Welcome back, Insiders! We appreciate your readership and interest in learning more about the evolution of the startup studio model and how studios across the world are disrupting the venture space through innovative offerings. Oftentimes we come across studios that are surrounded by talented founders and team members, who are not only redefining an emerging business model but are also learning new ways to bring together resources, mentorship, and philosophies to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
Enter 757 Startup Studios….a highly selective and vertically integrated studio located in Norfolk, VA, part of the Hampton Roads/Coastal Virginia/Tidewater region or also commonly referred to as “The 757”.
757 Startup Studios is part of a vertically integrated innovation network called 757 Collab. The Collab harnesses the collective impact and interconnectedness of three distinctive resources: 757 Angels, 757 Accelerate and 757 Startup Studios.
The vision behind 757 Startup Studios is twofold. First, they aim to centralize critical resources for entrepreneurs by becoming the hub of their region’s startup ecosystem. This gives the studio a chance to take over an untapped market and provide in-house resources that are accessible to anyone near their area.
Secondly, 757 Startup Studios works on reducing the obstacles and barriers that early-stage founders encounter (idea, prototype, minimally viable product stage) so that they can focus on validating and growing their startups as fast as possible. They do this by fostering a welcoming community surrounded by other growth-oriented startup founders. The studios provide an opportunity for their network to reach the earliest stages of startups, surround them with the critical resources and places they need, and provide deal flow to their accelerator program and angel network.
To learn more about the history behind 757 Startup Studios and their partnered communities, our team at Startup Studio Insider got to chat with their executive director and program manager who gave us the inside scoop on the operations of this innovative startup studio! We hope you enjoy this spotlight:
Monique Adams | 757 Collab Managing Director | 757 Angels Executive Director
With an extensive financial services background, Monique Adams launched 757 Angels in 2015. As the executive director, Adams grew 757 Angels into one of the largest angel investment groups in the country with 140 regional members who have injected over $94 million of capital into startups and early-stage companies. Adams also acts as the managing director of 757 Collab, the parent of 757 Accelerate, 757 Angels, and 757 Startup Studios. She serves on the boards of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority, Riverflow Growth Fund, Reinvent Hampton Roads, Hampton Roads Biomedical Consortium, RVA757 Connects, and the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation. She also serves on the Preliminary Management and Oversight Panel of the Virginia BioSciences Health Research Consortium (Virginia Catalyst).
Hunter Walsh | Program Manager 757 Startup Studios
Hunter Walsh is the program manager for 757 Startup Studios, part of the 757 Collab network of organizations. In his current role, Hunter works alongside some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in the 757 designing critical programming, supporting startups, and building a valuable network of partners, mentors, and influencers. Hunter received his Bachelor of Science degree from James Madison University and received his Master of Business Administration from Virginia Wesleyan University. Hunter is active in the community serving on the boards of several civic and community organizations.
Evans McMillion | Executive Director of 757 Accelerate
Evans McMillion is passionate about solving problems through innovation and collaboration. Evans has served as the Executive Director of 757 Accelerate, Inc., a selective, focused, mentor-driven non-profit startup and early-stage acceleration education program which connects high-performing companies with vetted mentors, support services, and investors since 2018. As its Executive Director, Evans helped build and launch the organization and has to date run four cohorts and accelerated 25 companies who have gone on to raise over $52M in private capital and drive significant economic impact in Hampton Roads and Virginia. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of 757 Accelerate, Evans worked as an attorney counseling big and small companies at all stages of growth from entity formation through IPO. She has practiced in law firms in Seattle, New Hampshire, and Virginia Beach, as well as serving as corporate counsel to ADS, Inc. After attending Dartmouth College and Duke Law School, Evans clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Vermont Supreme Court.
757 Startup Studios: A Welcoming Community, Yet Highly Selective
Building, growing, and scaling an innovative ecosystem takes a village. This is why 757 Startup Studios has worked to amass a strong group of corporate sponsors that believe and support their mission, relationships with higher education institutions, ecosystem support partners, economic development partners and other peer organizations across the Commonwealth of Virginia and the greater Mid-Atlantic region.
