June 2, 2016

Virginia Business The Launch Place

Virginia Business by Joan Tupponce

Jason Barton, co-founder and chief technology officer for KSI Video, wasn’t sure that opening his company in Danville was the right move until he learned about The Launch Place. “It has turned out to be the best thing for us,” he says. “We do video and data management for drones and ground and underwater robots, and Danville wound up in the heart of an area for drone research.”

The Launch Place is constantly searching for companies like KSI — firms with ideas for the next best thing that are willing to turn those ideas into businesses in Danville.

The organization’s latest investment — $200,000 — will go to Roobrik, a company that provides an interactive software tool for making decisions about long-term care.

The program began in 2012 when the Danville Regional Foundation approved a $10 million grant to transform the Southside Business Technology Center and rebrand it as The Launch Place. To date, The Launch Place has made nine investments totaling $1.94 million in eight companies. Six of the investments came from a seed fund for companies that are well along in developing products. Another three investments came from a pre-seed fund for companies that are not as far along in that process.

The companies receiving investments represent fields ranging from information technology software development to advanced manufacturing.

Additional companies are in the pipeline. The organization has received 283 applications for investments from the two funds.

“All of these companies we invested in were a good fit for Danville and met the requirements of creating five jobs in a three-year period,” says Eva Doss, the president and CEO of The Launch Place. “We didn’t want companies to make a commitment just because of the money. They have to take advantage of our Danville location.”

The organization’s biggest challenges are finding strong companies that want to create a presence in Danville and helping those companies get additional investments as they grow. “We have had success in establishing partnerships with venture capitalists and angel funds,” Doss says. “If the companies need additional funding, we can introduce them to other angel funds and share professional due-diligence info.”

The program has helped Barton of KSI find additional investors. “We have raised $1.2 million over three years,” he says, noting his company initially received a $250,000 investment from The Launch Place and a year later got an additional $100,000.

Doss believes The Launch Place has burnished Danville’s reputation as a community that takes entrepreneurship seriously. “Danville is interested in helping new businesses to form,” she says. “This is definitely an atmosphere where entrepreneurship occurs.”