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It may not be quite business as usual as the state reopens and a new sense of normal takes shape amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but a business accelerator program is pivoting to the health industry and University of Virginia students are testing out an app that could bolster contact tracing.
Lighthouse Labs RVA, a Richmond-based accelerator program, is seeking applications for its Fall 2020 cohort. The program, which occurs twice a year, is a three-month intensive where seed-stage startups receive investment and mentoring. This cohort will place a focus on health through a partnership with the Health Innovation Consortium.
While the most recent cohort focused on education, Lighthouse Executive Director Erin Powell said that the idea for this one had been to focus on healthcare for some time — with the pandemic entering the picture, it is even more timely.
“Typically, we are looking for high-growth tech companies, but we started adding in a layer of industry specification,” Powell explained.
HIC first launched in 2019 to bring health innovators into the market and was founded by Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU Health and Activation Capital, a nonprofit organization that focuses on early-stage ideas.
“The partnership with Activation Capital and VCU Health are important because those people are helping to provide mentors, guidance, and expertise for the health companies in the program,” Powell said.
Meanwhile, Lighthouse Labs will provide the business acumen for planning, product development, and sales.
The program is Richmond-based but applicants from around Virginia, to include Charlottesville, are encouraged to apply. With a deadline of June 15, the next cohort will run from August to November.
“One of the big initiatives for Activation Capital and Lighthouse Labs is to expand our programs throughout the state,” Powell explained. “We do require at least one of the founders of the company to be on-site in Richmond with us for those three months to the degree that is feasible for people.”
With the pandemic necessitating social distancing in recent months, she explained that adjustments may need to be made for this cohort.
“We are hoping that all or parts of it can be in-person. Obviously, we are going to follow any guidelines that are applicable during that time,” she explained.
In the meantime, Lighthouse Labs is hosting a virtual summer program that she says is a way for the organization to “get its feet wet” with the structure.
In tandem with the health-focused vertical, the fall cohort is also open to applications that are industry agnostic.
“We still want to look at companies outside of the industry and we would run those programs in tandem with anything specific just to healthcare would only be applicable to those founders during this accelerator,” Powell explained. “Everything will be under the lens of high-growth technology.”