News Column

'Mosh pit' in Williamsburg will test startup company ideas

August 15, 2014

By Steve Vaughan, The Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg

Aug. 15--WILLIAMSBURG -- Area businesses people were asked to put their money behind launching new businesses in the region that will provide jobs for the future as part of a program called START! Peninsula 3.0.

The idea, as explained by Tom Flake, director of the Peninsula Technology Incubator, is a 54-hour "mosh pit of business" over the weekend of Nov. 14-16, During that time up to 35 potential entrepreneurs can present ideas to a group of business professionals. The best idea will win up to $5,000 in start up capital, while the top ten get 90 days of free office support from the business incubator.

"Ninety-five percent of jobs are created by small companies," Flake told a larger than usual crowd at the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority's monthly business roundtable Tuesday at Fat Tuna restaurant.

START! is also looking for sponsors at levels ranging $500-$10,000 for the event. Flake hopes to build a network of "angel investors" in Hampton Roads to spur new business and make the region a place "people want to move to instead of move from."

He said it's a big job because the culture in Hampton Roads is "risk adverse."

"If you fail in business here, people don't want to do business with you anymore," he said. "if you fail in a place like Silicon Valley people say, 'Well, now that you've got that experience what do you want to do next?'"

That brought laughter from the crowd.

"You laugh, but it's true," Flake continued. "In Silicon Valley there are five or six entrepreneurs for every 1,000 people. In Hampton Roads it's 1.8 per 1,000 people. If we could raise that rate to just 2 per 1,000 that would create 20,000 jobs a year in Hampton Roads."

In the previous two START! Peninsula campaigns the winners were a high tech business that is trying to manufacture ambient energy batteries, and a service company that wants to provide concierge services to caregivers for the elderly.

This year's session is being jointly hosted by Williamsburg, James City County and York County. It takes place at the Mason School of Business.

Vaughan can be reached at 757-345-2343.


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Source: Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg)

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