RIoT is partnering with Stafford, Virginia! When RIoT first began connecting with Stafford officials, it became clear that a fantastic match was about to be made. RIoT has always believed in and supported economic development and entrepreneurship regardless of location. According to Tom Snyder, Executive Director or RIoT, “The RIoT movement is not meant to be territorial. At RIoT, we aim to help everyone.” Stafford is a perfect example of a community willing to do what it takes to boost its support of local entrepreneurs and RIoT was eager to rise to the occasion.
Stafford County was actively seeking a way to encourage economic development in Stafford when John Holden, Stafford’s Director of Economic Development and Tourism, began conversations with the RIoT team.
“There was no place,” John said. “A lot of entrepreneurship tends to be elevated around a physical place – coworking spaces, coffee shops… Stafford doesn’t have that. It’s suburban.” When John began learning about RIoT’s work, the wheels began turning. “This could work,” he thought. Stafford had plans for a Downtown Stafford that would be built with the newest technologies and designed to meet Stafford’s residents and business community.
John Holden and Stafford County were spot on with what Stafford needed. They understood that place was important. Entrepreneurs need a space where they can convene, network, learn new skills and push the boundaries of each other’s ideas. They envisioned how Downtown Stafford, its smart city initiative, and Stafford’s cyber business community paired with RIoT’s accelerator program (RAP) could offer the region. The county also exercised great foresight in terms of what RIoT’s accelerator program (RAP) could offer the region.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a good startup accelerator program not only impacts the startups who directly participate, but the health of the region’s entire entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Accelerators have a positive impact on regional entrepreneurial ecosystems, particularly with regard to the financing environment. Metropolitan areas where an accelerator is established subsequently have more seed and early-stage entrepreneurial financing activity, which appears not to be restricted to accelerated startups themselves, but spills over to non-accelerated companies as well — occurring primarily from an increase in investors.”
Unlike other accelerator programs, RIoT takes no equity or capital from startup participants. Instead RIoT funds programming through its sponsor ecosystem and facilitating meaningful connections between organizations who have products that startups need to succeed.
Since the inception of the RIoT in 2014, startups RIoT has worked with have created 500+ jobs and raised over $325 million in capital.
Discussions about what it would take to open a RIoT Labs location that would offer collaboration space and accelerator programs in Stafford to serve startups and entrepreneurs in Stafford and the greater Richmond-DC corridor began about a year ago. RIoT began touring the region, meeting startups and entrepreneurs, and found that there was a high level of interest.
Coincidentally, Stafford is also a major hub for work around cybersecurity. With RIoT’s experience and expertise in cyber and smart city work, it became clear that RIoT was a great partner fit for a new initiative launched with support from GO Virginia. GO Virginia is an economic development initiative that supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education, and government to diversify and strengthen the economy in every region of the Commonwealth.
GO Virginia recently awarded a $75,000 grant to The Stafford County Economic Development Authority to implement an entrepreneur development program while leveraging Stafford’s cyber and information technology business community as Stafford has been identified as a “testbed” for smart city technologies.
Stafford and RIoT plan to work closely over the next year to build a strong entrepreneurial community, provide expertise, and bring educational and networking events to the Richmond-DC corridor with hopes of eventually creating a RIoT Labs in Stafford.
RIoT believes that the community of Stafford has what it takes to become its own economic powerhouse. While today, most of its residents commute to DC or Richmond, Stafford can become an entrepreneurial hub in its own right. The talent is there, the drive is there and RIoT is thrilled to integrate into the Stafford community and support the goals and dreams of its upcoming entrepreneurs.