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New aerospace program to help El Segundo start-ups

New aerospace program to help El Segundo start-ups
Starburst Accelerator co-founders Vandad Espahbodi (left) and Francois Chopard (right) at their new El Segundo office. (Starburst Accelerator)

A European program specializing in aerospace innovation has chosen the city of El Segundo, next to LAX, to be its first U.S. location.

Starburst Accelerator, based in Paris, has been helping European aerospace start-ups get off the ground since 2012, and now it's adding Southern California to its focus.

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There are currently more than 40 start-ups in the European program, with each receiving an average of $893,000 in start-up funding.

The Los Angeles area was chosen because of its prominent aerospace background, said co-founder Vandad Espahbodi, who is setting up the new program. The region has long been a major location for many leaders in the industry including Northrop Grumman Corp., Boeing Co., Aerospace Corp. and Lockheed Martin.

"The El Segundo aerospace cluster is the perfect environment for launching our unique program, offering start-ups a wide variety of aerospace markets to grow into with immediate access to industry leaders and venture capital," Espahbodi said.

El Segundo City Manager Greg Carpenter is hopeful about the start-up program.

"We're very excited about having them, and we think they will enhance innovation and hopefully lead to additional manufacturing jobs," he said. "We have been branding ourselves recently as a city where big ideas take off. This incubator is consistent with that ongoing movement in El Segundo."

The city's Economic Development Advisory Council identified the need for a tech incubator to help new businesses grow nearly two years ago, and Starburst Accelerator looked promising, said council Chairman Drew Boyles.

The council has plans for additional incubators to fuel innovation in El Segundo.

"With our mix of aerospace, high tech, industrial, Fortune 500, start-ups and agencies in a business-friendly city, we have fertile ground for groundbreaking innovations," Boyles said.

The program acts as a business incubator to provide start-up companies with the opportunity to interact with large corporations, gain access to investors and receive seed funding.

U.S. aerospace businesses have already expressed interest in providing financing for the effort, Espahbodi said, but it's too soon to reveal what firms might be involved.

Investors in Starburst's European programs, he said, have included: Airbus Group, Thales Group, Safran, Panasonic, Liebherr and Airfrance KLM.

Starburst Accelerator plans to accept five start-ups every quarter starting this fall.

El Segundo Mayor Suzanne Fuentes is enthusiastic about the project: "Starburst Accelerator is a fantastic addition to the aerospace prowess we have here in El Segundo."

nick.shively@latimes.com

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Twitter: @nick_shively

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