RD695 - Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority Financial Statements - June 2020 (Audited)
Over the past year, Activation Capital has experienced growth and significant changes, including a leadership change, a global pandemic, and worldwide protests for racial equality.
In May 2020, I stepped into the President and CEO role for Activation Capital - charged with growing the organization's impact. Under my predecessor's leadership, Carrie Roth, now named COO of Activation Capital, the organization made an incredible impact on the regional entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem.
Despite the challenges of the latter half of this fiscal year, Activation Capital can celebrate progress in strengthening the Central Virginia ecosystem in the following key areas:
Increase Awareness of the Ecosystem
The Central Virginia region offers entrepreneurs a variety of resources and opportunities to launch startups. To date, we track nine organizations that actively educate, connect, accelerate, and fund startups in the region. We recognized the opportunity to promote the collective set of activities and resources as one way to help entrepreneurs build, launch, and scale businesses. To accomplish this, we completed the beta version of Rally Virginia – a one-stop information source on the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem. The tool will more easily connect founders to the resources they need to launch and grow.
We have made strides in increasing awareness of Activation Capital's work and resources through marketing, sponsorships, signature events, and conference participation. As a result of the collective efforts across the region, Richmond ranked in the top 80 on Startup Genome's Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems in the World for the first time.
Activation Capital is uniquely positioned to be an even larger catalyst for entrepreneur development by driving "top of the funnel" awareness and activities.
Strengthen Ecosystem Engagement
Successful startup ecosystems are home to a broad mix of organizations with a common mission of developing and growing entrepreneurs and ventures. Activation Capital helps increase connectivity between the various stakeholders through the Community Engagement Committee (CEC), which has grown to nearly 20-member organizations. The ability to meet, share challenges, identify opportunities to collaborate, and deepen support has been pivotal.
Activation Capital's signature festival series is a unique opportunity to introduce entrepreneurs to the regional ecosystem and support knowledge-sharing and relationship-building each year. This year's UpRiver Festival saw 56 percent first-time participants and hosted over 200 more participants than our inaugural event, doubling the number of attendees. While the restrictions implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of this year's DownRiver event, we experienced a 15 percent increase in engagement through our digital channels.
There continues to be a role Activation Capital could play to help expand ecosystem engagement, ensure a stronger voice of the entrepreneur, and broaden the participation of important government, academic, and corporate stakeholders.
Increase Ecosystem Density
Understanding entrepreneur/startup density in a region is an important factor in growing the regional ecosystem. Increasing the number of active entrepreneurs will maximize knowledgesharing, network building, startup team formation, and attract more startup funding. Activation Capital helps foster regional density through space-making. We continued to see growth and demand for our spaces this year.
VA Bio+Tech Park
The VA Bio+Tech Park, our life sciences and advanced-technology campus, for over 25 years has been home to an important cluster of entrepreneurs. It continues to be despite the global pandemic. Our offices and wet lab spaces are operating at full capacity, and we added 11 new companies during this fiscal year. Our event activities attracted nearly 6,500 participants to our community throughout the year.
The Dominion Energy Innovation Center (DEIC) has been energized with a new Executive Director and team. The co-working space has quadrupled in members and is poised to expand its rentable space. The center's programming and office space serve as an important resource for local growth entrepreneurs of Hanover County and the Town of Ashland. This population currently represents about 50 percent of the center's community. DEIC has also re-emerged as a meeting point for energy entrepreneurs because of the key milestones made by the team: the expansion of industry programming, the launch of a statewide energy accelerator program that will take place in the fall of 2020, and the addition of 12 new channel partners during this fiscal year.
New Innovation Center
To demonstrate our commitment to growing entrepreneurial density, we continued making progress on an innovative six-story, 100,000 square feet space to be built at 8th and Leigh Street. This year, we completed the building's design and anticipate its completion in early 2022. This innovation center will allow next-stage growth for the Bio+Tech Center companies and other advanced-technology companies in the region and across the Commonwealth. The one-of-a-kind space will feature two signature event spaces, meeting spaces, wet labs, a greenhouse-ready roof, and a central convening space for founders and investors across the Commonwealth.
For much of our 27-year history, Activation Capital has been best known for the VA Bio+Tech Park. Because of the central role that space-making plays in robust ecosystems, providing office and wet-lab space for technology ventures and meeting space for the entrepreneurial community to convene will continue as an important part of our work.
Accelerate Business Formation
Our mission is to grow the number of successful high-growth entrepreneurs operating in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This fiscal year, we continued to provide administrative and financial resources to help achieve this goal.
Through our Ecosystem Direct Investment Fund (EDIF), we invested in programming administered by key entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) to accelerate the launch of technology ventures. This year's awardees included Lighthouse Labs, Startup Virginia, and VCU Ventures – totaling up to $875,000 in support.
• Lighthouse Labs - Our initial $1M invested in Lighthouse Labs unlocked $1M in GOVA funding to support the Lighthouse U initiative. Over two years, this project reached over 3,500 students, created 124 jobs, and attracted over $3M in outside capital for the alumni-focused cohorts.
There continues to be limited seed-stage funding across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The lack of early-stage funding leaves many Virginia-based founders challenged to build and scale technology ventures. As a founding partner of the Health Innovation Consortium (HIC) – created with VCU and VCU Health to make Virginia a health innovation hub – we support activities from ideation through seed-stage investment. The HIC awarded the first pre-seed grant to ClearView Surgical and funded 11 projects to support early-stage ideas directly related to the COVID pandemic.
Like our broader portfolio of work, our funding activities help create the conditions for successful venture development. The intended result is entrepreneurial pipeline growth and an increased number of "backable" founders launching and scaling high-growth companies. There are several opportunities to accomplish this:
• Doubling down on the support of tech founders of diverse backgrounds, whether gender, ethnicity, age, or region
This year, as we dealt with the COVID-19 epidemic, we were presented with an opportunity to think differently about how we live and work. The global protest for racial equality also gave the startup community a moment to reflect on how to support diverse founders solving a broad range of problems. It is during uncertainty and difficult times that the entrepreneurial spirit is at its best. It is a call to fearlessly embrace challenges, diverse backgrounds, and different ideas as an opportunity to innovate. Activation Capital can help lead the charge.
We ended the year in a strong position and with a solid foundation for building the next chapter for Activation Capital. As we explore ways to expand our impact, we will prioritize growing revenue while growing the pool of backable founders.
We look forward to our continued partnership with you, regional organizations, and statewide entities like the new Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority to grow technology entrepreneurship.
/s/ Chandra Briggman