Ashland startup space expands its offerings

The Dominion Energy Innovation Center recently launched a new accelerator program aimed at startups in the sustainability and energy sectors. (Photos courtesy Dominion Energy Innovation Center)

There’s a new startup accelerator in town, one hoping to carve out its niche in the energy sectors and on the hunt for its inaugural class of participants.

The Dominion Energy Innovation Center, founded in Ashland in 2009, last month launched an accelerator program in partnership with Dominion Energy that’s intended to provide educational programming and mentoring to six startups.

The new 10-week program adds another facet to the center at 201 S. Duncan St., which also features a startup incubator and co-working space along with professional development and networking events.

The office space for the accelerator.

The idea behind the new program is to get young Virginia companies – those that have grown beyond the need for an incubator program – on the right track and connect them with customers or funding. Landing major customers is a critical stage of a company’s development, and the program seeks to help fledgling companies make those connections, said Ian Ragland, the center’s program manager.

“We want to be that bridge, vet them and pass them up to work with major companies,” Ragland said.

While a focus of center sponsor Dominion Energy is to zero in on sustainability and energy companies, Ragland said the program would be willing to consider a wide range of startups. The first class will be a pilot, and it’s possible that if it is successful, the program could be a regular offering. The program is ideally seeking revenue-producing companies, but that isn’t a hard-and-fast requirement.

The center’s program isn’t the only accelerator around. Lighthouse Labs RVA is a similar operation based in Shockoe Bottom. Ragland said he felt there is space for his center’s program, both because the startup scene is one collaboration and because the program’s focus is on the energy and related fields.

Applications are open through June 5. The accelerator will run September to November, and will feature weekly meetings at the center for mentorship and networking with potential funders and customers. Mentors will help startups on topics, such as branding and product improvement, as well as insight into procurement processes at large companies.

The center is planning to hold the program in person, but is arranging to conduct it virtually if restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic are still in effect.

The center was founded in Ashland, and is an affiliate of Activation Capital. The center is a collaboration between Dominion Energy, Activation Capital, Ashland and Hanover County.

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