The Innovation Collaborative launched in late 2014 in Erie, Pennsylvania to facilitate executing a state-funded work plan to add entrepreneurial development to the traditional focus on existing businesses and business relocations. The Collaborative serves about 250,000 people in Erie County, including almost 100,000 in the city of Erie, located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie.

Beth Zimmer, Innovation Collaborative

“The Innovation Collaborative exists to ensure that aspiring and existing entrepreneurs have the support they need, when they need it, in order to start and scale as efficiently as possible,” said Beth Zimmer, cofounder and managing director. “We also work to measure our ecosystem’s development progress and communicate outcomes on a regular basis.”

The CO.STARTERS program addresses a significant gap that existed in early-stage entrepreneurial support in Erie, which runs a deficit every year between 260 business closures and 200 business starts.

“After year one of CO.STARTERS implementation, we’ll have held three cohorts of 7–16 people each, all of whom are still pursuing their ideas,” said Zimmer. “Ultimately, we hope CO.STARTERS will be a strong catalyst in overcoming that 60-business deficit every year!”

The Collaborative developed an annual Collegiate Innovation Showcase competition among the regional universities and the DisruptErie Awards.

“CO.STARTERS is helping immensely in building the community of entrepreneurs in Erie,” she added. “The relationships that come out of this experience for each participant are very valuable, from their peers in the cohort to the service providers and the subject matter experts that share with them each week.”