Welcoming participants of the Virginia Velocity Tour to Old Dominion’s Strome Entrepreneurial Center, University President John R. Broderick said the products and services on display represent a new mindset.
“A lot of the students you see here today are planning to do something that we wouldn’t have thought possible when we were in their position – creating their own business and working for themselves,” President Broderick said.
The Virginia Velocity Tour – an entrepreneurial initiative co-sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Village Capital – is providing a total of $125,000 in startup funding through business plan pitch competitions across the state. The official tour bus stopped at Old Dominion on Sept. 21 as part of a day in Hampton Roads dedicated to entrepreneurship.
The stop was organized in recognition of the efforts the University has made in contributing to the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Old Dominion University’s campus-wide efforts in that domain were given a huge boost in 2014, with the gift of $11 million by the Strome Family Foundation of ODU engineering alumnus Mark Strome ’78.
The gift from Mark and Tammy Strome enabled the creation of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center as a hub of campus business startup culture.
Student entrepreneurs with products ranging from graduation cap-and-gown rentals and 3-D printing to bacon snacks, have used the coaching and services of the Strome Center. Several start-up businesses have successfully launched, gaining a foothold in the Hampton Roads market.
“Really, the whole entrepreneurial piece fits in well with our mission as a University, helping support student entrepreneurs to help grow the economy,” President Broderick said.
Many of those entrepreneurs displayed their products or services to Virginia Velocity Tour participants. Jon Coble, an entrepreneur competing in the Hampton Roads pitch competition later at the Virginia Beach Aquarium, was blown away.
“It gives me great hope for the future. These young entrepreneurs are incredible,” Coble said. “Can you imagine having a fully formed business, with a marketing strategy, and a plan for growth, while still in college? It’s amazing.”
Coble was also impressed with the space provided for entrepreneurs at Old Dominion through the Strome Center. “I truly had no idea this amazing space even existed. I’m flabbergasted,” he said.
Coble’s business GOGO Band, a wearable biometric technology to help treat bedwetting, was one of five products or services pitched during the contest. The winning company received a $25,000 equity-free grand prize.
Throughout the week, Virginia Velocity Tour stops featured events culminating in public pitch competitions in Roanoke, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Charlottesville. Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, was one of the judges for the Hampton Roads pitch contest.
“A commitment to growing and supporting entrepreneurship is part of the Old Dominion University Strategic Plan. And it’s not just words on a piece of paper, as you can see from this center, and the businesses on display,” Grden said, in welcoming Virginia Velocity Tour participants.
In addition to about 10 businesses founded and run by Old Dominion students, exhibitors included businesses who are working with the ODU Innovation Center – Norfolk, a partnership between the University’s Center for Enterprise Innovation and the City of Norfolk, which opened in July.
The ODU Innovation Center – Norfolk provides area entrepreneurs with collaboration space and a comprehensive program of services designed to grow a community of scalable entrepreneurial businesses within Norfolk’s Innovation Corridor.
Also participating in the visit were several Old Dominion faculty members who have participated in the Entsminger Fellows program, an initiative to provide leadership skills training to faculty members to lead entrepreneurial efforts in the University’s academic colleges.
Passengers on the Virginia Velocity Tour bus have included representatives from companies participating in the contests, venture capitalists, support organizations, media and government officials.
In addition to the evening’s pitch competition, other stops in Hampton Roads included a lunch for participants at the Slover Library featuring leading local entrepreneurs; and a visit to Grow, a creative services company led by Old Dominion alumnus Drew Ungvarsky ’02.