From RICHMONDINNO By Kaitlynn R. Copinger
A new innovation hub, 757 Startup Studios, is taking root in downtown Norfolk as space for Hampton Roads entrepreneurs to connect and grow.
The launch is yet another step in the evolution of the Hampton Roads startup ecosystem. It follows the 2015 launch of 757 Angels, an investor network, and the 2017 founding of 757 Accelerate, the region’s accelerator program.
“The Studios itself is going to allow us to create some entrepreneurial density,” said Monique Adams, 757 Angels executive director and 757 Accelerate board member.
By bringing together founders in the new Assembly building campus development, 757 Startup Studios offers a solution to one of the greatest challenges for the Hampton Roads region: its sprawl.
With more than 1.8 million people living within the geographically broad 757 area code that includes Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, founders have historically found it challenging to collaborate and connect.
“We’re going to show that we can collaborate,” Adams said. The new Studios will not only attract founders to the region, she believes, but should also attract venture capitalists who can see the Studios as a one-stop shop for discovering innovative companies.
The first spots at 757 Startup Studios will be filled by 12 inaugural tenants selected through a competitive application process. Each early stage, high-growth company will receive six months of rent-free tenancy, with the ability to apply for another six months of free rent if individual company milestones are reached.
“We are looking to remove the financial barriers that many cash-starved, early-stage companies experience in the earliest stages of their development,” Adams said.
In addition to providing workspace, 757 Studios will also provide regular programming for the in-house founders and the larger Hampton Roads entrepreneurial community, drawing on the expertise of 757’s 100-plus partner network.
Of the inaugural tenants, 83% include underrepresented founders, meaning women, people of color and veterans.
“It’s the first tangible way that people are going to view the startup ecosystem,” Adams said. “We wanted it to reflect the diverse population of the region and to celebrate our inclusive value system.”
Tenants are scheduled to move into the new space, which includes social distancing precautions, in mid-May. Once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, 757 Startup Studios will be able to accommodate 33 founders, including the 757 Accelerate participants.
The first group of tenants for 757 Startup Studios include:
- Modern Matter, a home fashion brand
- Frontline Gig, a gig work platform for green infrastructure maintenance by municipalities
- Magazine Jukebox, Inc., a digital magazine rack
- Precise Portions, a nutrition learning system that promotes healthy eating
- Global Branding Agency, a branding partner for independent apparel brands
- Innovative Warrior Technologies, a defense technology company
- Mayfair, a company that supports property and casualty insurers
- Storystorm.io, a custom visual storyteller
- 2E1B Lab, an environmental technology company
- CustomerDiscovery.co, a connector between founders and early adopters
- Realms, a social engagement platform for local retailers
- KarHappy, a concierge vehicle care service
In addition to the selected startups, the new Assembly building will also provide office space for 757 Angels and 757 Accelerate, the Techstars’ executive director for Hampton Roads, NavalX TechBridge and a representative for the Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Collaborative.