The area’s latest startup incubator has arrived, with a focus on nurturing organizations for which turning a profit is not a mandate.
Local entrepreneurs Pat Hull and business partner Jeff Palumbo founded NPO Launchpad in early June after noticing that, while Richmond has several programs that support for-profit startups, none catered specifically to the area’s newest nonprofits.
The duo has worked together at other startups as well as at the Hull Foundation, which Hull started in 2009 to make charitable donations — recently donating tablets, laptops and other learning resources to the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls in Henrico, and Children’s Home Society of Virginia in Sauer’s Garden — along with working together.
When looking to make the foundation’s next charitable donation, they realized that despite the fact both nonprofit organizations and for-profit startups usually need the same types of assistance, it’s the profit-focused ventures that get all the attention and all the help.
“At some point — coming on two years ago now — we talked about how startups have a lot of support in the community for getting the resources and mentorship needed to help become successful in the marketplace, but there’s really nothing that we knew of for nonprofit organizations,” Hull said.
NPO Launchpad will offer an inaugural class of three nonprofits access to mentors from different industries for three months, as well as receiving a year of shared office space in the Richmond area at no cost. The location of that office is to be determined.
It is currently accepting applicants and the three will be chosen by Aug. 1.
Applying nonprofits must already be in business, must be a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, must be based in the metro Richmond area and must have less than $100,000 in annual revenue.
The deadline to apply is July 15, when Hull, Palumbo and NPO Launchpad’s group of mentors will begin reviewing each application and choose three.
The program will start Sept. 1 and run through Dec. 1, when a debriefing party will be held to see what worked, what didn’t work and what can be improved.
Mentors in the program will include both Hull and Palumbo, who have backgrounds in business mentoring through StartUp Virginia and Lighthouse Labs.
Hull first started his string of entrepreneurial ventures with GetLoaded.com, a website that helps truckers find loads to haul, followed later by Trucker Tools and Scoop Monkey, other companies in the freight logistics field, and other businesses. Palumbo, likewise, has started many companies, including textfans.com, an SMS-based marketing tool and more recently, along with Hull, co-founded Y!RM (yes it’s really me), an online platform that connects people to celebrities and their charitable causes.
Hull and Palumbo said they plan to use NPO Launchpad’s first run as a sort of pilot program, and hope to scale up in the future, including potentially increasing the frequency and adding to the number of nonprofits in each class.