The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) is partnering with the Region I Workforce Investment Board, the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, the WV Small Business Development Center, New River Community and Technical College, the Raleigh County Commission, and a private foundation to establish a regional business accelerator and network of modern flex office spaces in southern West Virginia.
NRGRDA is addressing a need which regional entrepreneurs have identified through providing temporary and professional office space as well as an intricate and mentor based business accelerator to assist businesses start-up, expand or relocate to West Virginia. Each flex-office space will be called The Hive, and distinguish which city it is located within. This physical and virtual network of space and access to training will work to support the mission of the project. That mission is to support, educate, and increase economically sustainable businesses that will create employment opportunities strategically aligned with the areas of existing opportunities in the New and Greenbrier River Valleys.
The NRGRDA accelerator program will be structured around a curriculum that helps entrepreneurs craft detailed business plans that ensure each graduate has the necessary acumen to succeed. With a 360 degree screening process, each business will educate and complete each sector of their Business Model(1) and Course Track(2) before presenting to the acceleration graduation board. This year-long process will include instruction and guidance for each business molding their business concept, market and industry focus, operations, organization, and customer relations plan. The graduation board will be comprised of seed funders, venture capitalists, local municipalities, community business owners, and property owners; all of whom will make offers to assist graduating businesses that they feel offer the most promise. This will allow local individuals to incentivize graduates to choose a specific location in which to establish and grow their business.
Ideally, each graduate will leave with a pitch book and business plan that would aid in any future investment conversation, partnership involvement, and/or community buy-in. The number of jobs created, jobs retained, capital infusion, and successful start-ups sparked by these new companies will be measured over time so that our region can truly realize the impact of supporting entrepreneur development on a local level.
Adding an additional resource to the region, this accelerator will be housed virtually throughout a network of modern and technologically advanced facilities, which will allow participants to access training from any part of the region. As these flex office spaces open throughout southern West Virginia, diversification of the region’s entrepreneurial climate will begin creating local jobs, and the economy will build and accelerate local industry growth in each community. In addition to Beckley, spaces will be developed in locations like Fayetteville, Summersville, Hinton, and Lewisburg. This will allow people throughout the region to access these resources easily and without increased expense. Each space will be funded through a combination of grants, public/private partnerships, virtual office fees, and memberships.
By the end of 2015, the NRGRDA hopes to establish the first flex office space The Hive – Beckley, establish a university research partnership, engage the 1st accelerator participant class, launch the website, finalize the accelerator curriculum, and arrange capital to fund a seed fund account for accelerator graduates. A 3D rendering of the Beckley space is attached.
In 2016, the NRGRDA plans to establish two more flex office spaces in Lewisburg and Hinton, increase seed fund capital, graduate the first class of accelerator participants, schedule the 2nd class of participants, and hire a full time director and/or commercialization specialist. In 2017, additional flex office spaces will be added in Fayetteville and Summersville.
(1) Course Track 1 (Startups): “Lean Startup” course with mentorship, and guest instructors, that will shape and define a Startups Business Model to produce a “Minimal Viable Product” or “MVP for market testing.
Course Track 1 Graduates will be eligible for seed funding after successful demonstration and market testing of their MVP
(2) Course Track 2 (Existing Businesses with 3 or more years, and Startups in business from 2- 3 years: Participants will define their 360 business model portfolio encompassing:
- BUSINESS CONCEPT: Business Idea, Product Portfolio, Revenue Model, Customer Portfolio, Market Position
- CUSTOMER RELATIONS: Networking, Marketing, Communications & PR, Branding
- OPERATIONS: Financials, Funding, Production & Deliveries, IT Systems, Facilities
- ORGANIZATION: Ownership & Board, Employees, Partnerships, Business Processes, Legal Issues
Course Track 2 Graduates will be eligible for soliciting and pitching their 360 degree Business to prospective investors, to layered funding as well as a “Bid for Business” competition networking competitive property owners and municipalities willing to incentivize Entrepreneurs.
Also catering to Prospect Businesses’ testing the WV Market:
(1) Prospective Businesses’ Outside State Looking to Test Market & Not Ready for Brick & Mortar, & Businesses’ Who also do Business State Wide Looking for Temporary Touch Down Office & Conference Space not geographically centralized.
KEY MARKET SEGMENTS IDENTIFIED:
|• Biotechnology• Business Products and Services
• Clean Technology
• Consumer Products and Services
• Financial Services
• Software (SaaS)
• Internet E-Commerce
|• IT Services• Life Sciences
• Media and Entertainment
• Medical Devices and Equipment
• Networking and Equipment
• Back Office Operations
• Forestry/Wood Products
• Agribusiness/Food Distribution