In 2006, the InnovateU training program (formerly known as Operation JumpStart) was created at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This program offered the FirstStep and the FastTrac course developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to aspiring entrepreneurs. In the program’s first five years, over 600 individuals in rural communities in Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee had completed the program leading to the immediate creation of nearly 225 new businesses, with an additional 25% of the participants going on to launch a business within 2 years. Of those nearly 300 businesses, 58% were low income, 36% were unemployed, and 24% were minority owned.
In 2011, the Missouri Innovation Corporation (MIC) at the University joined with the Kauffman Foundation to continue the development and distribution of the FirstStep and the FastTrac program, including providing supportive services to micro-enterprise development agencies nationwide. That program became known as Operation JumpStart (formerly FirstStep) was offered over the next four years by over 150 affiliates with more than 8,000 participants.
In 2016, the Kauffman Foundation transferred ownership of the program to the MIC which subsequently used the program as a foundation for the LaunchU course which will serve a whole new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs.