Starting this month, tech funding in Virginia has a new name — literally.
As of November, the funding arm previously known as the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) is now the Virginia Innovation Partnerships Corporation (VIPC). It will now function as the nonprofit operating agent of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority, an entity created in 2020 by the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovation Partnership Act, passed in 2019, to support innovation in the state.
Since its inception in 1985, CIT has been a hotspot for local entrepreneurship and startups in NoVa, managing funding programs including the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund, GAP Funds, the Virginia Founders Fund and the Regional Investment Fund. In January, CIT reported that its GAP funding had invested $32.4 million into 240 local startups since it was created in 2005.
According to VIPC, the rebrand reflects a new priority for innovation and entrepreneurship in the state. The decision follows town halls across the state, meetings with local organizations like tech councils and accelerators, as well as work sessions with businesses and colleges.
Bob Stolle, president of the VIPC, said that the rebrand follows constant updates and growth of the program in its 35 years of existence.
“There’s certainly been an evolution of programs, of people, of needs from the entrepreneurial community, the innovation community and so we have evolved with that and created new programs to meet the demands,” Stolle told Technical.ly.
The legislation and research, Stolle said, came about because stakeholders in the state realized that it would be better to consolidate many of the state’s programs under one umbrella. To create VIPC, CIT was merged with the Virginia Research Investment Fund primarily, alongside the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics and the Commonwealth Cyber Security Initiative. With the merger, it also gained additional access to a significant amount of new funding, although Stolle was unable to specify how much. Going forward, it plans to create new programs.
“The idea is not just to consolidate those under one organization, but to really provide a concentration of the benefits, and a coordination of those benefits, and create something of a pipeline so that we’re working directly with the great programs that exist within some of these other organizations,” Stolle said.
Despite the rebrand, Tom Weithman, chief investment officer and vice president of VIPC’s investment division, said that VIPC can still be thought of as a science and tech-based investor. It’ll continue to invest in its main categories of software and enterprise delivery, but will also be looking for those who take a broader context into consideration, like cleantech and life sciences firms.
Primarily, Weithman said that VIPC looks to invest where its capital can make a difference, be it in the state’s ecosystem or in tech that solves a real problem.
“[We’re investing in] the same look, feel and texture of companies,” Weithman said. “We remain a Virginia investor. We look for companies that are headquartered here and have a long-term commitment to help grow the economy.”
But the rebrand, Stolle added, also presents the chance to strengthen the overall startup community in the state.
“We also are trying to increase the pipeline of startups from very early stages,” Stolle said. “We recognize we can’t just go in and provide funding… to tech-based startups, but that, in fact, we’ve got to help grow the entire ecosystem within the Commonwealth.”
With the new name and resources, Stolle said that VIPC hopes it can get its programming in front of even more founders and continue its impact. But, he added, there’s also a chance to expand on the local ecosystem of Virginia’s tech scene and continue its growth.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to be a national leader when it comes to smart communities,” Stolle said. “So through this process, we will continue to deal with entrepreneurs, with founders that have unique experience and can help us grow the opportunities that exist.”