— The second floor of the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center in southeast San Diego feels familiar and anodyne, like a place you’d go to get help with your taxes or attend a Toastmasters meeting.

But by next year many of its hallways and meeting rooms are slated to be transformed into an open, modern coworking space tailored for entrepreneurs who are looking to get help building businesses.

The community center, run by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, was selected last year as the location for San Diego’s first city-funded business accelerator. It recently began accepting bids from contractors to demolish and rebuild about 4,300 square feet of office space into a home for the program. Its bid to launch such a program was submitted in conjunction with Connect, a La Jolla-based organization that has been providing startups with intensive mentoring since the 1980s.

Connect All

Called Connect All @ Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, the region’s first diversity-focused accelerator program open to all aspiring entrepreneurs in the city of San Diego is slated to welcome its first cohort in 2019 to the community center on Euclid Avenue. The building is fewer than 10 miles from downtown, but the urbanized and ethnically diverse area has largely remained apart from the city’s growing startup scene.

The startup ecosystem has historically had little diversity, but recently there have been efforts to change that, both locally and in other hot spots for emerging companies. Some believe more diversity in the industry could, in addition to more equitably distribute the wealth created through the rise of new companies, also benefit early-stage investors by broadening the pool of ideas and perspectives.

Connect’s H. Puentes runs the organization’s Connect All initiative, a diversity-focused effort the group launched in 2016 before the accelerator program project came together.

Resource Center

Its accelerator at the Jacobs Center, once launched, is slated to include a resource center for entrepreneurs looking to learn about what’s available to them locally to bolster their business’ success and coworking space to which companies accepted into the accelerator will have free access for six months.

Construction is anticipated to begin in October and finish in December. As the physical space is created, the program heads say they plan to be seeking out entrepreneurs for the accelerator’s first cohort.

Candidates will go through an application and interview process; as many as 20 will be selected to begin the program in January.

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