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More assistance resources than ever for long beach entrepreneurs

Release Date: 2017-12-18

When it comes to business assistance, the City of Long Beach is working with several partners to create innovative solutions, some of which are the first of their kind, according to John Keisler, director of Long Beach Economic Development Department. One such solution arose from the city’s partnership with Start It Up for the development of a business assistance phone application, which was launched on December 4.

“This is a cutting-edge thing that the city is doing for entrepreneurs that actually has never been done,” Keisler said. “As you start answering questions about yourself and your business idea, the algorithms in the chatbot [an artificial conversational entity] connect you with a mentor who is similar to you or has the skill set that can address your needs.”

Start It Up’s proposal came to the city through the Citymart open procurement process after the city decided to seek ways to assist businesses in beating the national average survival rate for small businesses and startups. To do this, the city wants to educate budding entrepreneurs before they make any significant investment, sign any leases, apply for licenses or lose any money.

With connections at Stanford and Tufts universities, Start It Up was already seeking a trial city for its program to assess entrepreneurs’ startup businesses strengths and weaknesses to better prepare them for the startup process. This assessment informs entrepreneurs of resources such as mentors and classes, to help them be successful in the long term.

The three-month pilot program begins in 2018 with the first cohort of entrepreneurs being small business owners who are members of the Uptown Business Improvement District, coordinated by its manager, Tasha Hunter. According to Keisler, one of the more unusual aspects of the new program is the fact that a city department invested money up front in order to develop this business tool alongside Start It Up. The economic development department and the Innovation Fund invested $25,000 combined into the project.

“It’s the government as an investor. It’s the government trying to stimulate the creation of new technology and new businesses,” Keisler said. “The whole point of it is to provide an innovative and efficient way to assess the readiness of entrepreneurs and connect them to online mentors all over the world so they can be successful. This will be a really cool learning experience for us. This will be a national story once we go through this piloting and go from beta to next generation application.”

January will also see the launch of the city’s new micro-lending program through the international nonprofit Kiva, which is based in San Francisco. Keisler explained that the city’s current small business lending program is not a one-size-fits-all system, with a minimum loan of $25,000 and some credit requirements. He said some entrepreneurs have bad credit or no credit at all, or they simply do not need that much money.

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