The Nile River in Cairo. Photo credit: Remon Samuel from Pixabay 

Welcome to The Hub, your spot for ecosystem and accelerator news. In this news roundup, we provide you with the latest on organizations working to support, educate and fund innovators and their ideas. We’ll highlight cohort applications, people to know in the incubator world and programs working to give resources to those who typically don’t have access elsewhere. As always, we’re focused on underrepresented entrepreneurs — such as women, people of color, and those geographically outside power centers — and organizations supporting these demographics. 

If you have a piece of news or a job listing you think will fit into this roundup, email it to Skyler Rossi at

Early-Stage Deal Flow Is Moving Out Of Silicon Valley

While the Bay Area continues to have a grip on the majority of venture capital, the region saw “one of the largest declines in angel and seed deal counts of the 10 most active CSAs,” last year, according to a year end review of the US venture capital ecosystem by Seattle-based Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association. It also recorded a 10-year low in late-stage deals in proportion of total deal count. 

All together, the area saw 2,503 deals last year, a 13.3% decrease, year over year, from 2019, according to the report, which was created in partnership with Silicon Valley Bank and Velocity Global. 

Meanwhile, other areas, such as Boston and Chicago, recorded improving late-stage activity and Atlanta completed 100 angel and seed deals for the first time since 2014, according to the review. 

The report points to the migration of investors and entrepreneurs from the Bay Area to other places in the U.S. as COVID-19 restrictions affected its cities.  “We believe the year was a harbinger for investment trends to shift further outside the region’s venture hub,” its analysts write.

It also identifies a trend that’s a result of the pandemic: As it became normal to work through video calls last year, venture capitalists started to invest more in founders located outside their proximity. 

“If investors continue to use teleconferencing software to source, diligence and invest in nonlocal companies, a large amount of capital could be unlocked for businesses headquartered outside of traditional investment hubs,” according to the report.  

RELATED: Stay tuned for our fastest-growing ecosystem list, launching this week. 

Michigan Cannabis Cultivator Takes Startups Under Its Wing

Fluresh, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based cannabis cultivator and processor with about 200 employees, has launched the first cohort of its business incubator, which will support entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry, according to a news release. It selected 10 Michigan entrepreneurs above the age of 21 to participate in the program, more than 80% of them people of color, according to the release. The 10 will learn about parts of the industry such as the state’s licensing process, financing and sustainability over the next few months to help them build their own cannabis startups. Part of Fluresh’s mission is to “to make the cannabis industry more diverse and equitable for victims of the War on Drugs,” which its incubator’s leaders kept in mind while selecting the entrepreneurs. 

Names to Know

Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, has been appointed the World Health Organization’s Special Envoy for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, a collaboration to create more effective distribution and access of COVID-19 vaccines and resources, according to a press release. Previously, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the current director-general of the World Trade Organization, and Sir Andrew Witty, the CEO of Optum and UnitedHealth Group, held the role. The accelerator was launched in April 2020 by the director-general of the World Health Organization, the president of France, the president of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to WHO’s website.

Mimi Fox Melton is the new chief executive officer of Code2040, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that connects Black and Lantinx people in tech that ended 2018 with $3.1 million of net assets, according to its Form 990. Fox Melton has worked for Code2040 since 2015 and previously was the executive director for Code For Progress, a DC-based group that worked to get more women and people of color coding jobs. As Code2040’s CEO, Fox Melton will continue to push the organization’s mission of dismantling systemic racism in the technology space.

Robert Blacklidge will start April 19 as the executive director at Domi Station, an incubator and coworking space in Tallahassee, Florida, with an economic impact of $109.5 million, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.  He previously launched the Lakeland, Florida, branch of Startup Grind and is a community organizer for Tampa Bay Startup Week, according to his Linkedin. The position was formerly held by Bill Lickson, who is leaving the position to launch North Florida Innovation Labs, a new $17 million accelerator that will offer entrepreneurs in region wet and dry lab space. Laura Powers, the founder of Art by LJ Designs, a custom apparel business, and the former coworking manager at Domi, will also be starting as Domi Station’s new associate director, according to the article.

