Gov. Terry McAuliffe met with founders and executives from the Tandem NSI initiative in Rosslyn on Friday, discussing ideas for how the state government can help startups grow.
Six companies from Tandem NSI — a public-private partnership between Arlington Economic Development and investment firm Amplifier Ventures focusing on turning national security innovations into private sector businesses– were on hand to demonstrate their products for McAuliffe.
“There are 31,000 tech jobs open in Northern Virginia that we cannot fill,” McAuliffe told the crowd of a few dozen entrepreneurs and staffers from the county. “We have 840,000 veterans in Virginia. Let’s get them credentialed and trained so they can join the workforce.”
McAuliffe seemed receptive to some new ideas the entrepreneurs had. One said that the Center for Innovative Technology Gap Funding that the state provides to Virginia-based startups isn’t enough.
“CIT gives $50,000 to cybersecurity firms,” said Steven Chen, a board member with Blue Venture Investors. “That doesn’t really move the needle. A company can move to Maryland and get $2 million.”
Another member of the audience said they had a product in testing, but the step from testing to the first client is a source of anxiety. She recommended the state become an early adopter of some startup technologies, both to help the state innovate and give credibility to Virginia startups.
“I think some of the startups that may have applications for us should come to us first,” McAuliffe said, telling his secretary of technology, Karen Jackson, to explore the possibility. “If we could be the first customer for a startup, that would be a great idea.”
McAuliffe pointed out that Virginia will continue to see its jobs from the Department of Defense cut due to sequestration over the next two years, and that the “Virginia economy of old where we relied on the federal government is over.”