By Tim Ryan

We are living in exhilarating times, and many say this is the most exciting time in the history of humanity. The world has become a global village; a business can start and scale globally in record time and with the lowest barrier to entry than ever seen before.

We live in an era where our social media feeds are flooded with success stories, entrepreneurship is glamorized, and innovation grows faster than ever.

Have you ever wondered how some startups become billion-dollar companies while others stumble and disappear?

The truth is that startups are extremely tough! Those who understand this space know that most startups struggle, and 80% ultimately fail.

Specifically within our own region, why do our most promising startups fail to gain greater name recognition despite the growing number of available opportunities?

For the past 12 years, I’ve dedicated my life to this. I’ve studied what works and analyzed what hasn’t.

Our challenges aren’t based on a lack of opportunities but on the changing landscape and challenges of running a startup. The journey of a startup is tumultuous, marked by uncertainty, risk, and uncharted territories.

But we have a troubling problem in this region that is quite simple, and the good news is that it is fixable! We have a storytelling problem.

Other regions are telling an incredible story despite the reality and challenges that startups face. Other regions are telling a story that is capturing the world’s attention.

We actually have a better story to tell than others.

Believe me, we have what it takes to be a leader for the rest of the country to follow.

We have:

  • Every service in the United States military is located within Hampton Roads. Moreover, we are home to the world’s largest Navy base!
  • Recently been awarded the title of being the home of the world’s most powerful supercomputer at our federal laboratory, Jefferson Lab.
  • NASA Langley Research Center is discovering next-generation technology.
  • The deepest shipping ports on the East Coast and in most of the world.
  • Tourists who save their money to vacation on our beaches and stay in our hotels year after year.

No other region has what we have – not one! Other regions would do anything to have just one of our attributes.

Our local startup founders’ challenges don’t stem from a lack of opportunities; there are experienced mentors, young talent, and hundreds of supportive organizations in this Hampton Roads economic ecosystem, which is growing in leaps and bounds.

Hampton Roads has what it takes to become the next leader in innovation for other American metropolitan areas to follow, and we need to tell our story loudly and proudly for all of the world to hear.  Will you join me and start telling our story?  –

Here’s why it’s crucial to tell OUR story.  Until we address this issue, we will continue to be impacted in three primary ways:

  1. Investors won’t know who we are or pay attention to our region’s potential.
  2. Without access to capital, we are setting our startups for failure; in the best case, they generate a profit but don’t come close to their full potential.
  3. In addition to the “brain drain” from losing or inability to attract and retain our talent, we’re losing companies to other metropolitan areas that tell a better story or show a pathway to success.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the stats…

Despite being the 37th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area, we rank only 70th as the nation’s most vibrant and fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the United States.

This is what we need to accomplish: Hampton Roads must tell our story. Moreover, we must share how we are the premier location for building venture-scale companies.

Let’s break down the definition of a venture-scale company. A venture-scale company must provide a “50x” return to its venture capital (VC) investors.

A typical Series A company is valued at $20 million in today’s market environment. That means that before a national-level or global-level VC invests in a company, they must see a clear path for that company to grow its value to $1 billion ($20M x 50 = $1,000,000,000 return on investment) or more.

Now, think about the impact that a couple of new billion-dollar companies would have on our region!

We must shout our successes from the rooftops! The world needs to know the amazing things our local startups are doing here in Hampton Roads.

It’s time to redefine our narrative, leaving no other option but success!

Collaboratively, we can transform our community into the ecosystem it deserves to be.

Aspiring founders, established businesses, capital sources, and municipalities must forge harmonious partnerships and create win-win scenarios that help them reach their individual goals quicker and with less struggle.

Imagine the world shifting its focus to Hampton Roads once momentum is on our side!

Do you feel it!