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December 13, 2 019
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Virginia Innovation Report Feedback Session (today at 1 p.m.)
Ecosystem-Building Projects in the Shenandoah Valley
Invitation to Collaborate - Byrd School of Business (Shenandoah University)
Launch Harrisonburg | 9-Week Program for Aspiring Entrepreneurs (app. deadline 1/13)
College for Kids | James Madison University (1/11th - 2/14)
Tech Bytes Tech Talks: Artificial Intelligence (12/4)
The Ethics of Technology Series: World Without Mind (1/30)
ICAP Lean Startup Introductory Course | Harrisonburg (app. due 2/17)
Shenandoah Valley Open Tech Jobs
Rocktown Tech Slack Channel Link
Virginia Innovation Report Feedback Session 
(today at 1 p.m.)

In Nicky's welcome on Thursday, December 5th at the pre-session legislative breakfast, she mentioned the Virginia Innovation Report, published in Nov, which is the result of Undersecretary for Technology's feedback-gathering with stakeholders across the state. In the report, he proposes to support the entire life cycle of innovation, from translational research to entrepreneurship, to pre-seed and seed-stage funding, to acceleration, growth, and commercialization, ... enhancing Virginia 's tech-based econ. development. The mechanism? An authority that will focus narrowly on helping Virginia grow new technology-based businesses and conduct research. The authority also would touch on marketing and improving access to capital.

The Virginia Department of Commerce and Trade released the report on its website []

We've scheduled a conversation with Undersecretary Demeria for 12/13, 1 pm, via Zoom. Anyone interested in participating, send us a message at and we'll share the Zoom info.

Report intro:
It was well documented in TEConomy's January 2018 report, Research-Asset Assessment Study, that Virginia is behind peer states and the country in the commercialization of research, technology innovation, and overall high-growth tech-enabled entrepreneurial success. Some of the critical findings from TEConomy were Virginia's limited funding for de-risking university technologies, the conflicts universities face between "revenue maximization" and "value creation", lagging in formal venture capital funding at seed and early-stage, and lack of scale of coordinated regional innovation efforts to name a few.

For the past two decades in Virginia, there has not been a single entity, but many agencies and various programs working to fill the above-stated need. Of those agencies, the two with the most significant impact are the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA), created in 2009, and the Virginia Research Investment Committee (VRIC), created in 2016. Both work to de-risk university technologies, but insignificant funding levels yield limited returns compared to other states. Only the IEIA addresses seed and early-stage funding, however it has been subject to significant budget reductions over the last decade. Neither entity in statute is responsible for coordinating and supporting regional innovation economies. In both cases, it is the structure of the statute and the appropriation level that most hinder their progress and success. The time for structural legislation of a new, consolidated Authority for innovation and new tech-based economic development is now! []

Ecosystem-Building Projects in the Shenandoah Valley
You may know that several ecosystem-building projects are underway here in the region and that many local (Shen. Valley) organizations and city/county governments are involved with them, incl. the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council. (As a matter of fact, Nicky Swayne was able to receive training for a process called Strategic Doing - which was used in several of these. It's fascinating how well this process works. In essence: Strategic Doing teaches people how to form collaborations quickly, move them toward measurable outcomes and make adjustments along the way. Here is a SD one-pager (PDF))

More and more, there are VISIBLE pipelines of entrepreneurial resources for all to use.

Several recent initiatives:
  • Staunton Creative Community Fund (SCCF) partnership with DHCD on a Shenandoah Valley Cohort to identify entrepreneurial assets (June 2018)
  • Virginia Research Investment Committee and TEConomy Partners' study, Regional Entrepreneurial Assessment Project for Region 8 Shenandoah Valley (December 2018)
  • Virginia Provosts' Initiative for Integrated Economic Development funded a JMU grant (which used the Strategic Doing process) and involved several community teams who developed projects, incl. the Valley Innovation Roadmap (January 2019) The roadmap can be found here: SVIC website
  • GO VA Region 8 Council's creation of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Advisory Committee (E2) led by a Coordinator or "Quarterback" to connect people, knowledge & programs (July 2019).
    • A working group of E2 is currently developing a GOVA grant application for spring 2020 submission for a region-wide startup acceleration program for deeper and extended support for entrepreneurs as they launch and grow their businesses.
  • Virginia Business Magazine recognized several ecosystem builders from Region 8 in their 100 People to Meet in 2020 article in categories Rainmaker, Educator, and Angel (December 2019) (Congratulations to these fine folks who are also SVTC members :-) Debbie Irwin, Mary Lou Bourne, and Jay Langston! (Is there a correlation? LOL)
  • Innovate | Shenandoah -sponsored by SCCF and the VA Department of Housing and Community Development- hosted several day-long planning sessions (using Strategic Doing) for loosely-knit local groups and communities to develop projects that highlight entrepreneurship and economic vibrancy in their communities. Three of these were/will be awarded $3,000. (Seeing that the Dollar amount is not actually the most important element of these initiatives, it is the fact that those willing to step up and move entrepreneurial things forward -with measurable goals and adjustment along the way- come together and move in sync; things get done. Three Valley localities participated - ask me what their project are! 
By the way, one of the work products the Shen. Valley Cohort (see 1st bullet) produced is a resource directory, now gathered together and facilitated by the SVIC website: It currently contains 54 organizations or programs to support entrepreneurs in the Valley (December 2019). The resource directory is the first step in identifying and sharing with others (in and out of the region) the startup assets that are offered. The directory is a simple yet powerful means of awareness and connection. An entrepreneur/ business owner can search resources and filter results to support what they are looking for or the stage they may be in. Please try out the Resource Directory and see what you can learn and share it with others. All information can be searched by word, city/zip, region served, resource category, and roadmap-stage to make assets we have in the Valley visible and accessible. If you see something that needs to be changed or added, please let us know: resources can be added by clicking the "Submit Resource Organization" on the SVIC site. The submissions go to Mary Lou Bourne and are reviewed/approved for posting. 

