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 have access to the resources they need to navigate the entrepreneurial process. They wanted make the startup community in Richmond to rally around a new digital platform, contribute and participate to help drive a thriving startup community.

Our team identified that founders of Richmond are having 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 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 be on par with other cities like Austin, TX or Raleigh, NC.


The founders in Richmond region are having hard time finding talents to execute their idea.

With secondary and primary research, we discovered that the real problem behind the lack of growth in Richmond startup scene. Founders already had an 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, but 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 directly promote themselves to the people they are hiring.

The hiring process should be less of a transactional process 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 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 capability to directly promote themselves to the people they are hiring.

"Needs" Cards

Instead of a job listing, Rally platform introduces "needs" cards for talents to efficiently see what area they can help them with. 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 to pick and choose and to 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 are able to see what kind of startups are in the area, and also can filter by category, needs, and size in order to get a 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 process 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 Richmond startup scene?

In the discovery phase, we have interviewed the startup players of Richmond region, including accelerators, founders, and talents to pick up their brain about what current startup ecosystem looks like, and what are the needs of the users. Also through the 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. Then narrowed down to three MVP flows we want to focus on.


Developing the Rally brand.

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


Iterate, Iterate, Iterate.

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

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 the big part of Rally's success, and we thought about physical deliverables that can help getting 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 coffeeshop or brewery for either working or networking. What if we make coasters and distribute them locally in order to introduce Rally brand non-intrusive way?

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


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 also by realizing we are tackling such a big problem in scale. After 8 weeks, I learned so much about the entrepreneurship world and enjoyed the process of finding the root problem, honing into it to generate more original and impactful concept.

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 kinds of founders — from a main street to one with series-C funding — could be comfortable talking about their business. I thought that these kind of design intentions for inclusivity makes the project more challenging but it's much fruitful because I know the good impact it would make in the society.

Next Steps

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

This project started as a school project with a live client mainly to learn how to work with business goal and constraints, but they were impressed by our presentation and decided to continue developing this digital platform so that it could be utilized by the startup community in Richmond region. Our team worked on a complete design system that future designers and developers could reference in order to keep all pages and elements displayed in a consistent manner. A few of the design system guidelines and component library 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