A statewide economic development authority approached us with the task of creating a platform that would encourage the startup community to contribute to, participate in, and scale the innovation scene in Richmond, VA. The long-term goal was to bring Richmond's startup ecosystem on par with innovation scenes across the country.
We identified that a major opportunity gap within Richmond's startup community was a way for workforce talent to be connected to and help contribute to startup companies. We designed a modern recruitment platform that would help facilitate connections between local talent and startup companies, while simultaneously providing a stage upon which these companies could showcase themselves to the local community.
Your school wants to improve the upkeep of campus facilities by creating a new system for reporting any facilities that may need maintenance or repair. Design an experience that allows students to report building or equipment issues on campus. Consider the process of those filing the report and of those receiving and taking action on the issues.
RamFix is a mobile platform that utilizes the power of a university community to empower students to help each other address low priority or routine maintenance requests. RamFix is designed to help alleviate the backlog of requests for the facilities management department by incentivizing students to become more self-sufficient inhabitants of their environment.
Activation Capital, a statewide economic development authority approached us with a simple ask. How can we reinvigorate the innovation scene in Richmond, VA and expand the start-up market to be on par with other American cities such as Austin, TX? Our research discovered that access to capital was not the defining factor in making Richmond an attractive option to incoming startups. Rather, it was access to workforce talent that inhibited the startup market growth in Richmond. We designed a platform to address this need specifically for startups and make Richmond, VA a more attractive destination for new growth companies.
Introducing Rally, a new platform for Richmond's startup community. Rally is here to help you, whether you have an idea, are scaling your startup or want to join an exciting new venture.
Startup community resources and events, company profiles, and talent opportunities all in one place.
Resumes are so old school, send an e-business card instead. Identify exciting startups, attend events, and save resources in an easy to manage dashboard.
Websites are for clients. With your startup profile, you can speak directly to the talent you want to attract. We know you need talent to wear many hats. Throw out the rigid job descriptions and advertise your broader needs.
The startup index showcases all the startups in the area. Use the filter to explore which companies are making waves in which sectors.
Richmond, Virginia has a budding startup community. Venture capital firms incubators, angel investors have started to pop up and many successful startup companies have emerged from the city such as Car Lotz and Humanitru. However, Richmond still lags behind many of the nation's leading startup markets.
Activation Capital, a state-wide economic development authority gave us a simple assignment: Design a platform that can connect all the different pieces of the Richmond startup community and unite them in a way to help the innovation scene reach its full potential.
How do you get a community to rally around a platform, contribute and participate, to help drive a thriving startup community?
Those who are seeking to invest their capital for future profit. These include incubators and accelerators, venture capital firms, and angel investors.
Those with the business ideas. We identified four types of founders. Micro-founders can be those who are pursuing a side hustle. Main street founders are synonymous with small local businesses. High growth companies are startup companies that are in the process of fundraising and scaling. Finally, Mature companies are established companies with well developed products or services.
Those who have skills and labor to contribute. These include not only the immediate employable workforce but also advisors and mentors as well. In most start-up markets, the talent as a core population of the startup community is often overlooked in favor of the previous two startup population groups.
In our research we found that most start-up communities, including Richmond, focus heavily on developing relationships between the first two populations: Founders and Funders. After all without capital resources, how can a company get off the ground?
However, from our interviews with local Founders and Funders, we found that access to capital was not the biggest obstacle. Rather it was access to talent, an employable workforce that could help Founders grow their startup. This meant that the multitude of community resources in startup markets devoted to connecting and mentoring Founders with Funders were redundant. This led us to an important core insight: Founders know what they need to do, they just need help doing it.
Founders know what they need to do, they just need help doing it. How can founders more easily connect to the local talent pool?
Once we had identified talent acquisition as the integral piece of a successful startup community platform, we sought to understand how current talent acquisition processes worked. Through primary and secondary research, we observed the following:
First, the hiring/applying field is very fragmented. Although there are sources everywhere (CareerBuilder, Craigslist, Indeed) none of these help find regional talent. Second, many startups are in a growth phase where they need people to wear many different hats, something that can’t be communicated necessarily in a simple job listing. Finally, the process involves talents sending out resumes en masse and crossing their fingers they get a response, and for founders, spending time combing through these resumes before they even get a chance to speak to these people. Overall the process is very inefficient for startups and very demoralizing for talent.