We'd also like to publish entrepreneurial success stories, so if you have one to tell, please send it to me. 
PS: One more resource to be aware of: Shenandoah Valley Angel Investors (in existence since 2015)

Invitation to Collaborate -  Byrd School of Business
(Shenandoah University)

Below you will find a message from Christine Custis, assistant professor at the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business (, regarding possible partnerships. Please take a moment to read through her request: 

"Greetings from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia!

I'm a professor in the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business focusing on information systems and technology and I'm reaching out to build partnerships with organizations in our community that are working in areas that align with the mission and vision of the school.

AI Institute
I'll be spending time this Fall preparing a grant proposal for the  National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes which is a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.   This is an exciting opportunity for the Byrd School of Business to get funding to set up an Artificial Intelligence Institute to bolster education and technical skills in the entire Shenandoah Valley! 

Partner Engagement
As a part of this new institute, we want to form partnerships and to engage with you on special projects such as:
  • financial support we can offer to your cause
  • workforce development to retrain your employees
  • STEM training for area youth
  • internship opportunities for college students
  • training and education for Veterans
  • tech talks and speaker series for area business
  • collaboration with area schools in their quest to provide AI education  
  • other needs that your organization may have

STEP 1:  Join an Information Session
Please make plans to join an information session about the forthcoming institute and how it can support and align with your organizational strategy and goals.  Take a moment to fill in the  Doodle Poll and mark every time that would work for you to participate.  We'll choose the date(s) that work best and set up a call.  Feel free to  invite others whom you believe would benefit from the information.

STEP 2:  Write a Letter of Collaboration
After participating in the call and getting answers to any questions you may have, we would love for you to write a short paragraph expressing your interest to  collaborate with The Byrd School of Business Artificial Intelligence Institute.  This brief letter of  collaboration will simply state that "If the proposal submitted by The Shenandoah University Byrd School of Business for resources to support an AI Institute is selected for funding by the NSF, it is my intent to  collaborate".

Thanks in advance for your consideration and please reach out with questions and requests."

College for Kids | James Madison University  (1/11th - 2/14)

January 11th - February 15th, 2020 (6 Saturdays) 
9 am - 12 pm | JMU Memorial Hall, Harrisonburg

College for Kids is an enrichment program for children in grades rising K-8. Children will work with James Madison University faculty and graduate students, as well as experts from the community and surrounding area, to try new things, explore and discover talents they never knew they had! This program will be held on 6 Saturdays, January 11th - February 15th, 2020.

Technology-related sessions will also be offered. A few are:
  • Coding: Scratch Programming (Grades 4 - 6): This class lets students design their own interactive stories, games and animations while learning basic coding concepts. They will learn how to make characters move around the screen, interact with other characters and respond to sound effects.
  • LEGO Engineering (Grades 1 - 5): This class is for young Lego enthusiasts who are ready to delve into the world of engineering and computer coding. Participants will work in teams to build and program their Lego creations using the We-Do Lego curriculum. Each day, students will be presented with a different challenge designed to spark their creativity and put their technical problem solving skills to work.
  • 3D Art (Grades 3 - 5): In this 3D art class, students will explore using both contemporary and classic mediums, while creating sculpture and collage pieces, out of a variety of materials, from foil, to joint compound and clay. Several modern artists will be featured. The final class will feature an "art show" of each students work on display!
For more information, please contact Melissa Heatwole at or (540) 568-4226.
More information and additional course options:


Launch Harrisonburg | 9-Week Program for Aspiring Entrepreneurs  (app. deadline 1/13)
The City of  Harrisonburg Economic Development Department is ready to help aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs launch their new ideas into the stratosphere. All they need now is you!

LAUNCH HARRISONBURG - Powered by  CO.STARTERS will work with aspiring entrepreneurs across the city to develop and fine-tune their ideas, critically examining their goals and helping plan next steps through real-time feedback from experienced colleagues in the community. The nine-week bootcamp is an action-driven, collaborative process with a small and supportive group of like-minded people that will help class members identify their assumptions about why and how their businesses will work and then talk to customers in order to validate their ideas.

