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RAMP participants will occupy office space in the Gill Memorial Building in downtown Roanoke.

Roanoke-based startup accelerator RAMP is rolling out a new program that aims to help more entrepreneurs hone their startup ideas even if they’re not ready to enroll in business boot camp quite yet.

They’re called “Pitch & Polish” clinics and — unlike RAMP’s intensive months-long accelerator — the program offers a quick, less formal way for local entrepreneurs to connect with business leaders and get feedback on their big ideas.

It’s the latest sign of RAMP’s effort to broaden its reach beyond the handful of companies selected to move into the accelerator’s Roanoke office each year.

Now, four companies will be selected to participate in a clinic every other month, circulating among host sites in Lynchburg, Roanoke and Blacksburg. They’ll pitch their idea to a panel of coaches, from bankers to seasoned technology executives.

The 10- to 15-minute pitches aren’t in front of an audience, they aren’t judged like a competition and there are no investors looking for new startups to back. Instead, the experts are there to give advice, make connections and help the young businesses refine their ideas.

“My goal is that the region begin to understand that there’s ongoing resources to start and grow a company in this region,” RAMP Director Mary Miller said. “Right now, we’re only bringing in one cohort a year to the RAMP-in-residence program, but there’s a lot of other resources for you specifically focused on technology companies.”

The first Pitch & Polish clinic will be held Sept. 12 in Lynchburg. Blacksburg will host the November event, Roanoke in January next year and then back to Lynchburg in March.

The first two years of the program are funded by a $244,300 state grant RAMP received through the GO Virginia initiative.

The expert coaches at the first Pitch & Polish event will include at least one lawyer, accountant, entrepreneur, banker and investor.

Teams can apply for any upcoming clinics at RAMP’s website.

“It may be that you are preparing for a competition. These people will ask questions and try to help you polish that,” Miller said. “Or maybe you are simply growing your company and are really looking for help.”

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Jacob Demmitt covers business and technology out of the New River Valley bureau.

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