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TOP STORY 2012 Economic gardening, startup programs take root

Updated: January 4, 2013 - 4:43 pm

Posted: December 28, 2012

Economic gardening initiatives and accelerator programs for startup companies sprouted in the area in 2012.

Last April, StartNorfolk held its second startup weekend designed to connect entrepreneurs with people who have investment capital, management, design and programming experience to jump-start the best business ideas.

The winners were d8night.com, which gives ideas for dates; Podium Pro, a public speaking application for the iPad; and Care Direct, an Internet platform for emergency medical help.

Start! Peninsula followed suit in December awarding each of the three finalists of its weekend-long event with $10,000; a business management software program produced locally in Norfolk called xTuple; and office space in one of the five sponsoring area incubators.

More than 500 people attended the StartNorfolk events and 100 ideas have been pitched, said Zack Miller, chief operating officer of We Are Titans, a Norfolk product development shop that helps startups and established businesses worldwide build custom web and mobile applications.

Of the 150 people who attended Start! Peninsula, 35 made business pitches.

The winning ideas were Handheld Handyman, a dedicated video chat application; Oralize, a device to detect the early stages of oral cancer through saliva; and Olde Virginia Cidery, a hard apple cider brewery.

Thomas Flake, director of the Peninsula Technology Incubator, said he expects to have eight businesses operating out of the incubator by January.

He hopes to make Start! Peninsula an annual event that is offset from StartNorfolk by six months.

Miller also launched Hatch Norfolk, the area's first-ever accelerator program this year.

Five companies were chosen for an 11-week mentor-intensive program in which they received working capital, business mentoring and free office space in the city-owned building at 111 Granby Street. Local investors xTuple, Kaufman & Canoles, Dominion Enterprises and JR Researching each invested $10,000, along with the city of Norfolk, which provided the space.