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RAMP Info Session – March 28

Is your startup Interested in applying to RAMP, the new Roanoke-Blacksburg technology business accelerator? Join us for an application acceleration & FAQ information session. Bring your questions and your team members.

Date:  Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Time:  6:00pm-7:30pm
Location: 709 S. Jefferson Street, Roanoke, VA 24011

Free food will be provided.

 

Register

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RAMP Open House – March 16

The City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College (VWCC), and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) cordially invite you to join us for an Open House as we mark the launch of RAMP, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Accelerator.

RAMP is the home to entrepreneurial programming provided by VWCC, a new regional business accelerator, the RBTC and other entities and programming that support our region’s technology start-up community.

The Open House will be held at RAMP, located at 709 S. Jefferson Street in Downtown Roanoke on Thursday, March 16 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

Parking is available on the street for free after 5pm on Jefferson Street, Day Avenue, Bullitt Avenue, First Street or in the various paid lots on Jefferson.

Please RSVP by Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Have questions? Contact: Heather Fay, heather@rbtc.tech or (540) 443-9232 ext 1.

 

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Woods Rogers Pledges $50,000 to Support RAMP Business Accelerator

The Virginia law firm of Wood Rogers PLC will donate $50,000 to the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation in support of the new RAMP technology business accelerator opening in downtown Roanoke. Under a five year agreement, Woods Rogers will contribute $10,000 per year to RAMP beginning in 2017 and concluding in 2021.

The Educational Foundation is a nonprofit organization associated with Virginia Western Community College, which will provide business education programming at RAMP, located in the old Gill Memorial Hospital building at 709 S. Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke.

“The Educational Foundation is proud to support the RAMP initiative and its mission to create jobs in Roanoke,” said Dr. Angela M. Garcia Falconetti, Executive Director of the Educational Foundation and Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Virginia Western Community College. “RAMP provides an example of the direct role that institutions of higher education can play in economic development.”

RAMP’s mission is to propel high-potential startups to expand and create jobs in the STEM-H (Science,
Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Health) fields. Other partners in the initiative include the City of Roanoke, which won a state grant to complete renovations on the historical Gill Memorial site; and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, which will recruit RAMP participants and provide them mentorship and networking opportunities.

“It is an honor to be part of RAMP from Day One,” said Dan Summerlin, President of Woods Rogers. “We firmly believe that entrepreneurs and start-up companies are a vital part of the economic future of Roanoke and of Virginia as well. Woods Rogers and its Emerging Growth practice group are committed to helping this initiative succeed. We look forward to being an active contributor of counsel and ideas to RAMP’s participants.”

RAMP, which stands for Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, is accepting applicants for its first participant teams through March 15. Learn more at www.ramprb.tech. The program is expected to start in June 2017.

RAMP participants will benefit from a mentoring program, networking opportunities, business education and access to capital. The inaugural program includes an intensive “boot camp” that culminates in a $5,000 prize for the accelerator company offering the best jobs-creation strategy.

The program’s model, based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators, will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- or life science-focused companies in the first cohort. Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market.

To be considered for RAMP, applicants must:
• Agree to locate their company, rent-free, inside the accelerator for a six-month residency;
• Have a minimum viable product, preferably with sales traction;
• Work full time on their startup during the program;
• Have a product or service employing workers in the STEM-H field, with scalability potential;
• Be willing to consider operating their company in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region after graduation.


ABOUT THE VIRGINIA WESTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation is an independent nonprofit dedicated to enhancing awareness of the college and securing private and public funds. Its efforts support Virginia Western’s Community College Access Program, student scholarships, faculty development and capital projects. To learn more, visit virginiawestern.edu/foundation.

ABOUT VIRGINIA WESTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
With nearly 13,000 students on the college’s main campus in Southwest Roanoke City, to our satellite locations at the Greenfield Education & Training Center in Daleville and the Franklin Center in Rocky Mount, Virginia Western Community College is committed to providing affordable, accessible, and quality educational opportunities and workforce training to meet individual, community, and global needs. To learn more, visit virginiawestern.edu.

ABOUT WOODS ROGERS
Woods Rogers PLC is a full-service law firm providing legal services in more than 19 practice areas to businesses and individuals across Virginia, throughout the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. For more information, visit www.woodsrogers.com.

