From the Director: Creating a Homegrown Ecosystem

August 4, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill

Ryan Touhill

Early-stage startup companies hold tremendous promise when it comes to generating innovation and jobs. Capturing this economic impact has become increasingly important to our economic growth strategy given the continued challenges in the office market, a declining number of companies that are currently seeking to relocate and more general reductions to office footprints. As such, AED recently announced the creation of the Arlington Innovation Fund, representing a new focus in our efforts to support the growth of tech companies and Northern Virginia’s tech startup community.

The primary purpose of the $1M fund is to provide non-dilutive grants to extend the life of early-stage capital at a critical time in a company’s growth cycle. We know that access to capital continues to be a challenge in the D.C. market and can be a barrier to a company’s growth and their decision to remain in our market. We believe that giving companies a financial boost when they need it the most will give them a reason to choose Arlington and in turn strengthen Arlington’s position as a leading hub for tech companies. What’s more, our goal is for at least 50% of applications to be from founders within under-represented and underserved communities. This is part of our commitment to inclusive economic development and creating a dynamic and diverse startup pool in our own community.

In addition to the Catalyst Grants, a portion of the Fund will be used to support local and regional programming that focuses on strengthening connections across the tech ecosystem in Arlington and Northern Virginia. This support may include sponsorships, partnerships and other program activities. Our team is looking forward to announcing new partnerships later this year. 

The Innovation Fund is just one several new programs that have launched in the past two years to support the growth of our existing companies. Our award-winning ReLaunch program has provided technical assistance to more than 300 Arlington small businesses and helped many pivot to e-commerce platforms. In June, we celebrated the conclusion of our first year of the Arlington Talent Program that helped 11 Arlington residents pivot to a career in software development through a 20-week work-based learning model that provided one-on-one, paid training and skills development. And we’re working closely with our local artisans and makers through the Made in Arlington program to encourage their growth and success.

As we continue to grapple with complex macro-economic challenges, we’re turning to and supporting some of the most innovative thought leaders we know – the business owners right in our backyard.