Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Virginia entrepreneurs to ‘swim with the sharks’ at Stryker Center

(Courtesy Elias Levy/Flickr)
The Stryker Center will host the “Virginia Shark Tank” — an event that aims to showcase statewide entrepreneurs, and market their budding businesses to Historic Triangle investors. (Courtesy Elias Levy/Flickr)

Williamsburg residents will soon have the chance to watch entrepreneurs go swimming with the sharks.

The Stryker Center will host the “Virginia Shark Tank” — an event that aims to showcase statewide entrepreneurs, and market their budding businesses to Historic Triangle investors.

According to a press release from Ignition Business Accelerator, “Virginia Shark Tank” will take place at Williamsburg’s Stryker Center between 4:30 and 10:30 p.m. on Sat., April 8.

“This event will introduce the community to its entrepreneurs, and will connect the innovators to investors, mentors, and other entrepreneurs,” said Lance Zaal, co-founder and Chairman of Ignition. “We want to get people excited about creating business and taking risks.”

The event is modeled after the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank.” Much like the TV program, entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges, who are also potential investors.

Six startups will be featured in the event, Zaal said, and will have eight minutes each to pitch their idea. Each pitch will be followed by a 12-minute question-and-answer segment with the panel of judges.

“We’re going to have about six to eight judges. These judges have experience starting businesses,” Zaal said. “They’re entrepreneurs and they also have some capital to invest. They’re going to be great mentors with connections and also capital to actually invest in these companies.”

According to Ignition’s website, Ignition is a non-profit business accelerator based in Williamsburg that provides support, resources and direct investment to entrepreneurs.

Zaal met with the city’s Economic Development Authority at their monthly meeting last Wednesday. Zaal asked the EDA to sponsor the event.

According to Williamsburg Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt, in order for Ignition to use the Stryker Center for the Virginia Shark Tank, the EDA must sponsor the event.

DeWitt also endorsed the proposal.

“It meets a handful of City Council’s goals, and it also meets our goals from the Economic Development plan as well,” she said.

The EDA voted unanimously to sponsor the event and allow Ignition to use the Stryker Center for a cost of $2,621.

Zaal said that Ignition has received 21 admissions for Virginia Shark Tank to date, and have received applications from across the state- including Williamsburg, Charlottesville, Virginia Beach and Richmond.  He added that Ignition is still accepting applications.

“Generally the people who are going to be pitching, they have businesses ready that they’re presenting to investors,” said Zaal. “They have a business model, perhaps a product that’s built and ready.”

In addition to the six contestants, entrepreneurs who did not make it to the long-form pitch round will be given two minutes on stage to make a pitch, as well as exhibit space to advertise their business during intermission and the reception.

Zaal said there will not be any prizes for first, second or third place, nor participation trophies. However, the audience will be given a chance to vote on the most popular startup.

“The real prize is the opportunity to receive investment,” Zaal said.

Virginia Shark Tank is free to enter and attend. It will also be live streamed on Ignition’s Facebook page.

Those who would like to attend, either as a guest or a participant, can do so at Ignition’s website.

Questions should be sent to Tim Yewcic at

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