From INSIDE BUSINESS by TARA BOZICK
StartWheel, an online and virtual resource connecting components of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, tapped a Peninsula-area mentor and former business incubator manager as its next director.
Tim Ryan, who most recently served as the director of Launchpad near Williamsburg for five years before the incubator moved to the College of William & Mary, started leading StartWheel on Sept. 1.
Chris Shelton, who started leading the revamped program in January 2018, is stepping down after helping launch StartWheel.org, building the brand, cataloging the region’s resources, hosting pitch events and keeping local entrepreneurs and investors up to date on news and events.
Shelton would like to focus on the growth of his business, Cure Coffeehouse on Botetourt Street in Norfolk. He will remain on the board and will continue popping up at events.
He and other board members felt Ryan, who owns a website and business development company and has been involved in the burgeoning startup scene for years, would be a fitting successor. Ryan had been a supportive board member and part of the job is consulting with entrepreneurs, he said.
Ryan has been an organizer of Start Peninsula, an annual weekend event that awards prizes to winning business concepts, and a business mentor for the past eight years.
Since then, more efforts and resources have popped up to help startups, but that can also add confusion, Ryan said.
StartWheel can provide a road map for aspiring business owners to chart their success, he said. At the same time, giving a consolidated look at the ecosystem can help companies outside the region envision themselves moving here or investing in Hampton Roads.
“This is an opportunity for us to look at the entire region as a whole,” Ryan said. “At the end of the day, entrepreneurs and businesses want to do one thing: that is succeed.”
Shelton believes Ryan, who lives in York County, can shed more light on Peninsula happenings too.
The goal is for StartWheel to be a regional digital hub for entrepreneurial activity, Shelton said. With the help of other efforts, the entrepreneurial community is more connected now but it still has a way to go to be competitive with peer regions across the country, he said.
StartWheel has an established base of email newsletter subscribers and will continue needing support in order to publish stories about what local startups are doing, he said.
Ferguson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Newport News-based Ferguson Enterprises, entered a two-year agreement supporting StartWheel in marketing and in events like 757 Pitch and 757 Launch, a company spokesperson confirmed. Virginia Media, previously as Pilot Media, helped build the website.
“I would like to see a lot more corporate engagement down the road with the ecosystem in general,” Shelton said.
Tara Bozick, 757-247-4741, firstname.lastname@example.org
StartWheel’s mission is to centralize and mobilize efforts that foster the growth of entrepreneurism in our regional innovation economy. We aim to support and cultivate an entrepreneurial network in HRVA where talent, resources, information and leadership come together.