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RBTC Seeks RAMP Accelerator Director

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) is seeking a talented individual to serve as the Director of the RAMP Accelerator. RAMP is located in downtown Roanoke in a historic building under renovation through a public-private partnership, in close proximity to the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus and located in the Roanoke Health Sciences and Technology Innovation Corridor. RAMP and its Director will play an integral part in accelerating three to five technology or life science focused companies per year to a venture fundable stage. The position will report to the CEO of the RBTC. With support of the RAMP Advisory Board, the RAMP Director will make an important contribution to a growing regional business community.

RESPONSIBILITIES: 

  • Manage and coordinate overall day to day operations of the accelerator program and key program initiatives including mentoring, financial management, funding, networking, and education.
  • Work with the RBTC CEO and RAMP Advisory Board to establish a five-year RAMP strategic plan, focus on established priorities, and keep the CEO and Board informed about progress towards plan milestones.
  • Support the RBTC CEO in leading and collaborating on regional start-up and accelerator efforts to strengthen the regional ecosystem.
  • Coordinate with partners to develop RAMP programming and to support regional start-up and innovation programming.
  • Manage the accelerator recruitment and screening process including marketing to potential members, selection criteria development, initial screening, competetive selection process, and review of candidates.
  • Manage the mentor recruitment and screening process including indentifying potential mentors, selection criteria development, initial screening, selection process, and review of mentors.
  • Insure appropriate services and support are provided to assist venture fundable startups participating in the accelerator program.
  • Assist with grant applications and report out on required grant metrics.

VIEW FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

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RAMP Business Accelerator Launches Crowdfunding Drive to Support Region’s Startups

The RAMP business accelerator has launched a crowdfunding drive to support its goal of growing high-potential startups in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The campaign, launched Oct. 28 through the Tilt platform, aims to raise $25,000 to help outfit team rooms occupied by the startups accepted in the RAMP program.

This is the first fundraising drive by RAMP, which will be located in the renovated Gill Memorial Building at 709 S. Jefferson St. in downtown Roanoke. Renovations are currently under way, with the building expected to open in early 2017. The first class of RAMP startup companies is expected to start in mid-2017.

RAMP, which stands for Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, is led by a volunteer advisory board whose members are drawn from the founding partners:

  • The City of Roanoke, which won a $600,000 state grant approved by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to renovate the Gill building as an accelerator;
  • Virginia Western Community College, which will provide business education classes and faculty support;
  • The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, which will hire RAMP’s executive director and develop the accelerator’s mentorship and networking initiatives.

RAMP’s programming will be based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators. It will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- or life science-focused companies in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and healthcare each per year. Entrepreneurs accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors during an intensive three- to four-month “boot camp for founders” designed to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market.

To donate to the RAMP Tilt campaign, go to: RAMPTilt.com

To learn more about RAMP, go to: RAMPrb.tech

Download the press release.

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CEO Insights: Ramping Up Tech Entrepreneurs

How do you increase the success rate for technology entrepreneurs in our region? You accelerate them by giving them a place to move from launch to growth, which is exactly what the new regional business accelerator in downtown Roanoke plans to do. Having an incubator as a place for entrepreneurs to get support and launch their company is just the beginning. An accelerator is an altogether different idea and those businesses that make it to the finish line, have a much better chance at success.

Last year, Roanoke received a grant to turn the old Gill Memorial Hospital building on South Jefferson Street downtown into a “technology accelerator”. With an expected completion date of December 2016, The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College, and other key advisors are coming together to create the Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, or RAMP. This highly-focused acceleration program will evaluate entrepreneur applicants, favor those who intend to stay in the region, and select three to five technology companies per year for an intensive three-to-four-month structured mentoring “boot camp” designed to build, test, improve, and speed to market a company’s product. The RAMP Accelerator fulfills several conditions for not only technology entrepreneurship, but also improvement of the entire Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem.

The goal of an accelerator is rapid growth, but also to sort out all of the operational and other strategic challenges for a business and make them “investor ready”. Businesses may fail or stagnate, but do so sooner in an accelerator program, and they’re able to change their trajectory faster and learn more quickly how to be a successful company. According to the Brookings Institute, accelerators differ from incubators and other ecosystem players because they’re fixed term, cohort-based, mentor-driven, and culminate in a graduation or demo day. Incubators lack the expedience to launch businesses and carry many under-performing companies for years. What makes accelerators so valuable and desirable to startups? Brookings found that accelerators offer the kind of immersive and focused education that all founders eventually learn, but the accelerator program speeds up the learning cycle. The RAMP Accelerator is designed to do the same and bypass the years it may take to launch a successful business to stand on its own.

