By Lydia Wheeler
At Start! Peninsula this year, three winners were named, but the competition continues, as the 10 finalists compete for $10,000 in seed money.
The second annual event, held late last month at the National Institute of Aerospace, drew a crowd of 100 people, 21 of whom presented business pitches to a panel of six judges.
The three winners named at the end of the weekend were each given $2,500, but event director Thomas Flake said the clock reset for all 10 finalists.
Investors have offered $30,000 in seed capital and will choose three winners among the 10 Start!Peninsula finalists to split the money evenly at the end of a three-week accelerator program.
"We did an in-depth focus group last year and found that the participants felt you couldn't get to know an entrepreneur or an idea well enough over the course of a weekend," Flake said. "And seed capital is hard enough to come by, so we needed to make a more considered decision. We're using the accelerator as a better filter."
The accelerator program ends the third week in February and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is planning a banquet on Feb. 20 to honor the winners.
Steve Hackbarth, one of the weekend's top three finalists, said, "[The] $10,000 is not as much of a prize as it is an investment. The $10,000 is coming from potential investors and with that comes the expectation you will provide a return on that investment."
With two colleagues, Hackbarth, a developer with xTuple, a Norfolk-based software development company, developed Logistify, the Expedia.com of freight. Similar to how the travel website allows consumers to search for cheaper flights, Logistify is a software program that allows manufacturing companies to search for quotes on LTL, or less-than-truckload freight, which is heavier than a regular FedEx shipment but doesn't require a whole truck.
Because it's challenging for startups to break into big industries like logistics, xTuple has agreed to be a partner and let Hackbarth and his team use the company's existing customer base.
"They don't do freight," he said. "It's not their specialty, but they are happy to partner."
Start!Peninsula is modeled after Start Norfolk, now in its fourth installment, which was last held in September. Hackbarth and his partners, xTuple developers Linda Nichols and Travis Webb, took first place at the event, but didn't win any money.
"Start Norfolk has dialed down its grant price to zero," he said.
The two other finalists of the Start!Peninsula weekend included James Hubbard, who created Hubbard Innovative Systems, an energy harvesting device, and Aazia Mickens-Dessaso, who created HeadCount, a short message service or SMS system for feature phones, which are only capable of calling and text messaging, using dropped calls.