LAUNCH HARRISONBURG is based on the CO.STARTERS model, a nationally-based program that has been proven to jump-start entrepreneurial ideas and provide a foundation for success. The cohort will be facilitated by two dynamic, local entrepreneurs: Andy Vanhook, co-founder of Appeal Production, and Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah, founder of PrePOPsterous. The cohort will also feature guest speakers providing guidance on marketing, accounting, incorporating and more.
"We are excited about the prospect of working closely with aspiring entrepreneurs to equip them with the insights, relationships and tools needed to turn business ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving business," Harrisonburg Economic Development Director Brian Shull said. "We're looking for people with an idea for a unique local business who has a dream of starting something special that we can help bring to fruition."

The deadline to apply to be a member of the first LAUNCH HARRISONBURG cohort is January 13, 2020. The cost is $195 for residents and businesses located in Harrisonburg, and $275 for non-residents and businesses. To assist interested participants, we do offer a payment plan. The first cohort launches on February 4, 2020.

Find more information about the program at, or call 540-432-7701 to speak with a Harrisonburg Economic Development team member.

Tech Bytes Tech Talks: Artificial Intelligence (1/22)

January 22, 2019 | 6:00 pm

Lord Fairfax Community College is hosting monthly technology discussion with technology professionals from around that nation. The public is invited, but registration is required. Most talks will occur at the Middletown Campus, but they will be distancing the presentation to their Fauquier Campus also. 

Upcoming talk: 

January 22, 2020, 6:00pm - Gary McGraw, Berryville Institute of Machine Learning


Future sessions:
  • February 19, 2020, 6:00pm - Kay Connelly, Infomatics, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • March 11, 2020, 1:00pm - Richard Danzig, Retired Secretary of the Navy
  • April 8 2020, 6:00pm - Heather Wilson, Analytics, L Brands
Talks are scheduled for one hour and Q&A, except for the 11/16 session which is a two hour presentation.

The Ethics of Technology Series: World Without Mind  (1/30)
January 30, 2020 | 5:00 pm
Stackhouse Theater, Lexington

ICAP Lean Startup Introductory Course | Harrisonburg 
(app. due 2/17)


Based on the National Science Foundation's I-Corps™ program for Lean Startups, ICAP helps inventors and entrepreneurs take the right first steps in bringing new technologies and innovations to market.

ICAP includes FREE introductory training programs and counseling services offered through ICAP instructors and local SBDC counselors. ICAP helps startups identify potential customers and develop successful business models based on that knowledge. It is an ideal program for early-stage companies trying to prepare for eventual venture investment.

Important Dates
February 17, 2020 - Applications are due by midnight; see the link below.
February 19, 2020 - Acceptance notifications and communication with next steps and instructions, including how to prepare for the first session.
TBD - 6:00pm - 8:00pm - Introductory Conference Call
March 2, 2020 - 9:00am - 5:00pm - Initial Team Presentations
March 16, 2020 - Each team participates in a pre-scheduled telephone review of the team's Customer Discovery Progress over the first week
March 23, 2020 - 9:00am - 2:00pm - Final Team Presentations

During this introductory 2-week program, there is extensive work done outside the classroom. In addition to the class meetings and webinar, participants should expect to spend another 10-15 hours per week on customer discovery and course assignments. At the conclusion of the program, you will remain connected with your ICAP trainers and SBDC Business Advisors to continue your progress on the Five Steps to Startup Success over the following 12 months.
The introductory program is designed to generate a maximum impact over a relatively short duration and should be considered a required first step for anyone interested in commercializing a technology or product, whether through a startup or licensing arrangement. Some graduates of this cohort may be eligible to apply to NSF's full National Seven-week I-Corps Program, which includes non-dilutive grants for customer discovery and prototype development. Additionally, this program can help teams develop better submissions for SBIR and CRCF grants from Virginia's Center for Innovative Technologies.

Your ICAP Instructor
Bob Smith is currently the Director of the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a program funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and administered by George Mason University and the  Virginia Small Business Development Center Network (VSBDC). Here he helps researchers, inventors, and technology startups develop their technology commercialization and technology business startup efforts. He's also an instructor with the  NSF's DC I-Corp Node.

Bob has 30+ years' experience in innovation and entrepreneurship. He is the Chairman of, a leading college rankings website. He's held senior management positions at Congressional Quarterly and America Online in sales, marketing, and new product development and was the founder and CEO of the first nation-wide online city guide, Digital City. As an executive, angel investor, and advisor he has helped companies in e-commerce, e-government, identity management, content publishing, geospatial analytics, data science, and local media go from launch through to favorable exits.

Bob received a BA from USC and his MBA from GWU. He is a veteran of the US Navy.

For more information email:

This cohort is hosted by the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center, Shenandoah Valley Technology Council, and the Center for Innovative Technology.

  • Augusta County Service Authority, Verona (Systems Analyst/Developer)
  • Generate Impact, Harrisonburg (Director of Business Development)
  • Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center (Technology Manager)
  • Virginia Eagle Distributing, Verona (Digital Sales Administrator)
  • Sproutly, New Market (UX Designer)
  • Vision Technology Group, Harrisonburg (Tier III Network Engineer)
  • Budget Referee, Harrisonburg (Full Stack Developer with front end web development focus)
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