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The Brief

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.

Concept & Solution

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.


Google Design CHallenge

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Problem (Design Challenge Prompt)

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.

Concept & Solution

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.




Designing a Platform to Connect and Scale a Startup Community

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.

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Live Client Project | 8 Weeks
Team Members | Sharon Byun, Marshal Turner
My Role: UX/UI Design, UX Strategy, User Research, Marketing

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The Outcome
The Process
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introducing rally.

Are you ready to rally?

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.

Introducing rally

Richmond's innovation scene starts here.

Startup community resources and events, company profiles, and talent opportunities all in one place.

For the startup talent

have a skill? find and join an exciting startup.

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.

for the startup founder

a startup profile, the way you want it.

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.

For the startup community

find and support local startups

The startup index showcases all the startups in the area. Use the filter to explore which companies are making waves in which sectors.


Defining the problem.


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.

The Brief:

How do you get a community to rally around a platform, contribute and participate, to help drive a thriving startup community?

Who Actually Makes Up a Startup Community?


The Funders.

Those who are seeking to invest their capital for future profit. These include incubators and accelerators, venture capital firms, and angel investors.


The Founders.

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.


The Talent.

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.

Problem Definition

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.

The Problem:

Founders know what they need to do, they just need help doing it. How can founders more easily connect to the local talent pool?


Generating Insights and Discovering opportunities.

TV viewing is social, with 93% of people engaging in some co-viewing activity on the big screen.

“Richmond as a region does not lack access to capital. The real issue is Richmond is lagging behind in market for startup (tech) talent.”

Source: Quote from Local Founder

Current Talent Acquisition Behaviors Are Outdated.

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.

The Insight:

Traditional platforms exist for traditional companies. Startups need something more modern.

Design Population Challenges

Rigid, Incomplete Job Descriptions

Specific job postings on traditional sites do not convey the actual needs of the startup.

Client-Facing Company Websites

Startups cannot directly promote themselves to the people they 
are hiring.

Uninspiring Recruitment Process

Transactional attitude makes it inefficient for startups and demoralizing for talent.

Design Population Quotes

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.


A new talent acquistion platform that enables talent to understand that they would need to wear many hats would make the recruitment process much more efficient.
- Founder


I feel like the current job searching process makes me want to stop working at the company before I even get hired. There’s got to be a better way to make the process more motivating.
- Talent


An Innovative Platform for Innovative Companies.

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.

Design Opportunity:

How can we modernize the talent acquisition process to make it more efficient for startups and more motivational for potential talent?


creating a Comprehesive startup community experience.

The Concept:

A comprehensive platform where Funders, Founders, and Talent can engage directly, build relationships and facilitate the growth of the startup ecosystem.

A Comprehensive Platform That Rallies The Community.

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.

Product Requirements

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.

Informational Architecture and Design System

Informational Architecture

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.

Design System

We created a design system that we used to inform and guide our design making process. A few of the screens are shown below.

Social, by Design.

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.

Design Opportunity: A Netflix Private Theater

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.

UI Feature Flows

Landing Page and Account Sign-Up UI

Rally Landing Page - The header gives a brief overview of platform intentions and then gives users two options, learn more or get started which takes the user to the sign up page. The rest of the site is broken down into three sections to serve the three main design populations. Section one consists of resources for those interested in the scene. Section two is addressed to startup companies and their founders. Section three is intended for talent and employable workforce.

Account Setup - Get started or sign up links to user account setup where we ask the type of user account they would wish to establish so that we can direct them to the most helpful onboarding flow. The three options again refer to the three main design populations that we are trying to serve: community interest, startup founders, and employable workforce.

Talent Flow UI

Talent Onboarding - The start of the account setup process for talent, for those who chose "I have a skill", to create an e-business card to send to founders. Basic details are filled on first screen.

Second screen of onboarding process directs talent to fill out contact information, website and other social media options. We added a finish later option for the user in the event they wanted to come back at later time.

We chose to represent the user's skills as a "tool kit". The talent can identify their areas of strength instead of a defined title and list any skills they feel will benefit the company.

The completed e-business card represents a quicker and more modern way for talent and founders to share information in place of an outdated and text heavy resume.

Founder Flow UI

Founder Onboarding - The start of the account setup process for founders, for those who chose "I have a company", to create a community facing start-up profile to showcase to talent and other interested parties. Basic details are filled on first screen.

Design of header section of profile includes basic info filled out on previous screen as well as giving the option to founders to speak directly to the community via short bio. A logo and photos are also available to allow the company to the flexibility to determine how to represent itself.

Companies need talent in order to grow and scale. Early growth companies need talent to fill many roles and wear many hats. To reflect this, we allow the founders to list broader needs that the company may need instead of rigid job titles and descriptions.

Startup companies are built on the foundation of close relationships and a two-way street. Talent contributing to the company are seeking to advance their own personal careers and ambitions as well. In order to attract the right the talent, we designed a section where startups can advertise what professional development opportunities they can offer as a result of joining the company.

Startup Profile and Index UI

Startup Profile - At the conclusion of the founder onboarding a completed profile page for the startup is generated. This profile is designed to be community, not client facing. It allows startups to describe themselves by speaking directly to the startup community in the bio section. It also provides overall needs and a very welcoming "Let's Talk" call to action to talent. This language is intended to convey the sense that the talent is not simply applying for a job, but starting a conversation and developing a relationship with a future family.

Startup Index - All the startup profiles are displayed in startup index which can be accessible directly from the landing page or from the top navigation bar. These startups are the face of the community and a robust filter allows those interested in the innovation scene to quickly assess what companies are part of the ecosystem.

Monetization Model and Success Metrics

Monetization Model

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 Success Metrics

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 Success Metrics

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.

Reflection & Next Steps


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.”

Next Steps

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.