Banking & Finance, Economic Development, and Small Business & Startups

Lakeshore Advantage fuels SURGE’s growing offerings

Last year’s pilot program for startups revealed where economic developer can do more.

January 24, 2020
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Mentor Aaron Schaap, left, and Nessie Solutions founder Nathan Arnold participate in a SURGE Day in November. Courtesy Lakeshore Advantage

Lakeshore Advantage kicked off this year’s entrepreneur program with new offerings.

SURGE is the Zeeland-based economic development organization’s program that caters to startups and more developed entrepreneurial endeavors, focused primarily on high-tech, high-growth and product-based companies.

In 2019, SURGE worked with 59 startups, including 31 high-tech companies and 28 offering a product or service. Those startups raised $1.73 million in capital last year.

“That's more entrepreneurs than we've navigated in any previous year,” said Emily Staley, vice president of marketing and communications for Lakeshore Advantage. “What that tells us is that the ecosystem is certainly growing.”

After a successful pilot last year, every second Wednesday of the month this year is “SURGE Days,” when members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem can work for free at the Treehuis co-working space in Holland, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

“Oftentimes as an entrepreneur, it can be pretty lonely. This is an opportunity to really meet up with other entrepreneurs,” Staley said.

SURGE will provide pizza, and a lunchtime speaker will share startup-related information. There also usually are a few volunteer mentors offering half-hour sessions of startup advice.

“One thing that we've learned in this last year is that we have a great network of mentors, and they do really want to be engaged,” Staley said. “That is one thing that has set our region apart.”

SURGE Days, as well as all of SURGE’s events, are open to anyone in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially people who have ideas but are unsure of where to begin, as well as anyone interested in supporting that community.

Also new this year, Grand Rapids-based FounderCo will host free networking events on the evenings of SURGE Days. Charles Elwood, who was part of SURGE’s first BoostCamp program last year, is leading the organization’s events along the lakeshore.

Staley said the event could be especially helpful to BoostCamp graduates and other startups that have passed early phases and are ready for the next steps.

“It's really exciting to us because it really opens up that network of entrepreneurs and mentors and resources between Grand Rapids and the Lakeshore,” Staley said. “We're stronger and we can support better when our networking bench is deeper.”

A new entrepreneurial support organization expo is taking place March 18 at Herrick District Library in Holland. The event will feature such organizations as GROW, SBDC, SCORE mentors, MiSpringboard and a veterans’ support group.

Besides new programming, SURGE is continuing several others that have worked well in the past.

SURGE’s entrepreneurial support system has more 25 area service providers that provide discounts and in-kind services to SURGE startups. For those that qualify, SURGE can contribute up to $2,500 to tech startups that work within the Holland Smart Zone.

SURGE members can become members of the West Coast Chamber of Commerce for a discounted $50 annually.

Members have access to several other perks, as well, and have access to each other and a network of more than 40 mentors.

The BoostCamp program, which is meant to help founders rapidly develop and test ideas through focus on customer and marketplace feedback, will launch again this fall.

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