Research and Scholarship

State Leaders Launch 'Virginia is for Entrepreneurs'


SUMMARY: Working with economic development and startup investment professionals from across the state, including the Shenandoah Valley, VA4E seeks to better equip the Commonwealth's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

By Lindsay Grohowski (’19), JMU Research & Scholarship

On December 11th, then Governor McAuliffe, Senator Warner and Governor-Elect Ralph Northam launched an initiative called ‘Virginia is for Entrepreneurs’ or ‘VA4E’, which aims to broaden access to funding across the Commonwealth and match entrepreneurs with investors and vice versa. This initiative grew out of a meeting initiated by Senator Warner, Governor McAuliffe, and Karen Jackson, who served in the McAuliffe Administration as Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth. These public officials engaged and challenged a working group of private sector leaders across Virginia: 

  • Village Capital (NOVA)

  • NRV (Richmond)

  • 757 Angels (Hampton Roads)

  • Shenandoah Valley Angel Investors (Harrisonburg)

  • I.Lab at UVA (Charlottesville)

  • LaunchPlace (Danville)

  • UVA-Wise (Wise)

  • APEX Center at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg)

  • Virginia Tech Research Center (Newport News)

Governor McAuliffe stressed that the initiative will “open new doors for local start-ups by increasing access to the capital they need to thrive and create good-paying jobs.” One of the ways in which the initiative works is through a simple web interface where any entrepreneur in Virginia can apply for funding and be connected with more than 75 investor partners.

Mary Lou Bourne, James Madison University’s Director of Technology Innovation & Economic Development, who also serves as the Executive Director of James Madison Innovations, was appointed to the board of the 501(c)(3) for Virginia is for Entrepreneurs to ensure further development of this initiative. Bourne said “VA4E is a first step initiative to connect capital across the state in order to build the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Virginia.”  In the past, Virginia has lost entrepreneurs to Maryland and North Carolina.  Supporters of VA4E hope the initiative will enhance Virginia’s position when competing against other states and regions.

The Shenandoah Valley became involved with this initiative through the region’s angel group, Shenandoah Valley Angel Investors (SVAI)  and the Shenandoah Valley Innovation Coalition (SVIC). Bourne worked with local business investors to create the SVAI, a network of private investors that help fund technology startup companies in the Valley, in 2015. Both of these groups, and their visibility in and connections to the community, earned the Valley a spot on the map and on the board for this state-wide effort.

Next steps in the VA4E initiative will include developing training and mentoring support for entrepreneurs. This not only benefits the Valley and the Commonwealth, but is pertinent to the success of JMU faculty and students who are looking to start and grow their own creative ventures.

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Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Last Updated: Saturday, January 25, 2020

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