The 1717 Innovation Center, a new business incubator in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, is up and running, and startup businesses are moving in.
The six-story, 42,000-square-foot building officially opened Monday with a reception, but startup companies have been moving into offices inside the extensively renovated former tobacco warehouse on East Cary Street for about a month.
Backers of the 1717 Innovation Center, including financial services giant Capital One Financial Corp. and the nonprofit Startup Virginia, hope it will make the Richmond region more attractive for promising startup companies that could grow into major employers.
“We’re here to help our community grow,” said Bryan Bostic, a longtime local entrepreneur and co-founder and executive director of Startup Virginia. Rasheeda Creighton, a Capital One employee, is the director of the 1717 Innovation Center.
Supporters envision the building on East Cary Street between 17th and 18th streets as a hub for resources to support entrepreneurs in the Richmond region.
The Innovation Center will serve as an incubator for as many as 50 startup businesses at a time, providing office space along with mentoring, leadership programs, and community events and conferences. About 100 volunteer business mentors have signed up to advise startup companies there.
Capital One, the Richmond region’s largest private employer with more than 10,000 local workers, has invested in the incubator as part of its Future Edge initiative, a five-year, $150 million grant program aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, workforce training and financial education in the communities where the company has operations.
“Richmond has so many elements of an already vibrant innovation ecosystem — exceptional universities, successful industries, incredible talent, a creative culture, and supportive nonprofit and government partners,” said Mike Wassmer, president of U.S. Card and Central Virginia market president at Capital One. “1717 will bring our entrepreneurial community together, igniting our ecosystem while strengthening Richmond’s economy and community.”
Capital One has a research lab on one floor of the building, and about 15 of its employees work there full time, but the company expects to rotate employees from its other sites in and out of the building for special projects.
Capital One plans to use some of the space in the building for programs to help nonprofits in the region, and for workforce readiness activities such as computer coding programs.
The company also plans to provide mentoring to the startup businesses using the expertise of its own employees.
Capital One is leasing the first three floors of the building to Startup Virginia for the incubator space. The goal is for the 1717 Innovation Center to serve about 200 startups in its first three years.
“The ultimate goal is that they graduate out of here, because they have grown so much they can’t fit here anymore,” Bostic said.