hard hit by job loss in order to create new private sector jobs.

Knight’s support is intended to galvanize a larger effort to raise an additional $14 million dollars to implement the program over the next three years.  

To Knight, engaging the community is key to the effort.

“JumpStart’s approach is based on one simple truth: to succeed in creating an environment for innovation, we must deliberately focus on engaging the community in determining the best way forward,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. “Its focus on empowering transformational change, while leveraging technological solutions like the online community IdeaCrossing demonstrates the type of innovative approaches we encourage.”

The foundation previously helped JumpStart leverage stimulus resources to assist six communities struggling to foster more diverse, entrepreneurial economies.  

JumpStart America is also a partner of the Startup America Partnership, an independent, private sector alliance formed in response to a call to action from the White House to dramatically increase the development, prevalence and success of innovative, high growth U.S. startup firms.

JumpStart accelerates the successes of entrepreneurs, their companies, and the ecosystems supporting them. For more information, visit and follow @JumpStartInc on Twitter.

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