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RAMP kicks off 2020 program and introduces its fourth cohort

Six high-growth companies have been selected to take part in the fourth iteration of the RAMP business accelerator program, which began its 2020 classes on June 15.

RAMP, short for the Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program, is a regional initiative that aims to help science, technology, engineering, math and health (STEM-H) companies test the viability and marketability of their products before entering the wider market. The program supports businesses across a wide spectrum of growth stages; that mix of maturity stages allows new company heads to learn from entrepreneurs who have deeper knowledge and more experience, and gives more developed companies the chance to learn new strategies from younger ones.

Although RAMP’s 2020 session was slightly delayed due to COVID-19, Director Mary Miller said she is proud of the swift and innovative adjustments that she and other team members have implemented. In past years, RAMP has invited local business owners, entrepreneurs and community leaders to meet with cohort members and learn more about their companies in person. This year, RAMP will be facilitating the same process through remote means. Instead of hosting Meet the Cohort, its annual meet-and-greet event, at a physical location, that event will be held through Zoom, and those interested can register on the RBTC website. Mentor Madness — another annual event where lead mentors can get to know participating companies and form partnerships was held via Zoom, Miller said, “and it was fun and engaging.” “We set up the portal so mentors could come in and view videos from each company ahead of time and then we had private ‘live time’ so each potential mentor could ask the company questions,” Miller said. “We missed being together but we made the virtual experience work..” In addition to adjusting the program’s public events to be friendly to social distancing guidelines, Miller said that the RAMP program will also be moving its content partially online. While cohort members may work as teams in the Gill Memorial Building on South Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke, curriculum and activities will be conducted online. Cohort companies will also be given access to assignments and learning materials that can be completed at their own pace. Internationally recognized instructors and Virginia Western Community College adjuncts Lisa Garcia and Mike Abbott have been examining best practices for creating attention-grabbing videos and engaging Zoom meetings, Miller said. Their efforts will help cohort members get the information they need without suffering some of the drawbacks that can accompany long virtual meetings.

“I think people are having fatigue with how to get through content,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to bring different speakers to keep spirits high.”

This year’s incoming cohort will include the following companies:

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