Demo Day to showcase VCU students’ most promising startups and innovations

Matthew Teachey, who developed a craft beer delivery service through VCU's Pre-Accelerator Program, talks about his experience to VCU students in this year's Pre-X program.
Matthew Teachey, who developed a craft beer delivery service through VCU's Pre-Accelerator Program, talks about his experience to VCU students in this year's Pre-X program. (Photo courtesy of University Public Affairs.)

By Brian McNeill
University Public Affairs


Entrepreneurial-minded Virginia Commonwealth University students participating in the Pre-Accelerator Program will present their innovations and startup ideas Friday, April 26, 2019, at a community event at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, 601 W. Broad St.

Teams of students in the program, called Pre-X, will showcase their promising ideas — including a solution for package theft, applying gamification to study for medical boards, and using mushrooms to sustainably biodegrade cardboard — from 3 to 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Select student ventures will pitch from 3 to 5 p.m. in the ICA’s theater, followed by a showcase and reception in the forum.

“VCU’s Demo Day is an opportunity to showcase the creativity and innovation that VCU fosters through cross-disciplinary collaboration and access to real-world learning opportunities for students,” said Garret Westlake, Ph.D., executive director of the VCU da Vinci Center. The da Vinci Center hosts Pre-X, a collaboration of VCU’s School of the Arts, School of Business, College of Engineering and College of Humanities and Sciences, to advance innovation and entrepreneurship.

The annual event gives the community an opportunity to see the ventures and innovations being developed in Pre-X, which represents VCU’s commitment to student access and excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Created in 2015, Pre-X’s goal is to identify, support and launch high-growth and high-potential startups and founders. Over five previous cohorts, participants have generated more than $2 million in revenue and investment. Students in last year’s cohort competed in national pitch competitions, such as the 2018 Future Founders event at 1871 in Chicago, and have received local recognition, including being among Richmond Inno’s 25 under 25 and Venture Forum’s rvAwesome winners.

This spring, Pre-X was expanded to hold class for student innovators across both of VCU’s campuses and with two instructors: Blue Crump, program director of Lighthouse Labs University Initiative, and Vida Williams, Innovator in Residence at the da Vinci Center.

“Offering two sessions across campus this year, Monroe and MCV, [the program has] created even greater opportunities for students across the university to pre-accelerate an idea and validate their assumptions,” Crump said.

A total 59 teams of 110 VCU students from a variety of majors are participating in Pre-X this semester. They range from undergraduate freshmen to Ph.D. and medical students.

Over the five-week program, the teams develop an executive summary about their idea or startup, a poster that highlights their startup or idea, and a three-minute pitch deck.

All Pre-X students’ posters will be on display at Demo Day at the ICA and 10 teams will be selected for a pitch competition in the ICA theater.

“This is a unique opportunity for the startup ecosystem in Richmond to see dozens of pre-accelerated ideas from VCU student groups that are not typically part of the local entrepreneurial community,” Crump said.

The event, Westlake added, is a great way for entrepreneurial VCU students and Richmond-area businesses to connect.

“For many area employers, VCU's Demo Day is yet another opportunity to connect with the outstanding talent at VCU and build connections between students and Richmond's many employment opportunities,” Westlake said.

For more information about Demo Day and to RSVP, visit: