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VIPC accelerates support for Virginia Entrepreneurs

Virginia Startups

Virginia Innovation Ecosystem Resources

  • The resources listed on this page are primarily for Virginia-based technology entrepreneurs seeking funding, acceleration, mentoring, and/or other support services to help launch and grow their startups. VIPC’s funding and support programs exist alongside complementary regional, state, federal, and private sector programs, outlined below.
  • The Virginia Business One-Stop – maintained by the Virginia Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity – is the Commonwealth’s lead information source for entrepreneurs and business owners to find information to plan, develop and expand their business. The Business One Stop includes access to centralized state and local permitting processes and the state’s small women and minority (SWAM) business registration resources.

VIPC Funding Programs

VIPC’s funding programs support technology startups
from the very earliest stages of business model validation, through to
revenue generation.

Federal Funding Programs

The SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) grant programs are the principal US government-sponsored funding vehicles for early-stage technology companies. While very similar to each other, SBIR grants are awarded to startups operating on their own, while STTR grants are awarded to startups that are collaborating with university-affiliated researchers.

​​Both SBIR and STTR are competitively-awarded grant programs designed to stimulate technological innovation and provide opportunities for small business. These programs provide seed funding for early-stage R&D projects that would otherwise not be funded by typical venture capital firms and angel investors due to the high risk and early-stage nature of the technology. More than $2.5B is available each year through these programs.

VIPC has a dedicated team focused on assisting Virginia startups with successfully applying for SBIR/STTR grants. Please click here for more information.

​Other Virginia Funding Programs and Incentives

Early-stage biotech startups in Virginia may apply for non-dilutive grants from Virginia Catalyst. Virginia Catalyst’s mission is to advance economic development by creating competitive critical mass for Virginia life sciences through collaborations with Virginia’s research universities and industry, to attract research and commercialization capital to Virginia and to catalyze the commercialization of Virginia’s innovations that meet large, unmet medical needs, improve human health, and to create many more high-paying life science jobs in Virginia. It is a not-for-profit corporation created by the Virginia General Assembly and funded by the Commonwealth’s General Fund and seven Virginia public research universities: Eastern Virginia Medical School, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and William & Mary.

The Commonwealth Health Research Board (CHRB) promotes and protects the health of citizens of the Commonwealth through human health research. CHRB provides financial support for research efforts having the potential to maximize human health benefits for Virginians. It awards grant to state agencies, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations in Virginia that meet specific criteria.

The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA) offers several loan and loan support programs. In general, these programs are offered in partnership with commercial banks and are designed for businesses with established revenue and predictable cash flows, as standard bank loan underwriting guidelines are followed.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) offers performance-based incentives for companies that locate or grow in the Commonwealth. These financial inducements are designed to reduce the costs of opening or expanding a business facility in order to employers who choose to establish or expand their presence in Virginia. These incentives address the needs of companies as well as the development plans of communities across the state.

​Private Sector Funding Programs

Virginia has several active angel investor networks, and it leverages the significant venture capital community that exists in the Washington DC region and the Mid-Atlantic more broadly. Large out-of-region venture capital firms have invested in dozens of Virginia-based startups, but such investments tend to be limited to more mature startups raising later funding rounds (Series A and beyond). Entrepreneurs seeking to raise funding from angels or from venture capital firms should endeavor to get warm introductions to investors who have a history of investing in similar kinds of businesses, industries, and stages of development.

Existing investors, venture attorneys, and members of a startup’s advisory boards can often provide these warm introductions. First-time entrepreneurs are strongly encouraged to participate in the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and/or an accelerator program prior to seeking angel or venture capital investment.

Virginia Community Capital (VCC) is a statewide community development financial institution (CDFI) that makes loans to small businesses. As with other commercial lending programs, VCC’s loan products are designed for businesses with established revenue and predictable cash flows, as standard bank loan underwriting guidelines are followed.

The Fairfax Founders Fund (“FFF”) is a grant and technical assistance program that provides grants of up to $50,000 to early-stage Fairfax County-based startups that are on a high-growth trajectory.

​Virginia Entrepreneurship Support Programs

At a statewide level, Virginia has multiple programs specifically focused on helping entrepreneurs as they launch and grow their businesses.

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or an existing business owner, the Virginia SBDC offers no-cost individualized consulting, training, and industry-specific assistance. With 27 offices around Virginia, the SBDC and its regional small business advisors are never far away!

ICAP is a program within the Virginia SBDC Network focused on helping Virginia-based technology and innovation-driven startups on their path to success. ICAP works with startups to provide support along their entire journey towards scaling – from the early idea stage, all the way through Series A funding. This is accomplished through experiential learning programs and one-on-one advising with a team of experienced entrepreneurial mentors. These services are offered at no cost and all advising is confidential.

VSBSD is a state agency whose mission is to “enhance growth opportunities for Virginia’s small businesses to prosper through increased revenue and job creation.” The agency offers a number of certification programs for Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business that enhance opportunities for these businesses to bid for and participate in state and local government procurement activities. The agency also manages the Virginia Business One Stop licensing and permitting portal.

The PTAC’s mission is to “help business do business with government,” at the federal, state, and local levels. Virginia PTAC’s services cover the full range of information, from the very basics for newcomers (FAR, FBO, SAM, DSBS, and more) to WOSB, SDVOSB, GSA schedules application, 8(a) certification, and more. The Virginia PTAC helps clients understand how to analyze and respond to RFPs, the advantages of priming and subcontracting opportunities, and assists with more intricate company-specific challenges including pricing and compliance questions. These services are offered at no cost and all advising is confidential.

GENEDGE is a nonprofit economic development organization that helps small and midsized manufacturers in Virginia innovate, compete, and grow. Since 1992, the organization has delivered custom solutions to solve the operational and business challenges of Virginia’s engineering, manufacturing, and technology firms. GENEDGE is the Commonwealth’s official Manufacturing Extension Partnership organization, part of a 50-state public-private partnership network that empowers small and medium-sized manufacturers to grow and thrive through educational resources, industry connections, and best practices that increase productivity, improve economic competitiveness, and enhance technical capabilities. It offers free or modestly-priced services from 7 offices across Virginia.

VA Bio-Connect is an online resource hub created and maintained by the Virginia Biotechnology Association that provides centralized information on the life sciences and biotechnology ecosystems from across Commonwealth. The platform allows users to explore the universe of biotech startups, support organizations, resources, job opportunities, and industry events all in one place at no cost. The website also provides a virtual pathway to explore the unique resources and companies in Virginia’s 5 designated BioHub Regions:

Virginia University Technology Commercialization Resources

Across the Commonwealth, Virginia’s major research universities offer online databases of the intellectual property derived from faculty R&D activities that are currently available for commercialization. These
innovations are available under a variety of arrangements to entrepreneurs and companies who wish to bring these innovations to market. These programs also serve as channels to foster partnerships between academia and industry.

Eastern Virginia Medical School
George Mason University
James Madison University
Old Dominion University
College of William & Mary
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Tech

​Virginia’s Startup Accelerators

Virginia is home to several well-regarded startup accelerators designed to help early-stage tech-enabled companies develop their products, hone their business models, connect with mentors, and get introduced to investors. Accelerators are fixed-term (typically 2-4 months), cohort-based programs with mentorship and educational components. They culminate in a public event at which entrepreneurs pitch or demo their companies.

VIPC supports all of these accelerators and is fostering the development of an emerging statewide accelerator network to link these high-value startup resources to each other.

757 Accelerate. Based in Norfolk, 757 Accelerate is a 3-month selective startup accelerator program providing founders of technology startups with capital, connections, and customers.

Catalyst. Based in Charlottesville, Catalyst is a long-format accelerator that provides early-stage startups in Central Virginia with 9 months of program support, including dedicated workspace and staff, experienced founders-in-residence, monthly programming, and a large network of industry experts.

DEIC Accelerate. Operated as an accelerator program within the Dominion Energy Innovation Center (DEIC) in Ashland, DEIC Accelerate supports the growth of high-potential companies with a focus on energy and sustainability solutions. The 18-week program provides networking space and intensive mentoring to help accelerate the growth of participating businesses.

Lighthouse Labs. Based in Richmond, Lighthouse Labs is a selective accelerator that offers technology startups three months of tailored support and mentorship, followed by ongoing access to Lighthouse Labs’ alumni programs.

MACH37. Forbes has called MACH37 the “granddaddy of cybersecurity accelerators.” Launched in 2013, based in Northern Virginia, and operated by VentureScope, MACH37 is a 3-month startup accelerator designed to facilitate the creation of the next generation of cyber product companies.

RAMP. Based in Roanoke, the Regional Accelerator & Mentoring Program (RAMP) is a selective 3-month accelerator that supports technology and high-growth startups based in Roanoke, Blacksburg, and western Virginia.

RIoT. Based in Raleigh, NC and Stafford, VA, the RIoT Accelerator Program seeks innovative ideas from companies and entrepreneurs that recognize the opportunity to leverage the data economy and Internet of Things (IoT). It advances economic development by helping founders capture emerging markets and accelerate their startups.

RISE. Based in Hampton Roads, RISE employs a hybrid model to identify and support startups focused on developing solutions to coastal communities’ resilience challenges. Traditional acceleration is paired with non-dilutive investment from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Smart City Works. Based in Northern Virginia, Smart City Works is a 3-month selective accelerator that works with founders and startups focused on infrastructure, the built environment and on changing how to design, build and operate civil infrastructure.

Startup Shenandoah Valley. Startup Shenandoah Valley is a hybrid program that combines the strengths of accelerator and incubator models. The program delivers online coaching to identify and address the riskiest parts of each entrepreneur’s business model. Participants join a cohort and gain access to the best resource providers, mentors, and investors in and beyond the region.

Virginia Accelerator Network (VAN) Is a consortium of nonprofit entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) dedicated to transforming economic development across the Commonwealth by supporting the launch and growth of early-stage, innovation based startups. VAN serves as a platform for peer-to-peer networking, technical assistance, best-practice sharing, the development of policy solutions, and identification of funding opportunities. The ESOs in the network represent an array of activities and programs including startup accelerators, business incubators, innovation hubs, ecosystem building initiatives, and more. VAN partners provide a range of low-cost and free services to the founders of potentially high-growth companies in Virginia. This work includes assisting in company creation, providing expert business assistance, facilitating and/or making direct investments, professional coaching and mentoring, and speeding the commercialization of technology into the marketplace. VAN is managed by the VIPC’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.

Resources for Diverse Founders

Around Virginia, there are a number of organizations dedicated to ensuring and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within and across entrepreneurial ecosystems. The organizations provide opportunities for historically-underrepresented founders through education, networking, counseling, and capital access.

Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council enhances business opportunities for minority-owned companies through developing mutually beneficial networking and supply-chain procurement opportunities with corporations. It has offices in Richmond.

Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit membership organization that builds economic bridges between Hispanic entrepreneurs and the broader community in order to create, promote, and enhance business opportunities for its members and partners. It has offices in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads.

Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit membership organization that promotes, advances, and encourages both domestic and international commerce among Asian-American entrepreneurs in Virginia. It has offices in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Charlottesville.

Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit membership organization that facilitates the economic empowerment of black-owned businesses in Northern Virginia. The Chamber provides leadership, strategic information, and technical assistance that advances the success and development of the regional economy.

Black BRAND is a nonprofit, membership organization that promotes group economics through professional development and community empowerment. As the Black Chamber of Commerce organization for both the Hampton Roads and the Dan River regions, the organization serves emerging and existing entrepreneurs who want to scale their ideas, sharpen their skills, and feel at home. It has offices in Norfolk and Danville.

Metropolitan Business League is a nonprofit, membership organization that creates business connections in Central Virginia. It fosters development and expansion for women, minority-owned and small businesses across the Greater Richmond region.

Jackson Ward Collective is a nonprofit entrepreneurship hub that connects Black business owners to each other and to resources that can help them grow and thrive. It is based in Richmond.

