Rally RVA

A digital platform for a thriving startup community in Richmond, VA.

Rally: A digital platform for a thriving startup community in Richmond, VA.


Activation Capital is an organization in Richmond, Virginia helping founders access the resources they need to navigate the entrepreneurial process. They wanted to make the startup community in Richmond rally around a new digital platform, contribute and participate in helping drive a thriving startup community.

Our team identified that the founders of Richmond have a hard time finding talents to execute their idea. Based on our findings, we decided to design a digital platform to help connecting founders and talents more efficiently than traditional talent acquisition platforms.

This project started as a school project with a live client, but the client was sold on our concept and hired us to create a design system and revise the flow and screens to get this one step closer to be a real platform for the founders and talents of Virginia.


UX/UI Design
Visual Design
Design System


Sharon Byun
Dennis Liu
Marshal Turner

Type & Timeline

Live client: Activation Capital
8 weeks (Fall 2019)


Adobe Creative Suite


How do you get the startup community in Richmond, Virginia, to rally around a digital platform to help drive a thriving startup community?

Activation Capital, a statewide economic development organization, approached us with a simple ask. How can we reinvigorate the innovation scene in Richmond, VA, and expand the startup market to par with other cities like Austin, TX, or Raleigh, NC?


The founders in the Richmond region have a hard time finding talents to execute their idea.

We discovered the real problem behind the lack of growth in the Richmond startup scene with secondary and primary research. Founders already had access to capital, educational resources, but what they are struggling with the most is finding talents to execute their idea.


Traditional talent acquisition platforms are not working for startups.

Traditional talent acquisition platforms like Indeed or Careerbuilder exist for traditional companies. Still, they are ineffective for startups because a simple job listing does not accurately represent the many roles that its employee to fulfill.

Re-framed Problem

How can we modernize the talent acquisition process to make it more efficient for startups in Richmond and more motivational for potential talents?


Introducing Rally.

A modernized talent acquisition platform for a thriving startup community in Richmond, VA. Based on our interviews and research of traditional job searching platforms, we identified three behaviors we wanted to change for both founders and talents with our platform.

Startups should have the opportunity to showcase their broader needs.

Startups should have the capability to promote themselves to the people they are hiring directly.

The hiring process should be less of a transactional approach and more of a relational one.

View Prototype on Figma


Startup Profile

This feature allows founders to profile their startups and detail their needs, efficiently showcasing their vision, culture, and skills the talents can develop working at their company. It also serves as a way for funders to see what is in the pipeline.

User Needs / Insights

Startups should have the opportunity to showcase their broader needs and have the capability to promote themselves to the people they are hiring directly.

"Needs" Cards

Instead of a job listing, the Rally platform introduces "needs" cards for talents to efficiently see what area they can help them. Depends on the funding stage, startups might need mentors or partners, and these need cards reflect the broader needs of the founders.

User Needs / Insights

Startups should have the opportunity to showcase their broader needs.

Startup Benefits

Instead of featuring traditional benefits like healthcare or 401K, the profile page introduces skills the talents can develop working for the startup.

User Needs / Insights

Startups of any size should have the opportunity to showcase their company vision without being intimidated by competing with the larger corporations.

Talents want to know what skills they can develop working at a company before joining the team.

Startup Profile Wizard

Creating a simple yet effective profile is crucial for the founders. The wizard feature helps them pick and choose and curate only the necessary information about their company.

User Needs / Insights

Founders need guidance in making a profile that can showcase their company vision and culture effectively.

Startup Profile Index

As the founders create profiles, the platform generates an index of them. Both talents and funders can see what kind of startups are in the area and can filter by category, needs, and size to get faster access to the startups they are looking for.  

User Needs / Insights

Talents should be able to browse through startups in the area efficiently.

Funders want to see what companies are available in the Richmond region.

E-Business Cards

Instead of sending a resume and wait for a call, talents view the needs cards on a startup profile, then send an e-business card to start a casual conversation with founders in the area.  

User Needs / Insights

The hiring process should be less of a transactional approach and more of a relational one.

A wizard to guide the e-business card creation for the talents.
What the founders would see in their email inbox after the talents send their e-business card.

Design Process

Discovery / Define

What's the missed opportunity for the Richmond startup scene?

In the discovery phase, we interviewed the startup players of the Richmond region, including accelerators, founders, and talents, to pick up their brains about what the current startup ecosystem looks like and the needs of the users. Through secondary research and the competitive audit of other innovation cities like Austin, Raleigh, the pattern emerged. "Richmond startup scene is lacking talent acquisition."

If you don't have the talent... entrepreneurship just isn't going to happen.

— Accelerator

Richmond as a region does not lack access to capital. The real issue is Richmond is lagging behind in market for startup (tech) talent.

— Founder

TechStars identifies talent as the most underdeveloped component.

— Richmond Times-Dispatch


Ideating features to connect founders and talents.

After we defined a problem, we sketched out a few feature ideas, and rough user flows for those features. We then narrowed it down to three critical flows we want to focus on.


Developing the Rally brand.

Rally can be a unique brand uniquely inherent to Richmond, VA, and become a holistic experience that the innovation community rallies around. We've used blue and teal as primary colors because blue gives a corporate, reliable feel for the business. Teal balances it out by providing a fresh and innovative sense of startups.


Iterate, Iterate, Iterate.

We used Figma to collaborate and built a high-fidelity prototype for Rally. We conducted user testings with the potential users (founder and talents) and the shareholder to receive feedback and re-iterated several versions with this prototype.

View Prototype on Figma
V1 of needs card feature
V3 of needs card feature
V1 of startup profile index
V3 of startup profile index

GO-TO-MArket strategy

Thinking beyond the shipping.

Brand awareness is a big part of Rally's success, and we thought about physical deliverables that can help get Rally out in the startup community. Richmond, Virginia, is known for its food and craft beer scene, and a lot of founders and talents already spend their time in local coffeeshops or breweries for either working or networking. What if we make coasters and distribute them locally to introduce the Rally brand non-intrusive way?

Also, Rally RVA is powered by a local organization, Activation Capital. They do an annual conference for the startup community called DownRiver and UpRiver. We thought a photo wall with step and repeat logos and t-shirts to distribute during the conference would be an excellent opportunity to introduce the brand.


Re-framing the broad problem to a design problem.

When we started researching the problems of the startup community in Richmond, we were overwhelmed by learning new business terms such as accelerator, incubator, and angel investors and by realizing we are tackling such a big problem. After eight weeks, I learned so much about the entrepreneurship world and enjoyed the process of finding the root problem, honing it to generate more original and impactful concepts.

Even though the startup communities tend to only focus on big tech companies, we intentionally tried to design a platform so inclusive that every size and kind of founders — from a main street to one with series-C funding — could be comfortable talking about their business. I thought that this kind of design intention for inclusivity makes the project more challenging, but it's much fruitful because I know its good impact on society.

Next Steps

From a school project to a real-world design system.

This project started as a school project with a live client to learn how to work with business goals and constraints. Still, they were impressed by our presentation and decided to continue developing this digital platform so that the startup community in the Richmond region could utilize it. Our team worked on a complete design system that future designers and developers could reference to keep all pages and elements displayed consistently. A few of the design system guidelines and component libraries are shown below. We also revised our prototypes addressing the shareholder's feedback to be one step closer to the live platform.

View Rally's Design System