Hoping to attract a new batch of up-and-coming startups, an Ashland business mentorship program has a new location and a new director.
The Dominion Resources Innovation Center opened last month at its new space at 201 Duncan St., an old 2,700-square-foot firehouse in downtown Ashland. The move follows the addition of a new leader for the group, Dominic Costanzo, a VCU grad hired over the summer.
DRIC was launched in 2009 and had previously operated out of about 8,400 square feet at 319 Business Park Lane. DRIC’s goal is to give office space and mentorship to fledgling companies that apply to use its services. The organization gets funding from Dominion, Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, Hanover County and the town of Ashland.
Costanzo said while there is less space at DRIC’s new home, it has a better design.
“It didn’t really have the collaborative feel,” he said of the old space. “The new space is a lot more open. We just kind of wanted to revamp the look the feel and the direction we’re headed.”
DRIC’s former firehouse is fitted with nine private offices for the startups it selects to mentor. The startups pay to use the space at a rate below market value, Costanzo said. Resident startups don’t get any funding from DRIC, and the organization doesn’t get any equity in the companies.
Costanzo said DRIC looks for tech startups but is flexible in the companies it chooses.
“It’s just about viability,” he said. “As long as there is some traction and a game plan for moving forward, we can go from there.”
In addition to space for resident startups, DRIC’s new building has a shared working space that any company can pay to access – a new feature in hopes of broadening the group’s appeal.
Costanzo, who also works as a program manager at VCU’s Innovation Gateway, said DRIC’s participating companies get help connecting with people in the local business community and also get mentorship from the organization’s board members.
DRIC’s board comprises: Charles Hartgrove, Ashland town manager; Carrie Roth, president and CEO of the Biotech Park; Edwin Gaskin, Hanover County director; Bryan Bostic, managing director of Spanish Moss Holding; and Mike Gladstone, director at McCandlish Holton.
Companies selected as DRIC members will also have access to some of the offerings at downtown Richmond’s Virginia Biotech Park.
No new companies have been selected to be members in the new building yet. Costanzo said DRIC hopes to attract startups working in science and technology. Former members include Polymer Exploration Group, Electric Force Motors and Green Biologics.