A lot of people characterize Richmond as a big city with a small town feel. That statement could not be more true of the startup community in Richmond. Richmond is home to a lot of disruptive, innovative, and successful high growth startups. Many of whom can attribute at least part of their success to the small but growing community that supports each other.
At the center of that community is Lighthouse Labs, a startup accelerator that was recently ranked as a top 25 accelerator in the U.S. by Seed Accelerator Rankings. Lighthouse Labs has not only helped Richmond startups build sustainable high growth businesses, they have built a network of mentors and companies who contribute to the startup community and provide invaluable resources to startup founders.
One of those mentors is Jyot Singh, founder and CEO of RTS Labs. Jyot spends a lot of time contributing to the startup community.
“One of the biggest mistakes startups make when it comes to the development side is overbuilding,” Jyot said. “Rather than starting small and lean, they shoot for the moon and try and build huge, complicated technology solutions that end up wasting time and money, and usually fail. What our company offers up to startups is a process that allows them to be agile and iterative and build a solution that is right the first time.”
Fenris Digital, a platform that automates and streamlines the insurance quoting process by using big data and AI technology, is a company who has benefitted from the startup community in Richmond. Fenris was founded by insurance industry veteran Jennifer Linton. Jennifer identified a major problem in the industry, that the 35 year old legacy systems being used were outdated. She set out to disrupt the world of insurance and found a technology partner in RTS Labs.
Jennifer knew that they needed a prototype to pitch to potential investors and clients. She had a vision of what she wanted the product to look like but didn’t have the technical expertise to build it.
“We welcomed Jyot and his team in and worked with them side by side. Within a week we had a prototype. They mocked it up and it put it on my phone so I could show it to potential clients. I was able to demonstrate to insurance companies first hand how the product would work.”
Jennifer was able to sell her product more confidently and get immediate feedback with a prototype in hand.
“Validation is important. You need to get something good enough down and then put it in front of your clients and customers,” explains Linton.
Fenris also went through the Lighthouse Labs program. Jennifer said the program helped them hone their business plan but also put them in touch with a community of mentors and businesses who were able to help them along the way.
“Jyot has a way of connecting you to others because he’s worked with lots of startups and has built relationships with so many people in the community. If I needed a security expert, he could connect me to the perfect person. I can tell him about a problem that I’m having, and he can connect me with a person who had the same problem or tell me about a company that had the same problem, and what they did to solve it.”
Blue Ocean Brain, a micro-learning program for businesses, is another Richmond startup turned high growth company who went through the Lighthouse Labs program. They now work with major companies like Gap, ADT, Virginia Credit Union, Rutgers University and Medstar Health (to name a few).
According to CEO Claire Herring, “The biggest benefit to the Lighthouse Labs program beyond the training they provide is the relationships you build with the mentors. They are all very generous with their time and very willing to share information that will help your team make good decisions.”
Richmond continues to put itself on the map for the food and beer culture that has been growing in the city. But there’s more to Richmond than food and beer. There’s a startup community growing that is attracting founders and adding to Richmond’s repertoire of innovative businesses. Programs like Lighthouse Labs, The Annex Startup Incubator, CoStarters RVA, and VCU Innovate have been helping founders take great ideas and build sustainable businesses that help our city grow. This is what fuels a healthy startup community, one that Richmond should be proud of.
Read more about startups coming out of Virginia at TechCo