The West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics is hoping the new Vantage Ventures program on campus is the first step in creating a new Mountain State economy driven by entrepreneurship and innovation.
The program has four focuses: healthy, security, energy and sensory. The entrepreneurs and companies are supported by mentors, executives and funding networks the state has never had.
Executive director Sarah Biller says one goal of the program is to plug the “brain drain.”
“It’s an initiative across all of West Virginia to help us engage our deep pools of talent, our entrepreneurs and visionaries,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the effort will help “connect the dots” between education and opportunities.
“This is going to basically give you the chance to work and learn at the same time,” he said.
The idea of Vantage Ventures began in March with a meeting between leaders from West Virginia University and John Chambers — the former executive chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems and founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures — to discuss the potential for the newly renamed College of Business and Economics. Vantage Ventures came out of that meeting.
“Through investments in skills training and digitization, we will help the people of West Virginia prepare for a digital-first future that will be fueled by startups and entrepreneurship,” Chambers said. “I’m incredibly excited to partner with my alma mater to help the great state of West Virginia fulfill its potential to be a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation.”
U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., says homecoming is the perfect time to unveil the center because there are opportunities for alumni.
“Bring our national alums from WVU who have been very successful, have startup ideas,” she said. “Bring those ideas to the university and let our students develop them and then spin them off into private ventures that will employ more people.”
Javier Reyes, Milan Puskar Dean of the Chambers College and Vice President of Startup West Virginia, is responsible for coordinating the relevant resources to reinvent the state’s economy.
“West Virginia is a place with tremendous resources and opportunities, but we have to think differently about job creation to move into the future,” Reyes said. “Vantage Ventures is the way to provide the infrastructure and resources needed to fuel start-ups and support the entrepreneurs with bold ideas that can transform our economy.”
The 8,000-square Vantage Ventures facility is located at University Place.