Next Gen Richmond: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting Up

Next Gen Richmond: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting Up

Written and Curated by Logan Deyo

Next Gen Richmond: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting Up

Written and Curated by Logan Deyo


Four years ago, I moved to the city of Richmond. Overwhelmed by not only living in a cityscape, but also being an aspiring entrepreneur with what seemed a never ending stream of information, I struggled to grasp an understanding of everything going on around me. Today, I feel confident in being able to navigate the resources this awesome city offers. Below is a running collection of resources and events that are available to the Richmond community. Feel free to reach out to me if there’s any edits or suggestions to this list!

Accelerators / Incubators

There are quite a few of incubators and accelerators sprinkled across the Richmond region. One of the more prominent ones that’s built quite the presence, is Lighthouse Labs. VCU has also built up various programs tailored specifically to students, but also medical faculty as well.


VCU Pre-X

VCU offers a unique program to students that helps them propel ideas to the next level. Previously known as the VCU Pre-Accelerator, the Pre-X is the replacement program, now run by the newly renovated da Vinci Center. While plans for an upcoming cohort are unknown, keep an eye out on their site for upcoming deadlines.


VCU Venture Lab

Newly launched, the VCU Venture Lab is a new effort from the VCU Innovation Gateway. Aimed at using intellectual property within the university, and pairing the technical team with local, seasoned entrepreneurs, they aim to validate and launch ideas that previously wouldn’t have seen the light of day. You’re able to read more about the program here, however changes might come once the program returns this fall.


Lighthouse Labs

Lighthouse Labs routinely ranks in the top 25 of accelerators across the nation. With over the 33 portfolio companies, and more than $25 million raised between those companies, Lighthouse Labs is definitely in the spotlight. They help early-stage startups, both locally and nationwide, giving them $20,000, equity free, and a 13-week program that’s nationally recognized. Applications typically open in May, so keep your eyes out! And it’s right here in Richmond!


Ignition

This accelerator isn’t local to Richmond, but just down 64 lives Ignition. While it offers a accelerator for entrepreneurs, built by entrepreneurs, it also offers a sense of community by hosting various events, workshops, and competitions. Check out Ignition here.


Venture Lab

Founded by the VCU’s Innovation Gateway team, Venture Lab was born to bring together local entrepreneurs and medical teams with intellectual property, to help turn their ideas into viable businesses. Just finalizing their first cohort in November of 2018, plans for the next cohort are already in the works. If you’re a student, intern opportunities are also available. Will post more information when program details arise this coming Spring, but for now, check out past year’s outline here.

Co-Working / Hidden Spaces

The Richmond region has its fair share of spaces to work. Whether you’re looking for membership based co-working, or a place to grab coffee and grind out some work, this list has what you’re looking for (no, we don’t have a WeWork).


Gather

Gather is one of the more prominent membership-based co-working spots here in Richmond. With three locations, and a fourth coming soon, you have various locations to choose from. Co-working memberships start at $250 a month, but amenities include showers, free beer (yes, free), printing, mailboxes, and other great things. Results may vary with amenities as some locations offer things others don’t. Check out Gather here.


Novel Co-working

Relatively new, and located in the up and coming Shockoe Slip, Novel has showed up in the area. With locations stretching across the country, Novel has a bit more of a presence. They offer similar amenities to places like Gather, including event spaces and an espresso bar. Co-working here is much cheaper compared to Gather, starting at only $99 a month. A dedicated desk is only $199 a month, and a one to two person office starts at only $450 a month (logo on door included). Check out Novel here.


Startup Virginia & 1717 Innovation Center

This one isn’t directly open for co-working persay, although you can apply through Startup Virginia to get access. You have to be a formed company. The new 1717 Innovation Center is a joint project between Startup Virginia and Capital one, dedicating three of the five floors to startup offices and co-working. If you can get access, the place has a rooftop event space, a self-serve market, full-size kitchen, and views of the passing trains. Check out more about the building and Startup Virginia here.


804RVA

When you come to Richmond and you think of co-working, 804RVA is one of the first places that comes to your mind. 804 is a more intimate, yet lively and creative space for makers and founders. Doubling as an event and community space, it has a family feel. With a kitchen with a wall of discarded mugs for your endless Blanchard’s coffee, computers to use, small conference rooms, and views of Broad Street, 804RVA is a staple when it comes to co-working in the area. Check out 804RVA here.


Annex

Annex is the younger brother to 804RVA. Located in the Shockoe Bottom area, this basic space is known for it’s incubator program, however on a more exclusive basis, there’s opportunities for co-working. This spot isn’t as open and readily available as the others listed above.

Startup Education

There are tons of educational resources in and around Richmond, but below are a few of the fantastic programs that are offered within city limits. This list will be sure to grow as I see more programs popping up.


