Ramp Seeking Second Group of Tenants

The first group of tenants – the “Cohort” – may have stayed longer than the six months originally forecasted in some cases by the RAMP program based at the former Gill Memorial hospital building on South Jefferson. Now however they are seeking new applicants through March 15.

The Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program –  RAMP – is collaboration between the City of Roanoke, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, which provides mentorship to small startups, and Virginia Western Community College, which conducts business classes.

RAMP director Mary Miller, who owned a Blacksburg-based software company for almost three decades, says they are looking for high tech startups with “scalability” for the next cohort of up to six companies in total. A willingness to work on their company “and a willingness to be coachable,” are imperatives says Miller, hoping they will take full advantage of the mentoring and courses made available to them.

The program is being tweaked as it evolves and Miller says one of the original goals – to have two cohorts come through RAMP every calendar year – could happen by 2019. Miller also says “pitch and polish” clinics will be developed, available to those at the RAMP and outside – sessions that can help them sell their products to clients and investors. Building a deeper bench of regional mentors is also on the agenda – whether or not they are in the RAMP program. “By 2019 I think we’ll be ready to go full steam ahead.”

Miller also says she keeps in contact with other accelerators around the country, asking what works and what doesn’t, making tweaks to the RAMP program easier. “We’re really building on successful programs that are being run across the country. They’re really willing to help one another. As for the next cohort group: “size doesn’t matter – it can be 1, 2 or 100 people. We hope they have a minimal, viable product- they may even have some sales.” The ability to move into the RAMP space on South Jefferson is another requirement (at no charge) and a willingness to be mentored is a must.

Businesses in the STEM-health fields and “scalability potential,” are other criteria. The first cohort (members can leave as late as April after coming aboard last summer) are in fields like manufacturing, software and biomedical. “But we are wide open to the technology sector,” notes Miller, “and that can be very diverse.”  She claims every one of the current cohort members can speak about their own success stories as they came through the RAMP experience.

Some will be receiving investments, others made great strides on business plans, uncovered opportunities not seen before – or even “pivoted” in a different direction as the result of being mentored by professionals who may have gone through some of the same issues when creating their companies.

Be on the lookout over the next months and years as the first cohort members step forward to tell their own success stories adds Miller, who took on the RAMP director’s job after being involved for a long period of time with the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council as well. For more details on RAMP – and on applying for the next cohort slated to debut in May, see ramprb.tech/ramp online.

Gene Marrano

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