Riverside outranks the better-known entrepreneurship hotspot of San Jose
By Holly Ober
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)— Riverside ranks No. 19 on MSN Money’s list of the best cities in the U.S. to grow a business, ahead of Atlanta, San Jose, and Charlotte, North Carolina, among others.
The 30-city list is the result of a GOBankingRates study of startups in major metropolitan areas across the country. The study used data from the Kaufman Index of Startup Activity to assess the rate of new entrepreneurs, startup density, and a variety of other factors that indicate a potentially stronger environment for small businesses. It also looked at the cost of living and projected job growth for the area.
The report found that entrepreneurship in Riverside gets a boost from ExCITE, a startup incubator developed in partnership between the University of California, Riverside, and the city and county of Riverside. ExCITE helps new technology businesses through mentoring, training, business resources, co-working space, networking, and access to funding opportunities.
“Creating a community of entrepreneurs is what we are doing at ExCITE, creating a place where entrepreneurs want to be,” said Steve Massa, economic development coordinator for the city of Riverside.
“ExCITE is a one-stop institution for entrepreneurial education, networking, and resource sharing,” said Vagelis Hristidis, a professor of computer science and engineering in UC Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering and CEO of SmartBot360, an ExCITE company that builds customized chatbots to improve routine customer service interactions online.
A concerted effort by stakeholders in education, government, and the private-sector has been instrumental in placing Riverside on the map when it comes to entrepreneurship. Thanks in part to their efforts, Riverside has more than 92 startups for every 1,000 businesses— a higher startup density than more than half of the 30 cities on the list.
“Building connections, as well as attracting investors and top-notch mentors, are essential pieces of the puzzle to build a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem” said Rosibel Ochoa, UCR’s associate vice chancellor for technology partnerships.
The Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept Center (EPIC) Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a UC Riverside and Riverside County initiative, provides free training, access to capital, and ongoing support from seasoned entrepreneurs and industry experts who provide consultation to technology-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region.
“This level of support is unprecedented in our region,” said Scott Brovsky, a former startup entrepreneur who directs the EPIC SBDC program.
UC Riverside’s Office of Technology Partnerships is focused on developing partnerships with the business community and fostering an ecosystem for innovation in Riverside. It offers education programs for startups and has a pool of 20 Entrepreneurs-in-Residence that deliver mentoring to students, faculty, and university staff. Last year, UCR launched the Highlander Venture Fund, which provides early stage capital for entrepreneurs in Riverside. The university also works with the county to produce April’s Innovation Month and partners with the city to bring the Inland Empire Startup Week to life.
“Our region dreams big, and our growing ecosystem and network of innovation is a direct result of deliberate efforts to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Riverside County. We are proud of Riverside now being recognized as a top city for entrepreneurs,” said Rob Moran, economic development manager for Riverside County.