Lakeshore Advantage opens a startup incubator

Lakeshore Advantage’s SURGE program has opened a pilot business incubator, The SURGE Center, in downtown Holland.

The SURGE program, founded more than six years ago, provides high-potential product and technology entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to launch and commercialize successful businesses.

The new center provides a space where entrepreneurs can hot desk, receive mentorship, build community and attend educational events.

“This SURGE Center is more than a business incubator,” said Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage. “It’s a place where our vibrant startup community can come together, build great relationships, and get that powerful boost to additional growth and opportunity.”

Lakeshore Advantage is in the colonial clock building in Zeeland. The SURGE Center is an approximately 4,000 square foot space located at 44 E. Eighth St., Suite 400, in downtown Holland – co-leased with software developer Collective Idea – and its goal is to strengthen the density of the startup community, spotlighting all the innovations happening in the region.

The Holland SmartZone engaged Lakeshore Advantage to administer the SURGE program in 2016. The SmartZone provides funding through tax increases to pay for programming and infrastructure designed to support product and technology startups with the potential to create jobs and economic vitality for the region – operating similarly to the Grand Rapids SmartZone, which is jointly administered by Start Garden and Spartan Innovations.

Currently the SURGE center is supported by Holland SmartZone, Lakeshore Advantage and membership dues. Memberships range from $95 to $350 per month.

SURGE executives hope the creation of this gathering place will attract other startups, talent and investment to Holland. The SURGE Center already has 20 member companies – including Lilypad Labs, Virtual Sandtable, Hoom House, Orindi Gear, Tech to My Door, Quint Workspaces and G3 Acoustics – double the number the SURGE Center expected to see in its first days of operations. .

Amanda Chocko. Courtesy Lakeshore Advantage

Amanda Chocko, Lakeshore Advantage’s director of entrepreneurship for SURGE, said the center could likely accommodate up to 40 member startups with its onboarding model.

“What the membership numbers tell me is that there is such a desire for a space like this,” Chocko said.

“We’re trying to build an ecosystem within the space for startups, so it (hosts) entrepreneurs, but it also includes our mentors, who are here a few days a week to be available to entrepreneurs, and some of our partners,” like Hope College’s Office of Opportunities, the Hope Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Seamless, a platform that connects startups and companies to partner on proof-of-concept projects, Chocko said.

The incubator space will offer programs and resources to meet startups at whatever stage they are at, including:

  • Proof-of-concept program that allows entrepreneurs to get customer and market feedback to ensure they are on the right track
  • Founder Roundtables made up of five to six non-competing companies per group that meet monthly to provide peer-to-peer insights
  • Happy hours and SURGE Coffee Talk for community building and networking
  • Lunch-conferences
  • Mentor Office Hours
  • Whiteboard Strategy Sessions
  • Investor Readiness Training
  • SURGE Boost Camp

“Emerging businesses need more than financial capital to thrive and grow. They need social and intellectual capital,” said Brian Burch, managing partner of Burch Partners and chairman of the Holland SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority. “By bringing these things together with startups in one space, the SURGE Center can help foster startup interactions, support resources and more. As the community matures, more and more people exchange more ideas about each other, creating new businesses and further developing Holland’s startup ecosystem.

The SURGE Center is open to high-tech and high-growth startups and the organizations that support them. The space offers meeting rooms, private phone booths, coworking spaces, high-speed fiber internet, monitors, kitchen, bathrooms, and the option to use the center’s mailing address as professional address of startups.

“The SURGE Center provides a low-cost, professional office setting for startups and early-stage entrepreneurs,” said Dana Lowell, CEO of Lilypad Labs and SURGE Center Fellow. “The amenities and location are perfect for our stage of development. The SURGE Center ecosystem enables like-minded innovators and risk-takers to exchange ideas, experiences, and support related to scaling their dreams.

Chocko said she hopes this incubator space will shine a light on the exciting things happening in the region’s startup scene.

“There’s a lot of activity and people working on really good things, but it’s been invisible,” she said. “…This is the next phase of our development of the startup community.”

For more information about the SURGE Center and its resources, visit

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