Resources Across the Commonwealth

In 2016, the Virginia Growth and Opportunity board (GO Virginia) certified nine distinct regions across the Commonwealth to foster greater collaboration on economic and workforce development activities within and across diverse areas. GO Virginia is focused on generating more high-paying jobs for Virginians through incentivized collaboration between business, education, and government to diversify and strengthen the economy in every region of the Commonwealth.

​Each region may pursue a dedicated Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative (REI) under the leadership of a coordinating entity. The section that follows lists the variety of regional entrepreneurship support organizations (ESO), programs, and resources across each of the GO Virginia regions.

Region One

includes the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton. The Appalachian Mountains run through many of the 13 counties and three cities that comprise the region.

The Office of Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives at UVA Wise coordinates entrepreneurial support initiatives throughout Southwest Virginia.

The Virginia SBDC Network has small business advisors in Galax, Big Stone Gap, Richlands, and Abingdon.

For established technology companies, the Appalachian Council for Innovation is the technology council for Southwest Virginia.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out the Opportunity SWVA website.

Region Two

includes the counties of Alleghany, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Botetourt, Campbell, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Roanoke, and the cities of Covington, Lynchburg, Radford, Roanoke, and Salem.

Verge is the umbrella organization that coordinates entrepreneurial support initiatives in Region 2. Verge affiliates are the Valleys Innovation Council, the RAMP startup accelerator, and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC).
Verge also works closely with Innovate Lynchburg, Lynchburg’s technology council.

The Advancement Foundation, based in Roanoke, also offers training and support for regional entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Total Action for Progress, based in Roanoke, provides business guidance, startup assistance, and loans through its Business Seed Capital, Inc. program.

The Virginia SBDC Network has a small business advisors based in Roanoke who also hold regional office hours in Blacksburg, Radford, and Daleville. Business owners in the Lynchburg area are supported by the Lynchburg Region SBDC, which is hosted by the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out the Region 2 Entrepreneurial Hub website.

Region Three

includes the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, and Prince Edward, and the cities of Danville, and Martinsville.

Several organizations in Southern Virginia collaborate to provide support and services to founders of technology and technology-enabled scalable startups. The SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston, a collaboration between the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation and Microsoft Corporation, offers coworking space for local startups and coordinates region-wide programs that inspire people to pursue entrepreneurship.

The Launch Place in Danville has a well-established seed-stage venture fund and offers programs and consulting services for entrepreneurs.

The Longwood University SBDC supports entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout Southern Virginia. Its Central Region office is in Farmville, and its Western Region office offers advising services in Danville, Martinsville, and South Boston.

The Southern Piedmont Technology Council (SPTC) is a member-based organization consisting of technology companies and advocates from Southern Virginia. SPTC offers networking meetings, conferences, and banquets to support its members, educate communities on technology development, and increase awareness of the Southern Piedmont among other Virginia regions.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out the SOVA Innovation Hub’s Resource Compass website.

Region Four

includes the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Greensville, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex, and the cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg, and Richmond.

Activation Capital serves as a connection point for many stakeholders in the Metro Richmond innovation ecosystem. It manages and supports program that give startups access to tools, resources, and funding to better navigate their
entrepreneurial journeys. Its offerings include the VA Bio+Tech Park campus, which houses life sciences and advanced technology companies, the Riverflow Growth Fund, a seed-stage venture fund with a focus on startups in the healthcare and wellness sectors, and the Ecosystem Direct Investment Fund (EDIF) which provides grants to entrepreneur support organizations. Activation also hosts the Lighthouse Labs startup accelerator.

Startup Virginia is a startup incubator for high-growth companies that provides a workspace for teams and also serves as a meeting space for mentors and investors.

RVATech is the technology council for the Greater Richmond region. It is a member-driven association of businesses and organizations working together to ensure the continued growth of Greater Richmond’s dynamic technology-based economy. It promotes the success of technology companies and the growth of the technology sector within the Central Virginia economy.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out Activation Capital’s Ecosystem Resources website

Region Five

includes the counties of Accomack, Isle of Wright, James City, Northampton, Southampton, and York, and the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg.

