Activation Capital and nationally-recognized Opportunity Hub accelerate black and brown tech founder community in Central Virginia with successful pilot program
[Richmond, VA] Activation Capital, a leading entrepreneurship and ecosystem development organization, announced a co-investment in Richmond-based Sudsy Soles, a luxury refurbishment marketplace, with Atlanta-based Opportunity Hub (OHUB), a leading technology startup organization committed to increasing racial equity in tech ecosystems. Sudsy Soles’s founder and CEO, Rashad Sanders, was among 75 entrepreneurs participating in a pilot program designed to increase the participation of black and brown founders in Central Virginia’s high-growth community. Sanders secured a $50,000 investment to help build and scale Sudsy Soles.
Rashad, a self-proclaimed sneaker enthusiast who loves technology and entrepreneurship said, “When I found out I won I was in disbelief. I heard them but it took me a second to process what happened because for me it’s been a long road to get to this point. The program really has helped me hone in my value proposition and being in the community gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing. The structure also was incredibly helpful because it had built-in accountability checks. This has been such a memorable experience and incredibly humbling.”
The initiative began with over 75 founders from across Virginia participating in intensive educational programming at the Bio+Tech Park with a broad mix of national and regional instructors and mentors. The top ten performers received individualized mentorship and support to prepare them to launch and secure funding for their high-growth ventures.
Speaking about the program, Fitness Dawgs co-founder Dr. Kim Evans said, “Participation in the program allowed us to more clearly define our tech solution to address the problem of childhood obesity. More importantly, we gained a better understanding of the necessity to better understand our customer to better meet their needs.”
Her co-founder Dr. Addie Briggs continued, “The program leaders introduced us to a new world and language of investors and provided insight, based on their experience as start-up founders, to guide us on our journey.”
The top ten founders pitched their ventures for a chance at investment. Startup Virginia and the Capital One 1717 Innovation Center hosted the event with Activation Capital. Startup Virginia also generously granted a 3-month membership to the top ten finalists.Top finalists included:
Invoice Supply – Real-time Spanish translation of construction documents. Carlos Jimenez Morales
Whypothesis – Intelligent decision-making in a chaotic world. Cartwright Foreman
Sudsy Soles – Marketplace for high-end shoe refurbishment. Rashad Sanders
Edenic Energy – Energy consumption monitoring and management for small buildings. Thomas L. Hunter Jr.
Offer Out – On-the-go contract processing for real estate investors. Diane Williams
Broaden Your Board – Verified talent platform to fill diverse board seats. Vanessa Womack
oTrep – Web3 for the creative economy. DJ Little
Qualified – Search engine finds jobs based on your skills. Tanisha Carter
The Republic of Soap – Hypoallergenic soap formulations for kids of color. Dr. Amy Paul
“This pilot connected us with 75 black and brown entrepreneurs in Virginia, many of whom were not involved in our ecosystem prior, ” says Chandra Briggman, President and CEO of Activation Capital. “To increase high-growth company formation, we must be responsive to the specific needs of various entrepreneur profiles that exist in the region. The pilot allowed us to test a variety of tactics for engaging an underrepresented population. Informed by the pilot’s learnings, we are able to develop a framework and playbook for creating a pipeline of diverse, backable founders who can contribute to the growing regional ecosystem.”
Rodney Sampson, Chairman and CEO of OHUB stated, “Opportunity Hub is excited to welcome SudsySoles to our national ecosystem as a portfolio company; and even more excited to see the seeds that we’ve planted in the Greater Richmond community in collaboration with Activation Capital continue to bear fruit. High Growth Company Building is an important part of ensuring that Black communities are equitably included in the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. We look forward to continuing the work we’ve started in the region.”
The pilot program was made possible through funding from Altria.
In addition to OHUB, the pilot was supported by Lighthouse Labs, Startup Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the da Vinci Center at VCU, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, the Jackson Ward Collective, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, and GO Virginia.
The initiative began a sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion effort across Central Virginia and the Commonwealth. Activities are based in Central Virginia, but open to entrepreneurs from across the Commonwealth.
To stay updated on the latest news and events, visit www.activation.capital/ohub.
Caption: Anthony Obi, Venture Associate at Virginia Venture Partners, addresses the audience at a pitch competition at the conclusion of Activation Capital’s Racial Equity Initiative for high-growth founders. Obi served on the three-judge panel that chose the winning company for a $50,000 co-investment.
Caption: Fitness DAWGS co-founders, Dr. Addie Briggs and Dr. Kim Evans, answer questions from Anthony Obi, Venture Associate at Virginia Venture Partners, Rodney Sampson, Chairman and CEO of Opportunity Hub, and Chandra Briggman, President/CEO of Activation Capital.
Caption: Rashad Sanders, CEO and founder of SudsySoles, delivers his award winning pitch at Startup Virginia. Sanders went on to win a $50,000 co-investment in his startup from Activation Capital and Opportunity Hub.
About Activation Capital
Activation Capital is a leading innovation ecosystem development organization providing social, knowledge, and financial capital to clusters, entrepreneur support organizations, and entrepreneurs – accelerating their progress through development and maturation.
An independent authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia, its mission is to grow life sciences and other advanced technology innovation by promoting scientific research, commercialization, and ecosystem development that attracts and creates 21st-century jobs and companies. It operates the 34-acre Virginia Bio+Tech Park – the hub of life science and technology innovations in Central Virginia; oversees the Cluster Accelerator for Advanced Pharmaceutical R&D and Manufacturing; and supports the development and expansion of startup ecosystem assets such as Lighthouse Labs, Startup Virginia, Dominion Energy Innovation Center, Riverflow Growth Fund and 757 Collab. For more information, visit http://www.activation.capital.
About Opportunity Hub
Opportunity Hub was founded in 2013 as the nation’s largest Black-owned multi-campus technology, startup and venture ecosystem building company. Today, OHUB is the parent holding company of a suite of businesses committed to increasing racial equity in the fourth industrial revolution; including a not-for-profit foundation and an ecosystem building investment fund. Leveraging our proven, metrics driven blueprint and methodology as outlined in “Building Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystems In Communities of Color” with The Federal Reserve Bank, OHUB delivers early exposure, skills development, job placement, entrepreneurship support programming, net new job creation and alternative capital formation via geographically placed technology hubs, citywide communities, campus chapters, managed programs and live experiences and technology that include thousands of college students, young professionals, founders, investors and ecosystem builders throughout America and beyond. Current subsidiaries include OHUB Futures College, OHUB Talent, Equity District, Grit, DEIS, and 100 Black Angels and Allies Fund.