A Look at Richmond’s High-Growth Startup Economy

May 1, 2015

10:00 pm

Nearly a year after Steve Case set forth on his very first Rise of the Rest Road Trip through the cities of Detroit, MI; Pittsburgh, PA; Cincinnati, OH; and Nashville, TN, the chairman and CEO of Revolution is back at it with a trip through the South. And his first stop? Richmond, Virginia.

Developments in Richmond’s Startup Ecosystem

Reflective of Case’s “Rise of the Rest” theory, the Rise of the Rest tour is aimed at highlighting some of America’s under-recognized yet thriving startup ecosystems. Renowned as the capital of the Confederacy during America’s Civil War, Richmond has become home to one of Virginia’s most thriving startup ecosystems. Thanks to both local and state tax incentives, the region has seen rapid growth in small business development in recent years. Coupled with a growing creative class and the presence of top institutions like the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond has become a hotbed for startup activity.

In 2013, Forbes designated Richmond as one of the 10 up-and-coming cities for entrepreneurs. And while it certainly hasn’t yet reached the critical mass of its northern neighbor, Arlington (which, to be fair, is powered by the greater DC tech ecosystem), Richmond has since attracted the eyes of investors and potential entrepreneurs. Now, with incubators and accelerators like RVA Works and Lighthouse Labs, and available investment from the likes of New Dominion Angels and New Richmond Ventures, startups like men’s clothing producer Ledbury have managed to thrive and put Richmond on the radar.

Rise of the Rest’s Tour Through Richmond

On Monday, May 4, Case will initiate his third Rise of the Rest tour in Richmond. Joined by Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as other local political, business, and civic leaders, the group will explore Richmond’s startup scene, visiting with founders and employees of Ledbury, as well Health Warrior, Blue Ocean Brain, MAXX Potential, The Yeomen, and Evatran. Throughout this tour of the city, Case will engage in discussions about the past, present, and future of Richmond’s startup economy.

 A Look at Up-and-Coming Richmond Startups

As part of the Rise of the Rest tour, a startup pitch competition will feature eight young Richmond-area startups hoping to win a $100,000 investment from Case. The winner will be selected by a panel of judges including Case himself; Aneesh Chopra, Hunch Analytics and former Chief Technology Officer of the United States; Ting Xu, founder and board chairman of Evergreen Enterprises; Aaron Montgomery of CarLotz; and Eric Edwards, chief medical officer and vp of R&D at Kaléo.

These eight startups include:

  • Rockin’ Baby: premium baby carriers and clothing brand*
  • Marilyn & Michelle: products to help comfort women with breast issues
  • Painless 1099:  smart banking platform to help freelance workers save for and file taxes
  • Nutriati: plant-based ingredient nutrition company
  • WealthForge: solution to make private placement transactions more efficient
  • Luminary: multichannel CRM platform
  • Hourwise: on-demand back office support for trades-people
  • Vibeats: mobile web platform for dining reservations

*Winner of Tech.Co’s informal reader poll

This is the third Rise of the Rest Road Trip made by Steve Case. Most recently, he went through startup ecosystems in the Midwest, visiting Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Des Moines, IA; Kansas City, MO; and St. Louis, MO. Throughout the Rise of the Rest tour, Case will be joined by Google for Entrepreneurs and UP Global as presenting partners for the tour. Rise of the Rest also has the support from both new and previous tour partners including: Salesforce for Startups, Engine, Startup Grind, Village Capital, and Seed Here StudioTech.Co is also a proud partner in this tour with Tech.Co’s very own cofounder and CEO Frank Gruber joining along.

Image Credit: Flickr/Will Fisher [this image has been cropped]

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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