Adam Sledd, Director of the DEIC ruminates on his recent Richmond repatriation…
“My family and I moved back to the Richmond area three months ago after nine years in Washington D.C., and it’s been amazing to spend the summer re-learning the Richmond region. Every corner of our community has sprouted something new while I was away, whether that’s the budding of a local industry like the brewery scene or major residential and commercial developments cropping up all across Hanover County. Every time I sit down with an old friend to catch up I hear about a new business or project that has its own plan to help grow some piece of the region’s economy. Ultimately, this is why I’ve moved back -- because while this has always been a great place to work and raise a family, it’s also continually evolving as a fantastic place to grow a business. I joined the Dominion Energy Innovation Center because I am excited about playing a part in this region’s continued economic growth story, and because DEIC is just beginning to define the next stage of its impact in Ashland and beyond.”
DEIC marks its ten-year anniversary as an organization this October, and although the name and key players have changed a few times the organization’s core mission remains largely unchanged. DEIC was envisioned as a space for companies to start, grow, and receive the resources they need to eventually expand beyond our walls and into the community. Initially the focus was on clean energy innovation, making this one of the country’s first non-academic cleantech incubators. Over time that focus has grown to include all types of innovative startups from agricultural technology to cybersecurity. Through our programs and partnerships with Dominion Energy, Activation Capital, and Randolph Macon College, DEIC has proven itself as an attractive collaborator for some of the region’s brightest startup companies.
Today we are looking ahead to the next evolution in DEIC’s growth. The central Virginia entrepreneurial picture looks a lot different now than it did in 2009. Downtown Richmond is home to organizations and spaces that can stand toe to toe with anyone in the country. The Commonwealth provides millions of dollars in funding for entrepreneurship programs. Our venture capital ecosystem is strong and growing every year to fill the gaps between seed and series A/B/C funding for Virginia startups. From Lighthouse Labs to SCORE mentoring, downtown Richmond offers all the resources a business founder needs to thrive in 2019. What I’ve found in the past three months is that those resources don’t all extend from the downtown area out into the rest of the region. Not every new business will build around a high-tech model, and not every entrepreneur will find time to drive to Short Pump or downtown for a coworking space, a networking event, or a panel on how to improve your digital marketing. There needs to be a bridge that connects the abundance of resources downtown with entrepreneurs—and future entrepreneurs—in Ashland, Hanover, and further out.
DEIC is expanding outward to be that bridge. In addition to myself, Ian Ragland has joined DEIC as our Program Manager and marketing expert. Ten years into DEIC’s mission we are going to open our doors a little wider, develop new programs to serve the business community, and continue to be a place for entrepreneurs to build the future. We hope that you’ll join us in that endeavor as a member, a mentor, or an event participant. If you would like to learn more about the space and what we’re working on please check out the website at www.dominnovation.com or come visit us on Duncan Street.