Traditional platforms exist for traditional companies. Startups need something more modern.
We gained further insight of the process by interviewing local founders who had navigated the process of starting and expanding a startup as well as talent who had recently gone through the process of job-searching.
These interviews led us to some choice quotes that really summarized the challenges facing founders and talent in the current startup community and growth process.
The opportunity gaps were very clearly defined at the end of our user interview and research process. Any successful startup platform would require a modern solution that allows startup companies to easily recruit talent in an efficient, relational and accurate way.
Traditional talent recruitment platforms were not made with startups in mind. Our design task then was to identify a new design that could help startup companies overcome these core challenges that we had identified.
How can we modernize the talent acquisition process to make it more efficient for startups and more motivational for potential talent?
A comprehensive platform where Funders, Founders, and Talent can engage directly, build relationships and facilitate the growth of the startup ecosystem.
Although we established talent acquisition as the primary foundation for a successful startup community platform, there were still many other components that needed to be built off of that foundation. To start, startups need a place where they could profile their companies in a way that was talent facing. Additionally, the platform still needed a space where resources to support founders and funders could live, as well as events and community interaction. All of these design needs had to be encompassed in a relaxed, casual, yet still professional aesthetic that made all core populations of the startup ecosystem could rally around.
We identified some key product requirements that needed to be considered to meet our design goal of creating the go-to platform for Richmond's startup ecosystem, but also serve as a model for future markets nationwide as well.
Allow Founders to profile their startups and accurately detail their needs.
Connect Founders with Talents that can capably fill these needs.
Serve as a way for Funders to see what is in the startup pipeline.
Internalize talent and capital resources for regional growth.
We narrowed down our platform into three key flows. The first flow is a founder flow that envisions how a founder of a startup company might utilize the platform. The second flow is a talent flow that envisions how a potential employable talent might utilize the platform. The third flow covers the main startup community resources, landing page, and profiles that anyone interested in the startup ecosystem would interact with.
We created a design system that we used to inform and guide our design making process. A few of the screens are shown below.
An important point we wanted to emphasize was that this social feature should integrate seamlessly into the existing Netflix product. In the past Netflix had previously implemented a "Friends" feature that felt clunky, out of place and offered no value add to the consumer. To this point, the implementation of our feature shouldn’t be a social for the sake of social, but instead designed to complement and enhance the core Netflix streaming service and provide a more holistic consumer experience.
Our users noted that one of most missed activities during the pandemic was the decline in going to the movies. One important aspect of the appeal of the movie theater experience has always been the social experience. Virtual reality technology allows the opportunity to recreate that experience from the comforts and convenience of home. By targeting the design to replicate that of a traditional movie experience, we could naturally integrate a traditionally social activity straight into the existing Netflix platform.
We suggested that a possibility for revenue generation could occur on a paid membership model for mature companies who had utilized the platform and successfully scaled past a certain point. Additionally, sponsored events and resources could be a further source of revenue.
Quantitative metrics such as establishing growth targets and evaluating completion goals. We can also analyze site Metrics: traffic, conversions, and interactions. Finally we can establish some regional KPIs: business successes, opportunities, and venture creation.
Qualitative metrics such as surveys and feedback from the parties we are trying to help directly (Founders, Talent) and indirectly (Funders), aggregate analysis of impressions from digital media sources, and anecdotal feedback from companies that have successfully navigated the start-up sequence of events and data linking.
We concluded that Richmond, VA had the necessary capital resources to be a successful market for start-up companies. We also identified that the talent was present in the area as well as shown by the presence of companies such as CarMax and Capital One. The problem was having a platform that could facilitate the initial conversation between the talent and the start-up companies to allow them to build a fruitful working relationship. This was a challenging problem that really tested our ability to research and synthesize information, deconstruct and clearly define a problem and generate a design solution. This live client experience was a very valuable experience that extended far beyond just a traditional UX/UI design assignment. I was fortunate to learn a lot that I believe will enable me to solve design solutions from a holistic perspective above just a visual execution.
“Rally has the potential to be a brand that is uniquely inherent to RVA and become a holistic experience that the innovation community rallies around.”
We are proud to say that the client was very impressed with this project and now our team is working with them to bring this concept to life. We are currently working on designing and developing an MVP that will be scheduled to launch later this year.