Activation Capital is floating a new startup development program in a bid to support nascent, minority-owned companies in the region.
The organization, in league with Atlanta-based Opportunity Hub, is soliciting applications for a pilot program series aimed at black and other minority tech entrepreneurs. The idea is that insights gleaned from the pilot will inform a permanent program that Activation Capital would look to hand off to some other local organization in the future.
Activation Capital operates the VA Bio+Tech Park at 800 E. Leigh St. and supports entrepreneurship and startups in the region through its initiatives. The program will run from late April into May.
While the program is intended to develop and support tech business ventures, the organization is also trying to gauge what kind of gaps exist in the current landscape of minority-oriented startup resources and ways to fill them based on how the pilot program is received, Activation Capital President and CEO Chandra Briggman said.
“This for us is a trial balloon to figure out the best method of doing that for the community,” Briggman said. “We have this diverse, multifaceted initiative to look across the entire pipeline and understand where the gaps and needs are.”
Briggman described the program as a funnel that operates across three parts. People can apply to be part of the initial 100-strong class that will take part in a one-day session to develop a business idea.
Up to half of them are expected to constitute a subsequent startup bootcamp. The bootcamp will take place in four weekend sessions and will cover things like product development, fundraising, corporate governance and other topics.
The final pre-accelerator program will take 10 of those startups through more instruction on customer acquisition and fundraising. One of the participating startups will win a $50,000 investment.
Briggman said the programming will be a hybrid of virtual and in-person. Activation Capital is covering the costs of the program, which is free to participants. The application period runs until April 22. The program is open to people in central Virginia.
The program had a kickoff event in early March.
Activation Capital contracted with Opportunity Hub, which runs programming to develop and support black entrepreneurship, to develop the Richmond-area program.
“There is no shortage of talent in this community,” Briggman said of the scene in Richmond. “When you have a goal of growing an ecosystem and growing entrepreneurship, one natural place to start is who is engaged and who is not engaged.”
Briggman said that minority tech entrepreneurs can struggle at making connections with mentors, investors and business resources, and the new program is intended to help bridge those gaps.
“Community, curriculum, connections and capital are important for any entrepreneur to be successful,” she said.