By Tim Ryan

In a landmark announcement that marks a significant stride in advancing our regional innovation landscape, the 757 ScaleUp Alliance of Norfolk, Virginia, has been recognized with an infusion of capital that promises to elevate the entrepreneurial spirit to new heights. Through the auspicious ‘Build to Scale’ program by the U.S. Department of Commerce, 757 ScaleUp Alliance has been awarded a $1.2 million grant, positioning it among 60 esteemed recipients set to catalyze economic growth and technological entrepreneurship across the nation.

The 757 ScaleUp Alliance stands as a testament to collaborative innovation, unifying the strengths of several key regional players in a powerful coalition. Comprising 757 Collab, Innovate Hampton Roads, Black BRAND, and the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, this alliance represents a diverse and dynamic spectrum of expertise dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurship. Each entity brings a unique facet to the table: 757 Collab, with its extensive entrepreneurial resources; Innovate Hampton Roads, spearheading the storytelling of regional innovation; Black BRAND, championing Black entrepreneurship and economic development; and the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center, providing invaluable business advice and support. Together, they form an interwoven network that is transforming the business landscape and ensuring that growth and opportunity in Hampton Roads are both inclusive and expansive.

This initiative, now in its 10th cohort, represents a pivotal moment for our region, where the ethos of innovation is celebrated and nurtured. The ‘Build to Scale’ program, orchestrated by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), is a testament to the government’s commitment to fostering a fertile ground for technology-driven enterprises. By facilitating access to critical entrepreneurial support and capital, this grant is tailored to spark progress in key innovation industries, including the burgeoning fields of agtech, the blue economy, bioscience, advanced manufacturing, and health technology.

The FY23 iteration of the ‘Build to Scale’ program encompassed two primary competitions: the Venture Challenge and the Capital Challenge, both meticulously designed to accommodate the varying needs, capacities, and aspirations of diverse organizations. With an impressive federal share of $1.2 million, matched equally by local funding, the investment is set to expand upon a prior EDA i6 award from 2017, which initially sought to elevate programs for regional entrepreneurs.

Strategically situated in the heart of Hampton Roads, the 757 Collab serves as a beacon for entrepreneurial development, housing vital resources such as the 757 Startup Studios, 757 Accelerate, and 757 Angels. This trifecta of entrepreneurial support offers an unparalleled continuum of services, ranging from incubation to acceleration and access to capital. Beyond its internal capabilities, 757 Collab is set to orchestrate a symphony of collaboration with Innovate Hampton Roads and the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center (HRSBDC), aiming to synchronize efforts across the region’s entrepreneurial support networks.

The grant will fuel a targeted incubation and acceleration program for 30 founders in critical technology sectors like healthcare, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and logistics/robotics, driving job creation and industry growth. Additionally, the HRSBDC will extend its expertise by advising 30 tech-based businesses, translating into a substantial 500 hours of guidance, further integrating tech entrepreneurs into the Hampton Roads ecosystem.

This is more than a financial boost; it’s a clarion call to innovators and entrepreneurs that Hampton Roads is fertile ground for their dreams and enterprises. The 757 ScaleUp Alliance, with its fresh infusion of support, stands ready to usher in a new era of economic dynamism and technological breakthroughs. Let us all welcome this new chapter with open arms and a fervent zeal to reach unprecedented heights in the realm of innovation and entrepreneurship.