2017 Semifinalist
Small Business Administration
January 1, 2017

The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) supports small business success by recognizing accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, and entities that support local entrepreneurial ecosystems. SBA provides awards to organizations that foster business growth in overlooked geographic regions with limited access to capital or that focus their support on underserved communities. Leveraging appropriations and the America Competes Act, the GAFC was conceived in late 2013 and planned in just four months, launching in May 2014. To ensure that awards went to the most deserving organizations, the application process was designed to be both intuitive for the applicant yet rigorously reviewed by a team of expert judges, who were drawn from across both the government and the private sector and who had particular expertise in business creation, operations, investment, and technology. To safeguard that winners were able to begin leveraging their awards quickly, the evaluation process was swift: applications closed June 1, awardees were notified in August, and awards were given in late September for 2016 competition. To date since inception, the GAFC has awarded $11.15 million to over 223 organizations across 43 states and will be entering its fourth year. GAFC’s breadth of support ranges from helping accelerate Mom & Pop Shops to High-Tech Gazelles, and earned a highlighted kudos in a recent Brookings Institution study on the economic impact of accelerator programs across the United States. The program has awarded 40 percent of its prizes to women and 20 percent to minority-owned or focused organizations respectively, and in 2015 alone, 45 percent of prizes were awarded to rural communities.