When asked about the key characteristics that make 757 Startup Studios stand out, they pointed out the highly competitive and selective program that each new startup must undergo to welcome them into their community of entrepreneurs. Twice a year, 757 Startup Studios welcomes early-stage startups that are for-profit, industry agnostic and growth-oriented. All startups must fill out an application and answer the questions as fully as they can. 757 Startup Studios provide enhanced connectivity to other founders, resources, and mentors allowing businesses to get off the ground. Unlike traditional co-working, 757 Startup Studios offers six months of free rent removing an obstacle for early-stage companies. The space is co-located with 757 Angels and 757 Accelerate and offers access to amenities in the Assembly. building
By managing the expectations of each new partner, the studio ensures that every member involved in the creation and development of each startup is equally invested in the growth of their projects and removes any unnecessary stress or boundaries that day-to-day entrepreneurs experience when coming up with new business ideas.
Disrupting The Early Venture Lifecycle
757 Startup Studios works with a wide range of industries and looks to tap into the market gaps that their startups can leverage through their superpowers and expertise in healthcare, blue economy (environmental), and anyone in the Department of Defense space.
The studio has an incredible pool of resources at the regional and state levels that have structured design thinking, customer discovery, and lean canvas model courses that help founders narrow their focus and focus on the parts of their business model most critical to success.
“Most of the startups we work with are pre-revenue, so our philosophy is to surround them with as much knowledge, resources, and mentorship as we can, so we can increase the probability of positive outcomes. We never want a founder to go all-in on an idea that has limited viability in the market and try to manage expectations, so founders can make data-driven decisions on how to move their startup/idea forward.”
A Community Based on “Collab”
Being surrounded by talented founders with great attitudes and a willingness to learn always helps. The studio team is all bound by the value system of being interconnected, inclusive, and impactful in everything that the studio does while putting the founder at the center of it all. Since 757 Startup Studios does not require startups to pay to take advantage of their resource offerings nor do they take an equity stake in any startup they work with, it makes it easy for founders to get more visibility and acquire the help they need without the expectation or pressure of having a quick return or premature exit.
“By consistently giving all founders an equitable chance and leading by being human we find that mentality is refreshing and well received by our founder community. By creating a welcoming and inviting space where anyone feels welcomed, people want to be part of our community.”
In addition to providing the necessary tools and resources to excel as a team, 757 Startup Studios believes in the importance of welcoming a diverse group of people to work together and share ideas from different backgrounds. By tapping into groups that historically tend to receive a disproportionately low amount of capital investment, 757 has welcomed over 70% of under-represented entrepreneurs as part of their co-founding teams (whether it is a person of color, female, or veteran).
The studio puts in the necessary work to let everyone know that no matter their background or how they look, their organization will treat them all fair and do as much as they can to help. They do this by going out into the community and speaking to different groups, welcoming school-age children into their space, so they can see the activity taking place, and continuing to advocate for better access to capital and opportunities to level the playing field for all. From a mentorship and subject expertise, their team mentioned how easy it has been to connect with a wider pool of people willing to lean in to help their founder community while exposing their founder network to a more diverse group of people and skill sets.
“We want to be the best version of ourselves as we can. If that means that we become a top model that would be very exciting and show that efforts years in the making are paying dividends and fostering an ecosystem that attracts and retains quality talent where our startups do not have a need or reason to leave. For now, we continue to focus on what we can control and continue to educate our local community about the power of entrepreneurship and the role that can play in creating an environment where people want to come work, play, and live.”
In addition to providing a strong sense of community, 757 Startup Studios ensures that every startup falls under the following lineaments:
To Wrap Up…
The 757 Startup Studios model is unique because few innovation networks are non-profit and have a nationally recognized angel network, accelerator program, and incubators all under the same umbrella. This particular model benefits the founder and makes it easier for them to get connected with the right resources and knowledge at the right time.
As with any startup or founder you have to do your research and that process is continuous. That real challenge is determining what parts of different models you like and how best that can be incorporated into your model with the resource constraints you have. Just like the studio itself encourages its founders to connect with mentors and thought leaders in the space, its leaders and founders do the same. This helps create a sense of collaboration by sharing notes and comparing what is working and what is not for them and making informed decisions based on the feedback received.
We hope you enjoyed this spotlight as much as we did! If you have any questions that we missed asking the 757 Startup Studio team, please feel free to contact us, and we’ll make sure to reach out with any additional information or questions! Until then, make sure to check out our latest insights blogs: Why Are Startup Studios Growing So Fast and What To Look For When Choosing A Startup Studio.