Activation Council

Guiding the Innovation Ecosystem

The Activation Council, as an anchor for the knowledge-based innovation and entrepreneurial community, provides the leadership and vision for the Richmond regional innovation ecosystem with a willingness to invent, take and manage risks, and share credit for success.

  • Forum for collaboration and coordinated innovation activities amongst stakeholders in the region.
  • Set goals and metrics for innovation for the Region and monitor progress toward goals.
  • Identify gaps in the innovation ecosystem and lead efforts to identify sources to fill gaps in the region.
  • Identify gaps in capital requirements and lead efforts to provide the financial means to sustain a successful innovation ecosystem.
  • Craft message for marketing organizations at the local, regional, and statewide levels of innovation excellence to help in recruitment, retention, and expansion.
a collage of images from activation council events

Activation Council Guiding Principles

  • The Activation Council is a forum for collaboration and coordinated innovation activities amongst stakeholders in the region.
  • The primary customer of proposed strategies and funding is to support the entrepreneur/ innovator as well as the intrepreneur.
  • The Activation Council will work with key players in the innovation ecosystem to identify gaps and lead efforts to identify strategies and tactics to fill the gaps in the region.
  • The Activation Council will have a bias toward existing, proven players in the ecosystem versus creating new organizations.
  • The Activation Council will, when appropriate, provide one-time capital to jump start key priorities.
  • In addition to one-time capital, the Activation Council will, as appropriate, provide limited ongoing support for necessary financial needs to ensure ecosystem support is sustainable after an initial capital outlay.
  • The Activation Council will commit to an evolving three-year strategic vision and plan with a corresponding funding strategy – adjusting based upon results and emerging needs.
  • The Activation Council will request and monitor key success metrics from any supported organization to ensure Activation Council capital is used appropriately.
  • The Activation Council will set goals and metrics in innovation for the region and monitor progress toward goals.

Ecosystem Gaps and Strategies

Over several months, members of the Activation Council steering and community engagement teams listened to and engaged with dozens of key players in the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Based on this feedback, the team has developed an overview of key gaps the Activation Council believes can and should be filled with specific strategies and tactics.

Brand Awareness

Richmond’s regional entrepreneurial culture is not as well-known or celebrated as other comparable cities.  This leads to less ecosystem support, fewer successful entrepreneurs and less support for existing entrepreneurs.  It also creates a void in attracting and retaining talent in emerging industries.

Strategy – Elevate the region: Using national best practices (e.g. Austin, TX – SXSW, Charlottesville – TomTom festival, Pittsburgh – Thrival), develop and launch an annual Richmond region entrepreneurial festival – ideally tied to established regional celebration(s) (e.g. Folk Festival, Techtober, Venture Forum RVA Companies to Watch, Film Festival).

Coordination of Resources

The Richmond region needs a way to coordinate and make accessible a living resource guide focused on the needs of entrepreneurs and related individuals/organizations to engage in the ecosystem.

Strategy – Create, administer and maintain a platform for a resource guide with both online access and supported front door access (for entrepreneurs and related individuals/organizations that prefer in-person interaction v. web resources) from one or more entities.

Accelerate Business Formation

Richmond needs more acceleration programming to assist local entrepreneurs, attract entrepreneurs from other places, and raise the region’s profile and reputation as an emerging entrepreneur center.

Strategy – Challenge Lighthouse Labs to expand its capabilities and provide financial support (via a challenge grant) to enable growth. Support VCU Venture Lab.

Metrics of Innovation

Because of our population size, the Richmond region/MSA is often not included in various rankings from organizations across the nation.  We need to change the conversation about how we stack up against the “top 40” who are ranked.

Strategy – Build upon metrics report from Activation Council – including engagement of outside resources based on national best practices.

Fostering Innovation

Creating an environment for start-ups and scale-ups to succeed is in the interest of all – including major innovative companies and the public sector to diversify and grow the regional economy.

Strategy – Activate our thought leaders to identify and increase awareness of current policy in support of activity – and future opportunities for regional partners to share in this strategy.

Corporate Innovation+Intrapreneurship 

Engage and activate corporate innovation leaders, managers, and intrapreneurs to share: i) best practices, ii) innovation platforms, processes, tools, iii) leadership development and training methods, iv) cultural transformation strategies, and v) innovation ecosystem engagement and partnership models (including but not limited to use of/need for incubators, accelerators, and labs).

Strategy – Identify & map corporate innovation & intrepranuership efforts in the Richmond Region. Launch a corporate innovation & intrapreneurship round table to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and foster synergies amongst innovative businesses.  Initiate a TEDxRVA or TEDxRVA Salon on corporate innovation & intrapreneurship to educate broader community on innovation approaches to existing businesses.


  • Chandra Briggman, President & CEO, Activation Capital

  • Michael Rao, Ph.D., Chair – President, VCU

  • Jen Finn, Vice Chair, Strategic Advisor and Angel Investor

  • The Honorable Caren Merrick, Secretary of Commerce & Trade, Commonwealth of Virginia

  • The Hon. Levar Stoney, Mayor, City of Richmond

  • Karen Booth Adams, CEO, Hot Technology Holdings

  • Brian Anderson, CEO, ChamberRVA

  • John Budesky, Hanover County Administrator

  • Joe Casey, Ph.D., Chesterfield County Administrator

  • Elizabeth Creamer, Vice President of Workforce Development & Credential Attainment, Community College Workforce Alliance

  • Robert Klein, Managing Director Engineering, Altria Client Services

  • P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Innovation, VCU

  • Lisa Sims, CEO, Venture Richmond

  • John Vithoulkas, Henrico County Manager

  • Garret Westlake, Ph.D., Executive Director, VCU DaVinci Center

  • Richard Winstch, Executive Director, Startup Virginia