Virginia Velocity Tour wants to help Va. cities be better versions of themselves - DC


Sep. 19, 2016 9:27 am

Virginia Velocity Tour wants to help Va. cities be better versions of themselves

The weeklong bus tour kicks off today.

And also startups.

(Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes, used under a Creative Commons license)

The Virginia Velocity Tour, a Rise of the Rest-inspired and Village Capital-hosted bus tour through the state of Virginia, kicks off on Monday. Over the course of this week the tour will visit five Virginia cities and hold five days worth of meetings and events each culminating in a pitch competition with $25,000 on the line for the winning startup.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does. This is almost exactly the formula for Steve Case and Revolution’s perennial Rise of the Rest tour, the fifth of which will take place next month. And there’s a reason for this similarity. Village Capital has been a partner of Rise of the Rest for all five years running, and the idea for the Velocity Tour actually arose while at a Rise of the Rest stop in Richmond last year.

CEO Ross Baird told that during that stop in Richmond, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe started talking about the possibility of launching a similar initiative in his state. The Village Capital team liked the idea — “we wanted to go even deeper,” Baird said.

"Northern Virginia isn't going to be better at being Silicon Valley than Silicon Valley is. But it can be better at being Northern Virginia."
Ross Baird, Village Capital


They also want to help break down the silos between the different cities in Virginia. That’s why all 30 startups that will pitch in the course of the week are invited to join for the whole bus tour through Roanoke/Blacksburg to Richmond, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and finally Charlottesville. Who will pitch each night is decided not based on where the startup is located but rather on what industry strength each city possesses. For example, the competition in NoVA will focus on cybersecurity and govtech.

The reason for this? Baird thinks its important to encourage emerging tech hubs to own their strengths rather than try to be Silicon Valley. “Silicon Valley is amazing,” he said. “And Northern Virginia isn’t going to be better at being Silicon Valley than Silicon Valley is. But it can be better at being Northern Virginia.”

The Tour is part of McAuliffe’s Virginia Velocity project — a $1 million business plan competition that aims to support “a new Virginia economy.” Last year Virginia Velocity held a pitch competition — Baird hopes this year’s programming will be much higher impact, even for the startups who don’t win.

And what’s Baird looking forward to the most? “The entrepreneurs,” he says, without hesitation. “It’s always awesome to meet new founders.”

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