Surge Launch plans to begin its first program with young companies in May.
Tacoma’s first tech accelerator for startups is getting ready to open its doors, starting a new era for the city.
SurgeTacoma has operated a co-working space in downtown Tacoma for a few years and will launch a 12-week accelerator program called Surge Launch in May.
Tech accelerators, which give young companies mentorship, training and funding, are popping up all over Seattle, but not in Tacoma so far. Accelerators such as Techstars and 9 Mile Labs in Seattle invest a set amount of money in companies at the end of the program for an equity stake.
Surge plans to turn the model on its head a bit by offering different stages of training. Companies can come in at Stage 1 and receive mentoring and funding and, if they wish, they can continue onto Stage 2 for another 12-week program. The company hasn’t nailed down the specifics of each stage, but it plans to include training on building a team, setting up legal documents and raising funding.
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Surge founder Eli Moreno, who is also CEO of property-investment company Premier Residential, said Tacoma’s tech scene has changed dramatically over the past few years.
“We’re trying to build the ecosystem here in town,” he said. “For many years, you would have to go up to Seattle to have access to the ecosystem, but that is changing.”
The community is starting to trickle south. A meetup group called New Tech Tacoma launched in the fall, a sister to the popular New Tech Seattle and New Tech Eastside.
Patricia Beard, a project manager with the city in the community and economic development department, said Surge Launch is the first of its kind in Tacoma, though other startup resources such as angel investors and mentoring programs have been around for a while.
Surge already has about 40 mentors signed up, including local angel investor Gary Rubens, who founded ATG Stores and owns sports-tech startup i1 biometrics. Rubens was intrigued by a longer program that doesn’t just set startups free after 12 weeks.
“You can’t build a company in 90 days,” he said. “There’s a need for longer programs.”
Surge Launch is part of the Global Accelerator Network, a network of similar accelerators. Surge will invest between $20,000 and $80,000 in seed funding for each company, and take up to a 9 percent equity stake.
Surge is accepting applications for its first cohort, which will have five companies. Applications close in April.