“Business acceleration” is a growing trend in the commonwealth tied to technology startups and the hopes of sparking Virginia’s innovation economy. With the highest density of technology professionals of any state, it makes sense to allow a venue where ideas can be heard and supported, both financially and with mentorship. Since 2005, the number of accelerators has grown to almost 200 in the U.S. with 50 percent growth year-to-year between 2005 and 2014. Companies like AirBnB, DropBox, and Reddit are just a few well-known accelerator graduate names. In our region, we have seen a number of technology companies leave for accelerator programs elsewhere. The goal of RAMP is to keep our local technology entrepreneurs here by offering them the access to mentors and other valuable resources they so desperately need.

An active accelerator concentrates a lot of activity in a community in one place – generating vibrancy around innovation, and giving various ecosystem actors exposure to one another in a dynamic environment. Basically, wherever there is a collection of innovative startups, there’s typically an accelerator backing them up. Brookings also found that in cities where an accelerator is established, the city typically has more seed and early-stage entrepreneurial financing activity, even for non-accelerator companies, and more venture capital to the regional economy in general. Attracting venture capital to a region has positive impact on broader employment growth and entrepreneurship. Accelerators play a critical role because regardless of the seed financing or venture capital the program graduates can attract, it’s how well they can build a network of support for their peers and future companies, collectively creating more jobs as a result. The future of the technology industry depends on the success of accelerator programs, both in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region and across the commonwealth and nation.

Technology startup hubs like San Francisco-Silicon Valley, Boston-Cambridge, and New York claim 40 percent of the accelerator programs. But good activity is happening in smaller cities like Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Boulder. Technology companies not only need seed money, they thrive on the right mix of other high-tech companies, mentors, and graduates in the region. That mix of assets kick starts entrepreneurship and it’s exactly what RAMP intends to pull from for success. The recent Kauffman Foundation Index of Growth Entrepreneurship finds that the five highest ranked metropolitan areas are Washington, D.C., Austin, San Jose, Columbus, and Nashville. Columbus. With a marketing and advertising industry focus, Columbus had a first place rank for share of scale-ups and a fourth place rank in the overall index – the city’s success at entrepreneurial growth is a validation for the region’s startup ecosystem.

If a startup ecosystem is to thrive in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region, the use of effective mentors offered with RAMP will be the start. RBTC intends to elicit the best of our region, specific to startups, to provide sound counsel. The RAMP accelerator will also need to build a culture of entrepreneurship around the accelerator that perpetuates the program for a lifetime. As a highly collaborative initiative among technology mentors, higher education, and government, RAMP is just another way forward to speed up the region’s entrepreneurship rankings, employment, and the overall diversified growth of our economy.

(This post also appeared on the Roanoke Times website)

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RAMP: An Exciting Step Forward For Our Region’s Technology-focused Entrepreneurs

(The following remarks were given by Jonathan Whitt, President and CEO of the RBTC on Wednesday, June 29 at the ceremony to kick off renovations to the Gill Memorial Building where RAMP will be housed.)

Today is an exciting step forward for our region’s technology-focused entrepreneurs. Propelling high-potential companies to expand and create jobs in our community is the goal of RAMP, a new technology business accelerator program that is set to launch here in early 2017.

Entrepreneurs who seek to scale up their companies will apply to participate in RAMP, which stands for ‘Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program’.

RAMP stands apart to assist our region’s high potential startup companies because it is an intentional and highly focused program. Too many times, we have seen startups leave our region because they lacked what this accelerator program will offer – structured mentorships between entrepreneurs and experienced individuals in their field, access to funding that will get them beyond early stage, and business education specifically targeted to scaling technology-based start-ups.

The program’s model is based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators, and will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- focused companies per year.

Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors during an intensive three- to four-month “boot camp for founders” designed to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market. Experience is always the best teacher, and RAMP’s mentors will provide invaluable insights based on their experiences.

RAMP will operate from the top floor of this building. Virginia Western Community College will offer business education courses on the second floor where the RBTC will also maintain its Roanoke office. The first floor is now available for lease to an anchor tenant that we hope will complement the efforts of this exciting project.

As with any project like this one, there are too many people to thank but I would like to mention a few. Chris Morrill and Dr. Bobby Sandel – I would like to thank you for your personal entrepreneurial leadership – this would never have gotten off the ground without you.