757 Collab is an umbrella organization leveraging existing infrastructure and strengthening connections between three-pillar entrepreneurial support organizations: 757 Accelerate, 757 Startup Studios, and 757 Angels. Through an interconnected, inclusive, and impactful array of activities, the organization enhances capital and counseling in Hampton Roads.

The Hampton Roads SBDC assists entrepreneurs with the identification and evaluation of the most important factors related to the success of their enterprises. SBDC counselors provide guidance and counsel to help businesses become more effective and efficient by improving management skills and operational effectiveness. The SBDC conducts workshops on many topics related to starting and operating a business in Virginia; and helps identify information and services related to small business.

The Hampton Roads Innovation Collaborative (HRIC) provides a connective environment for regional innovation and development to offer an inclusive environment for companies, arts, nonprofits, and alliances. HRIC creates programs, events, and visibility for area technology companies that assist development and growth of the technology sector and contribute to a diversified regional economy.

RISE Resilience. RISE accelerates innovation and business growth around solutions to coastal resilience challenges in the living laboratory of Hampton Roads, Virginia. RISE partners with accelerators and incubators to identify and support startups that can positively impact coastal communities.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out the StartWheel website.

Region Six

also known as the Mary Ball Washington Region, includes the counties of Caroline, Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Westmoreland, and the city of Fredericksburg.

The University of Mary Washington Center for Economic Development oversees the SBDC that covers Region Six.

Stafford is home to the VIPC-sponsored Virginia Smart Community Testbed. It is the first Smart City Testbed involving an IoT platform, fully integrated with 5G and other new and emerging technologies for Smart Cities around the country.

Region Seven

includes the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

The Mason SBDC, Alexandria SBDC, Loudoun SBDC, and the Lord Fairfax SBDC support small business advisory needs in Northern Virginia.

The Mason Enterprise Center has five business incubators throughout the region: Arlington, Fairfax City, Fauquier County, Leesburg, Springfield and Warrenton. Each of these incubators is partnered with one of the SBDC offices listed above.

Region Seven has dozens of other coworking options, including Refraction, WeWork, Make Offices, Brickyard, and many more.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) is the trade association representing the Northern Virginia technology community. As one of the nation’s largest technology councils, NVTC serves 500+ companies from all sectors of the industry, from small businesses and startups to Fortune 100 technology companies, as well as service providers, academic institutions, foreign embassies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Region Eight

includes the counties of Augusta, Bath, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren, and the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, Waynesboro, and Winchester.

The Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF) is an entrepreneurial support organization founded in 2007 that has emerged as a leading convener of the Shenandoah Valley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. SCCF has launched a number of business education, mentorship, and financing programs in conjunction with over a dozen partner organizations. In 2020, SCCF launched Startup Shenandoah Valley (S2V), a hybrid program that combines the strengths of accelerator
and incubator models. The program delivers online coaching to identify and address the riskiest parts of each entrepreneur’s business model. Participants join a cohort and gain access to the best resource providers, mentors, and investors in and beyond the region.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners in Region Eight are also supported by the Shenandoah Valley SBDC and the Lord Fairfax SBDC.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out the Valley Business Compass website.

Region Nine

includes the counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange, and Rappahannock, and the city of Charlottesville.

The Central Virginia Small Business Development Center (CVSBDC) provides individualized business counseling, connections to curated research, access to technical expertise, and educational events, and training to entrepreneurs
throughout the Region 9 coverage area. CVSBDC is hosted by the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), a nonprofit that supports under-resourced entrepreneurs through education, mentoring, financing, and networking. The Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) serves as the region’s largest tech industry organization and provides insights, resources, and connections that companies need to nurture innovation.

The CvilleBioHub fosters the growth and development of the biotechnology industry in the Charlottesville region. It provides resources to, and serves as an advocacy voice for, this emerging cluster of over 65 companies.

The Charlottesville Angel Network is a group of nearly 70 accredited investors and family offices who provide funding to promising startups. This collective of successful executives, entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers individually and collectively apply their skills and put their connections and capital to work to help entrepreneurs succeed.

For information on regional resources available for entrepreneurs and innovators, check out The Hub CVA website.