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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Virginia Velocity Tour to Make Stop at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center

The Virginia Velocity Tour - an entrepreneurial initiative of Gov. Terry McAuliffe that is providing $125,000 in startup funding through business plan pitch competitions - will make a stop Sept. 21 at Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

The Virginia Velocity Tour, which is co-sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Village Capital, is making five stops across the state Sept. 19-23. Each stop on the tour focuses on a specific industry theme highlighting a regional strength, such as energy, STEM, biotechnology/health, cybersecurity and agriculture.

Tour stops will feature events culminating in public pitch competitions to be held in Roanoke, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Charlottesville.

During the competitions, entrepreneurs will pitch their business plans to local judges for a $25,000 equity-free grant prize. In all, five prizes will be awarded, totaling $125,000.

Each competition will feature up to eight entrepreneurs from across the Commonwealth who work in that industry. Prior to the pitch competitions, the entrepreneurs will participate in public and private events that celebrate each region's entrepreneurial ecosystem and convene local leaders for roundtable discussions. The tour will also include stops at local incubators and established businesses as part of "startup crawls."

The approximately hour-long visit to Old Dominion University is part of a day of entrepreneur-themed bus tour stops in Hampton Roads, which will culminate with the region's pitch contest at the Virginia Beach Aquarium. That event, which is open to the public, begins at 5 p.m.

Passengers on the bus, which will be wrapped in high-profile Velocity Tour graphics, include representatives from companies participating in the contests, venture capitalists, support organizations (such as ODU's Innovation Center - Norfolk), media and government officials. At the Strome Center, President John R. Broderick will provide welcoming remarks that will be followed by a "Speed Networking" event where students and other entrepreneurs working with the Innovation Center will showcase their startups.

Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Center, said the Virginia Velocity Tour bus stop at ODU is recognition of how the University has become a resource for the entrepreneurial community.

"Old Dominion is proud to be one of the day sponsors for the Virginia Velocity Tour," Grden said. "More importantly, we are proud to be a leader in Hampton Roads in growing and supporting entrepreneurship. The stop by the Virginia Velocity bus is a powerful signal that we are going in the right direction."

In addition to the evening's pitch competition, other stops in Hampton Roads include a lunch for participants at the Slover Library featuring leading local entrepreneurs; and a visit to Grow, a creative services company led by Old Dominion alumnus Drew Ungvarsky '02.

Old Dominion University's campus-wide entrepreneurial efforts were given a huge boost in 2014, with the gift of $11 million by the Strome Family Foundation of ODU engineering alumnus Mark Strome '78.

The gift from Mark and Tammy Strome enabled the creation of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, which exists to support University-affiliated entrepreneurs at every stage of the business lifecycle. There, students, faculty, staff and alumni receive coaching and build business connections.

For the past three years, six faculty members have also been selected annually for the Entsminger Fellows program. They are charged with bringing entrepreneurship into the University's academic colleges.

Old Dominion also maintains a decades-long effort to be a resource for the local business community through support initiatives such as the Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI), which evolved from the University's Business Gateway in 2014. The CEI seeks to foster local economic growth through a series of interconnected programs created to help local entrepreneurs, such as the Technology Applications Center, Women's Business Center and Hampton Roads Veterans Business Outreach Center.

In July, the ODU Innovation Center - Norfolk, a partnership between CEI and the City of Norfolk, was launched. It provides area entrepreneurs with collaboration space and a comprehensive program of services designed to grow a community of scalable entrepreneurial businesses within Norfolk's Innovation Corridor.

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