I would also like to thank Greg Feldmann with Skyline Capital Strategies LLC, chair of the RAMP Advisory Board for his leadership and the members of the RAMP board:

  • Robert McAden – Rackspace and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Board Chairman
  • Kevin Bloomfield – Bloomfield Partners and Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation Network Co-Chairman
  • Wayne Bowers – Roanoke Department of Economic Development
  • Sam English – Attention Point
  • Ken Ferris – Brookewood Management Advisors and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council Advisory Board Member
  • Jay Foster – SoftSolutions
  • Hal Irvin – Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
  • Marc Nelson – Roanoke Department of Economic Development
  • Bart Smith – Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center
  • Samantha Steidle – Virginia Western Community College
  • and Carole Tarrant – Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation

And, on behalf of the RAMP team, I would like to thank Balzer Architects and Lionberger Construction for your part in the renovation of this building and for your help with today’s event.

In addition to the renovation of this building, there is still much work to do in weeks and months ahead to get ready for the launch of RAMP. We welcome support from our community to assist in the development of programs and services to be offered here. I invite anyone that has an interest in this project to contact me (or any of our advisory board members), we’d be happy to speak with you.

Lastly, I would like to thank each of you for coming out today as we commemorate this special occasion. Our community is a special place, we have an amazing future ahead of us, and this project is but one example. Thank you again for coming out today and we’ll celebrate the opening of RAMP in January.

For more info visit: http://www.ramprb.tech/

___________________________________________

Media coverage:

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RAMP Business Accelerator to Foster Growth of Region’s High-potential Startups (Press Release)

Propelling high-potential startups to expand and create jobs is the goal of RAMP, a new technology business accelerator program set to launch in early 2017 in downtown Roanoke.

Entrepreneurs who seek to scale up their companies will apply to participate in RAMP, which stands for “Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program”. The program will be housed in the historic Gill Memorial Hospital building at 709 S. Jefferson St., along the recently announced downtown Health Sciences and Technology Innovation District.
Support for RAMP comes from a broad public/private partnership that draws on leaders in higher education, government, and the region’s growing technology community. RAMP founding partners include:

  • The City of Roanoke, which won a $600,000 state grant approved by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to renovate the Gill building as an accelerator;
  • Virginia Western Community College, which will provide business education classes and faculty support;
  • The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, whose members lead the RAMP Advisory Board and will develop the accelerator’s mentorship and networking initiatives;

“The breadth of this partnership demonstrates that many people recognize the need for a business accelerator in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College and a Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation Network (RBIN) director. “We believe we can grow and keep our talent, whether it’s in information technology, advanced manufacturing, biosciences or other entrepreneurial efforts.”

While the region has seen business incubators and similar efforts to foster startups, RAMP stands apart because it is “an intentional and highly focused program,” said Jonathan Whitt, President and CEO of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC). “Too many times, we have seen startups leave our region because they lacked what the accelerator program will offer – structured mentorships between entrepreneurs and experienced individuals in their field, access to funding that will get them beyond early stage, and business education specifically targeted to launching technology-based start-ups.”

The program’s model, based on best practices garnered from existing successful business accelerators, will initially focus on accelerating three to five technology- or life science-focused companies per year, Whitt said. Companies accepted into RAMP will work closely with multiple mentors during an intensive three- to four-month “boot camp for founders” designed to focus on building, testing, improving, validating product-market fit, and launching their product for the market.

“RAMP represents the next logical step in the enhancement of the Roanoke-Blacksburg entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Marc Nelson, special projects coordinator for Roanoke’s Department of Economic Development and a RAMP Advisory Board member said. “The City and the EDA recognize the benefits of assisting the region’s established educators and entrepreneurs in their efforts to help emerging companies realize their goals and further grow that ecosystem.”

RAMP expects to play a different but complementary role in that entrepreneurial ecosystem. For example, the CoLab, with more than 140 members, functions as an inclusive co-working space in Roanoke appropriate for entry-level entrepreneurs. RAMP, by contrast, will select companies through a competitive application process open to the region’s technology entrepreneurs, serving up to five high-growth enterprises that have demonstrated they have developed a minimum viable product to serve a large market opportunity…

READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE

Ceremony to kick off renovations to the Gill Memorial Building took place Wednesday, June 29.
For more information visit: http://www.ramprb.tech/

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