Entrepreneur helping small businesses opens Clearwater HQ
David Ponraj, a serial entrepreneur who moved from India to the U.S. to pursue a business career, has first-hand knowledge of the uphill battle small businesses face. His company, Economic Impact Catalyst, which helps municipalities work with small businesses, is in the process of expanding.
Economic Impact Catalyst is an entrepreneurship ecosystem software platform that provides the tools and resources needed to support small businesses. The company, previously known as Startup Space, rebranded in 2021 to Economic Impact Catalyst (EIC) as the scope of services grew beyond the Startup Space technology platform.
“We’ve gone from being a pure tech platform to becoming true advisors,” Ponraj said during a Wednesday ribbon-cutting celebration for the new Clearwater HQ at 28050 U.S. Highway 19 N.
Ponraj initially planned to establish the U.S. HQ in Dunedin, but he couldn’t secure office space that met the team’s needs. He then started scouting offices in neighboring cities to find a location that would be accessible across both sides of the bay, as the team works with the St. Pete Area Chamber of Commerce and the Pinellas County Economic Development office.
Ponraj said EIC is also working with Pasco County and is finalizing a contract with Hillsborough County.
EIC currently works with over 100 economic development organizations and innovation centers by providing consultation services, market research and impact reporting, according to the company.
Ponraj provided the example of how a state or city may be awarded millions in funding for a business support program, and it is required to disburse those funds appropriately. The municipality typically issues an application process for select businesses. It then tracks and reports that data to the federal government through a portal. The municipality can hire someone from the outside to manage that work; however, the hired person may not be equipped with the needed expertise.
EIC has a six-person team based in Clearwater and an employee in Lakeland. In total, the company has over 20 employees in the U.S. and 14 based overseas. More than 80% of EIC’s executive team is women-led, including women of color, which was an intentional effort to reflect the company’s core ethics of supporting minorities.
Although Ponraj inked a three-year lease for the office suite, he believes the local team will quickly outgrow it.
“Our goal is to have a 50,000 to 60,000-square-foot space that will let the entrepreneurial community connect,” Ponraj said, saying the hub would be a centralized physical destination to bridge entrepreneurs together and help them file documents and build MVPs (minimum viable products).
The future hub is also ideal as the company is launching cohorts to help guide business owners in creating sustainable business models.
The first is set to kick off in August, bringing 10 people to the Clearwater HQ.
EIC is planning to host a second cohort that may be a hybrid of online and in-person participants to reach a larger audience.
Between the day-to-day business activity and cohort programming, Ponraj said he is still heavily focused on expanding the company’s physical footprint outside of the state, and country, to better serve EIC’s diverse clients.
“We are investing our time and resources to truly understand the setup in every state, and we come in with consultancy to make sure we are complying with the different programs,” Ponraj said. “By year 10, we want to have a presence in every state. We have five more years to double down on that.”
EIC recently opened an international HQ in India. Ponraj said he plans to open an office in the Philippines later this year.