Partnership for Inclusive Innovation Announces First $250,000 Grant for Pilot Program to Advance Entrepreneurial Opportunities Throughout Georgia

Staff Report

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

The  Partnership for Inclusive Innovation, with the support of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, has announced its first funded pilot program, Mesh Network. This organization aims to empower entrepreneurs and provide resources to create new businesses in traditionally under-resourced communities. The pilot was competitively selected and will receive $250,000 to expand its existing efforts in Augusta, Ga., to four other Georgia cities, which will be determined by a feasibility study launched by Make Startups, a division of, in early 2021. Mesh Network will provide hundreds of Georgia innovators and entrepreneurs with better access to accredited entrepreneurship training, robust digital collaboration statewide and seed capital. Throughout 2021, the program will partner with local colleges and universities to train and provide certification for approximately 250 entrepreneurs, which the organization projects will result in 500-800 jobs throughout Georgia. Mesh Network is also expected to achieve a sustainable annual revenue of more than $1 million, which would allow it to continue and earn additional revenue following the completion of the Partnership pilot. 

The pilot, which was recently approved by the Partnership’s advisory board at its first meeting on Dec. 2, will provide an essential foundation for educational, entrepreneurial and technological opportunities throughout Georgia while advancing homegrown talent and creating opportunities for participants to economically impact their own communities. The Partnership has also supported four other pilot programs through the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge. Applications for the next cycle of pilots will be accepted beginning in January 2021.    

At the Partnership’s recent meeting, the board also welcomed its newest member: Kevin Byrne, CEO of The University Financing Foundation Inc. (TUFF). Byrne joins a group that includes several Georgia CEOs, as well as academic, technology and entrepreneurial leaders. 

“We are thrilled to launch our first pilot portfolio, which embodies the true mission and vision of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation,” said Debra Lam, executive director of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation. “ Mesh Network represents the Partnership’s guiding principles of talent, connectedness, diversity, sustainability and identity, and shares our aspirations of ensuring we foster a culture of innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship across all of Georgia’s communities.”

Eric Parker is the founder and president of and Co-Founder of Make Startups. “Disadvantaged entrepreneurs often face barriers in knowledge and access to affordable capital. We saw an opportunity to bridge this gap. This funding and partnership enable sustained long-term efforts essential to growing social innovation and access to capital across Georgia’s communities.” 

Grounded in the vision of combating systemic funding advantages that support entrepreneurship, the Make Startups division of seeks to ensure those in mid-size and rural communities have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to operate a business and acquire affordable capital through partnerships with existing Entrepreneurship Support Organizations (ESOs).  

"Through educational and community building programs to support inclusive entrepreneurship and technology development, this program will help ensure all Georgians will have equitable opportunities to succeed,” said Grace Belangia, co-founder of Make Startups.