Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic have formed a new $15 million venture capital fund designed to catapult the startups taking root around Blacksburg and Roanoke’s so-called innovation corridor.
About 60 percent of the investments will be in the life sciences industry and most will be based in Virginia. If they’re in another state, the companies must have some tie to the university or Carilion, fund managers James Ramey and Scott Horner said.
The managers are adamant that the VTC Innovation Fund is not about charity or pure economic development. They say their top priority will be showing a return on investment, but the organizers believe the fund can help boost the local startup ecosystem at the same time.
The fund plans to open an office inside RAMP, Roanoke’s new business accelerator.
“When we looked at our grand vision going forward, we see that the innovation ecosystem has a few holes in it,” Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands said. “One is in the venture capital area. It’s not the only one, but it’s one we identified that we could do something about.”
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Jon Hagmaier launched a Roanoke tech company, watched it grow for 10 years and then sell for more than he ever imagined — and now he is getting ready to reinvest part of his windfall in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
He says he doesn’t want to do it alone. And there are clear signs he won’t be.
He’s part of a growing movement among the region’s business elites who are taking big bets on small companies, and in the process reigniting the region’s stagnant startup financing market.
Hagmaier is launching his investment firm, called Common Wealth Growth Group, at the same time as at least four other local projects are getting off the ground.
A group recently packed a conference room at Roanoke’s Center in the Square on a July afternoon for an invite-only meeting to organize their next steps. The group of about 25 active investors and startup founders shared their thoughts and laid out a regional vision. They talked about the fact that the area hasn’t been able to provide enough access to capital, according to several investors who participated.
These investment groups are considered the lifeblood of startup ecosystems, as almost every company needs some sort of financial backing. Startups, especially in the tech industry, can take years to generate revenue. If a startup can’t find funding in its hometown during those critical first steps, it will often leave — or die…
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