2017 Program Overview

As a program focused on “startup enablers,” the inaugural Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento (RAILS) grant recipient cohort comprised incubators, accelerators, co-working and maker spaces, training programs, and community organizations that add capacity to Sacramento’s innovation ecosystem. An innovation ecosystem is one that encourages serendipitous “collisions” among entrepreneurs, technologists, academics, investors, and community leaders.


On June 21, 2016, the Sacramento City Council amended the Innovation and Growth Fund Policy to authorize the creation of new programs to expand the startup pipeline and engage the innovation ecosystem (Resolution 2016-0240). In doing so, Council unanimously approved a framework for the RAILS Program.

RAILS was designed as a $1 million annual grant program to support the development of Sacramento's entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem through “startup enablers” – community-based initiatives and programs that help entrepreneurs gain new knowledge and skills, and take their startup from initial idea to viable company.

The RAILS program is designed to achieve medium to long-term economic outcomes by increasing the capacity of Sacramento's innovation ecosystem and enhancing the conditions under which startup formation may occur. These outcomes will be measured by the number of startups that choose to launch and stay in Sacramento, as well as the number of startups that are successfully able to become viable businesses.

2017 Program Summary

The City received 143 applications for the 2017 Program with funding requests totaling nearly $18 million. The Economic Development Department, Information Technology Department, and the Mayor's Office for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MOFIE) reviewed and scored applications, with the Mayor's Tech Council serving in an advisory capacity as industry experts. Top-ranking applicants were interviewed and funding recommendations were developed using a competitive selection process based upon the following criteria:

  • Proven track record

  • Clear, actionable plans that achieve RAILS objectives

  • Fills an industry gap or local market need

  • City funds would be "catalytic" to completing the project

  • Value to the Sacramento innovation ecosystem

  • Program deliverables and metrics

There are three categories of grants offered under RAILS. Each of these grant categories reflect a phase in the startup pipeline:

  1. Leadership Grants ($10k to $50k): for educational programs training our next entrepreneurs in technology and business to build Sacramento-based startups.

  2. Innovation Grants ($20k to $100k): for companies and organizations making it easier to work with and in Sacramento; or for local organizations bringing together the innovation community in Sacramento.

  3. Acceleration Grants ($50k to $250k): for accelerator and incubator programs supporting Sacramento startups through mentorship, networking, and education to raise capital, grow their business, and create new jobs.




# of Grant Awards




Total Funding




Average Grant Size




Types of Programs Supported

Youth/STEAM education, entrepreneurial training, technical training

Maker spaces, digital media production, community organizations

Incubators, accelerators, community hubs

2017 Grant Awards

Leadership Grants

Grant Amount

Green Technology Education & Employment


Square Root Academy


Operation Innovate




Yellow Circle


Innovation Grants

Grant Amount

Hacker Lab




Code for Sacramento


Rocket Department


Dynasty Video Productions


Acceleration Grants

Grant Amount

I/O Labs Foundation


Entrepreneurs Showcase


E49 Corporation


Founder Academy


Square One Clubs



As a result of the City’s support through RAILS, grantees report being able to attract a total of $4.8 million in additional investment, grants, and earned income – a leverage ratio of 5:1.