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Activation Capital to Grant Lighthouse Labs $1M over 2 Years

Wednesday, December 6, 2017  
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Lighthouse Labs, a business accelerator in Richmond that offers mentoring to startup companies, is getting $1 million over two years to support its work.

The funding is the single largest grant Lighthouse Labs has received since it was founded in 2013.

Activation Capital, a nonprofit associated with the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in downtown Richmond, announced the award as the first grant from a $5 million fund that it plans to distribute over five years to organizations that support entrepreneurship in the Richmond area.

“We are looking for investments that move the needle and make a significant impact,” said Carrie Roth, president and CEO of Activation Capital and of the biotechnology park.

The goal is to grow the entrepreneurial economy in the area, she said, and funds will go to organizations that have a “proven model” to help fill gaps in the services provided to local entrepreneurs.

Activation Capital is advised by the Activation Council, an 18-member board of local businesspeople, educators and government officials.

Previously known as the Innovation Council of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, it rebranded in April with a new name and a mission of identifying gaps in resources available to entrepreneurs, and leading efforts to find the financial support for the entrepreneurial community.

The $5 million fund is called the Ecosystem Direct Investment Fund, or EDIF, which is an asset of the Biotechnology Park’s Authority Board. The first $1 million grant was funded with proceeds from the November sale of the Biotech 8 building in the biotechnology park.

Chicago-based Ventas Inc. purchased the 262,000-square-foot building at 737 N. Fifth St. for $92 million on Nov. 9. The building was partially owned by the biotech park, the Health Diagnostic Laboratory bankruptcy estate and Henrico County-based Lingerfelt CommonWealth Partners.

Lighthouse Labs plans to use the funding to expand its program and help more startup businesses.

More than 30 startups have graduated from the mentoring program over the last five years. Those businesses have created more than 100 jobs and raised about $20 million in capital.

“This vote of confidence acts as a catalyst for the continued growth of Lighthouse, first and foremost the establishment of year-round acceleration support for our growing ecosystem through new staff and enhanced programming options,” said Todd Nuckols, founder and executive director of Lighthouse Labs.

Its most recent class of startup businesses included RoundTrip, a Richmond-based company that has developed a software application that enables patients to book trips to health care providers using a network of credentialed medical transportation providers. At last month’s pitch competition, RoundTrip earned the top prize by receiving a $5,000 grant.

RoundTrip began offering its service last week in Richmond by participating in GRTC’s CARE On-Demand, a pilot program to transport disabled passengers.
Before this grant from Activation Capital, the single largest corporate sponsorship to Lighthouse Labs came in 2016 from Altria Group Inc., the Henrico County-based parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris USA. It participated in Lighthouse Labs’ fall class 2016 with a $125,000 sponsorship.

Capital One Financial Corp. also has provided financial assistance to Lighthouse Labs. The financial services giant gave $100,000 to Lighthouse Labs earlier this year. It was the fourth year that Capital One has provided financial support for the accelerator, and the second year it has given $100,000.

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