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Innovation and Entrepreneurship

When it comes to creative solutions and bold ideas, lately Richmond has been making waves. Designated one of Forbes’s top 10 up-and-coming cities for entrepreneurs and one of FastCompany’s 2012 top 10 most underrated hotbeds of innovation, the city has been quietly building up an ambitious network of startups, incubators, and small businesses.

The largest of these is Tumblr, which in 2011 opened a second office in Richmond’s Manchester district, but a host of smaller companies and offices specializing in mobile app development, web design and development, commerce platforms, biotech, and more dot the city landscape. Advertising is big business in the River City as well, with the nationally known Martin Agency (responsible for campaigns like the Geico Gecko ads) leading the flock of companies looking to push the creative envelope.

Starting up a business might seem like a lonely endeavor, but Richmond has approached innovation and entrepreneurial development with its characteristic community focus. The Greater Richmond Chamber encourages the growth of a diverse startup landscape through programs like its i.e.* initiative, which is responsible for the Entrepreneurial Trilogy, a series of events that helps entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground and culminates in the annual Start-Up Competition. The Venture Forum, a regional group, also provides support and information to budding entrepreneurs. The University of Richmond’s own Business Pitch Competition and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Venture Creation Competition and newly opened Transitional Research Innovation Projects technology incubator bring students’ energy and plans to the city table. Events like TEDxRVA ensure a continuous flow of fresh ideas throughout the city, stimulating conversation and creation.

At a grassroots level, Feast RVA takes a “democratic and delicious” approach to connecting creative talent with funding through its series of dinners at which participants listen to project presentations and vote on which one should receive the night’s pool of money. RVA Startup Weekends offer entrepreneurs workshops and a chance to pitch ideas, make connections, and get crucial feedback. The recently inaugurated RVA Hackathon brings together creative professionals in a 12-hour event to develop an idea and create a prototype. New types of offices, like the 804RVA co-working space, are also springing up to bring creative professionals together in a collaborative environment.