VCU da Vinci Center

I’m a VCU student, so you might call me biased. Through my early years here, entrepreneurship was fresh to the scene. Today, the da Vinci Center proves to be an amazing addition to the VCU lineup. It’s grown to be the hub for startups and entrepreneurship. Headed by Garret Westlake, the center hosts accelerators and incubators, is a co-working space for students, and runs two certificates: Venture Creation and Product Innovation. If you’re a VCU student, these are fantastic programs to add to your coursework. Check out the da Vinci Center here.


VCU Masters of Product Innovation

Labeled as cohorts, VCU’s Masters of Product Innovation program brings together art, engineering, and business principles to learn more about the development, conceptualization, and eventual launch of products. Plenty of successful and local entrepreneurs have gone through the program and spoke volumes about the curriculum and how impactful it was to their way of thinking, and ultimately their businesses. Learn more about the product innovation program here.

Funding / VC Resources

VC money isn’t the easiest to come by, despite the growing popularity of the startup scene in Richmond. However, there’s a few groups that prove to be good resources for funding and venture capital.


New Richmond Ventures

NRV as it’s also known, was founded by three individuals, Jim Ukrop (yes, from the Ukrop’s supermarket family), Bob Mooney, and Ted Chandler started the fund with goal of providing counsel, connections, and capital to the region. In May of 2017, they launched the NRV Early Stage Growth Fund, L.P., “a $33 million fund that will invest in high growth companies with demonstrated market traction led by exceptional teams.” Read more about New Richmond Ventures here.


Activation Capital

A byproduct of the Virginia Biotech Park, Activation Capital was a brand born in April of 2017. It’s aim is similar to that of New Richmond Ventures, in that it seeks to help foster the growth of innovation activities in the Richmond region. Carrie Roth, the CEO, said in a press release, “by collaboratively identifying and supplying innovators with tools for successful business outcomes. Through the integration of efforts of many resources and different types of capital, we will bring clarity in the short term, and generate more collision points to foster successful innovation and entrepreneurialism in the long term.” Learn more about Activation Capital and who they work with here.

Other Great Community Resources

Richmond, while still in it’s infancy, is bound to be a massive entrepreneurial capital in the coming years. The following resources have helped bring together the community and prove as great knowledge bases for what’s going on.


1 Million Cups RVA

One of the fantastic franchised speaker series, 1 Million Cups, is in Richmond. If you haven’t heard of 1 Million Cups before, it’s where each week, a speaker comes in, pitches their idea, and solicits feedback and help from the crowd. In Richmond, it’s hosted at The Depot, where you’re able to hear from a new entrepreneur each and every week. Apply to present and learn more about the event here.


RVA Works

RVA Works is all about social impact. It’s mission seeks to empower social entrepreneurs by providing them the resources they need. Previously they conducted cohorts and programs similar to an accelerator to those entrepreneurs, but have recently launched a new platform called Open Trellis. Learn more about RVA Works and Open Trellis, their new project, here.


UnBound RVA

UnBound RVA operates closely to how RVA Works does. The co-founders, when shocked at the underutilized entrepreneurial talent in the region, started the company to launch a workshop series aimed at helping that same talent launch new businesses. To date, they’ve had three cohorts, and twelve launched businesses. Today, they have a full-time staff dedicated to help individuals from lower-income backgrounds launch their businesses. Learn more about their story, classes, and how you can volunteer here.


Venture Forum

Venture Forum is a community of local entrepreneurs and businesses with the mission to, “fuel[s] growth for entrepreneurs by facilitating connections and inspiring the community through dynamic, marquee events.” The group holds great events at local startups and companies with speakers that prove to offer some serious value. Aside from the speakers and topics, it’s a great opportunity to mingle and network with fellow entrepreneurs. Check out Venture Forum and their upcoming events here.


Impact Makers

From the outside, Impact Makers is just a consulting firm; on the inside, it’s anything but. As a certified b-corp, they help companies foster growth while maintaining a level of social impact within the organization. They hold great events, giving you the opportunity to learn more about social impact yourself, and are a great resource if you’re looking to get more involved with projects that are giving back. Check out Impact Makers here.


Toastmasters

Toastmasters is similar to what 1 Million Cups is structurally, in that it’s a franchised event. If you’re nervous of public speaking, have a big pitch coming up, or simply just want to meet some awesome people, Toastmasters in Richmond is where you want to be. They help foster speaking skills and leadership in individuals through a no-judgement event held twice a month. Learn more about Toastmasters, and where it’s held, here.

Wrapping Up

Overall, Richmond is sprawling with resources and amazing people. Whether you’re new to the city or new to the scene, there’s plenty to go out there and explore. My hope is that this guide will put you in the right path to learning more about the local ecosystem and everything Richmond has to offer!


Alex Gordon