Open Applications

Rice University Accelerator Seeks Early-Stage Clean Energy Startups

Applications are open for the new Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, a program launching at Rice University in Houston to support energy innovations. Its founding sponsor is Wells Fargo and it has support from groups including energy companies BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil. The program is seeking up to 20 early-stage startups that are working on solutions to decarbonize energy for its 12-week accelerator, according to the program website. At the conclusion of the program, its cohort will present at the Rice Alliance Energy Venture Forum, which has attracted more than 1,000 participants in the past, according to the website.  The first cohort will start in June and be virtual. Applications are due April 14.

RELATED: How Climate Innovators Are Bypassing The Power Grid

Beligian Sweets Manufacturer Launches Incubator

Puratos, a Brussels, Belgium-based company that produces ingredients for the bakeries, patisseries and chocolatiers, has launched an incubator, called Sparkalis, to support ideas in food tech. It will offer investments in selected startups focused on its goal of clean food, such as startups working on innovations in plant-based products and fermentation. The amount of funds each entrepreneur gets varies, according to Filip Arnaut, a Puratos research and development director. Startups globally can contact the incubator through the form on its website if interested in applying, he said.

Louisville-based Fund Seeks To Invest $100K Into Eight Startups

Render Capital, a Louisville, Kentucky-based, $15 million fund that provides early-stage risk capital for entrepreneurs in Louisville and Southern Indiana, has opened applications for its second annual Render Competition, according to a news release. The fund will select eight startups to receive a $100,000 investment each. Anyone is eligible to apply, but winners must relocate their business’s headquarters to the greater Louisville area. The program is sponsored by accelerator Amplify Louisville, Louisville Future of Work Initiative, the United Parcel Service, Greater Louisville (the metro area’s chamber of commerce), and electronic parts manufacturer Samtec. Applications are due May 6.

Applications Open for North Carolina State University Accelerator

The Andrews Launch Accelerator at North Carolina State University is seeking startups to participate in its 2021 summer program, according to its website. Any startup with at least one founder that attends the university is eligible to apply. Selected entrepreneurs will receive between $5,000 and $50,000 in equity-free grants, learn from experts and network during the 14-week program, according to its website. The NC State Acceleration Fund is the product of a $1 million donation from Lyn and Chip Andrews, who serves on the university’s Board of Trustees. Applications are due April 16. 

CleanTech Open Accepting Up to 150 Startups

Applications are live for the Cleantech Open, a Los Angeles-based accelerator for cleantech startups, according to its website. The accelerator is seeking 100-150 early-stage startups focused on clean technology for its annual program, which will be held virtually this year. Selected entrepreneurs will receive mentoring, training and networking. There’s also the chance to win up to $75,000 as well as up to $50,000 of in-kind services at its regional and national competitions. Participation costs $1,350 per company, or $975 for student-led startups. Applications are due April 18 and have a fee of $75.

Emerging Markets

$1 Billion Eygptian Pounds For Egyptian Tech 

Cairo, Egypt-based Sawari Ventures announced Monday it’s investing 1 billion LE, or a little more than $63.6 million, into Egyptian tech companies, according to a news release. The fund is made up of commitments from Cairo-based Misr Insurance Group, Giza-based Ekuity Holdings, the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, Banque du Caire and Suez Canal Bank. It’s also previously been funded by European Investment Bank, London-based CDC Investment Works, Proparco and Dutch Good Growth Fund, which is managed by the South African fund Sango Capital, according to the release. The venture fund has invested in more than 30 companies.

Techstars Expands to Saudi Arabia

Techstars, a Boulder, Colorado-based accelerator with branches worldwide, has partnered with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to launch a new accelerator in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to a news release. It’s Techstars’ first accelerator in Saudi Arabia, but the group has hosted hundreds of Startup Week events in the region and has accelerators in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, according to the release. Like the rest of its accelerators, the Riyadh accelerator will provide mentors, networking and funding to its cohort. Applications open May 10 and close July 28, according to its website.

RELATED: 500 Startups Launches Saudi Accelerator

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