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Speakeasy is named region’s next best start-up!

Speakeasy was named the Region’s Next Best Start-Up by a panel of judges at the i.e.* Start-Up Competition finale on April 16. Speakeasy was awarded $10,000 to invest in its idea of inviting customers to use their phones to share problems directly with businesses. The start-up invites customers to use a mobile application to share problems directly with a business before feedback could become public.

Dragon Grips won the $2,500 People’s Choice Award via on-site audience vote.  Dragon Grips intends to make pedal-powered heated handlebar grips for bicycles, allowing cyclists to bicycle 365 days a year.

The event marks the finale of the Chamber’s i.e.* Entrepreneurial Trilogy, a series of programming designed to support entrepreneurial activity in the Richmond Region.

Each of the Start-Up Competition’s 13 finalist teams had the opportunity to pitch concepts and field questions before a panel of eight local judges and a live audience at Richmond CenterStage.

Jerry Fox, managing partner at the accounting firm Cherry Bekaert LLP, presented Speakeasy with a check for $10,000. Speakeasy also will receive six months of free office space at New Richmond Ventures, $3,500 worth of IT strategy and implementation from Imagine Simplicity and a $500 credit at local furniture retailer LaDifference. Local co-working space 804RVA is donating six months worth of community co-working memberships to all finalists.

“Once again this year the Richmond Region has proven itself to be a place where creative people can turn their smart new business ideas into exciting new realities, thanks to remarkable support from the region’s entrepreneurial and corporate communities,” said Chrystal Neal, Director of Creativity and Innovation at the Greater Richmond Chamber. “In so many ways this competition highlights our region’s tremendous assets and innovative culture.”

The Entrepreneurial Trilogy was made possible by a network of local corporate and community partners, led by global packaging company MWV, which is headquartered in Richmond.

“MWV is proud once again to sponsor the Greater Richmond Chamber’s second annual i.e.* Start-Up Competition,” shared Donna Cox, Vice President, Global Communications and Brand, MWV. “At MWV, innovation is a key part of our strategy, and we are proud to call Richmond home, so it’s incredibly important for us to support programs like these that are focused on bringing innovation to RVA.”

“All of our contestants should be proud of the energy and dedication they’ve shown throughout the Entrepreneurial Trilogy. It is our hope that all will experience momentum based on the exposure and networking provided during this process. Congratulations to Speakeasy, and congratulations to all,” said Kim Scheeler, President and CEO, Greater Richmond Chamber.

About the Competition and i.e.*
The Second Annual i.e.* Start-Up Competition was free to enter and required contestants to be either in business for less than one year or not yet be licensed. The winner must establish headquarters within the Richmond Region. The finalists were selected in two ways. A group of local successful entrepreneurs from Lighthouse Lab Mentors and the 804RVA Mentor Network selected five contestants from the overall pool based on the following criteria:

  • Evaluation of the viability of the business to be successful
  • Evaluation of the innovative nature of the business
  • Originality of the product or service in the market

The remainder of the finalists was selected by online public vote March 26 – 28 on One contestant was selected by both methods, resulting in 14 finalists. One finalist team withdrew on the day of the contest, resulting in 13 competitors.
The first of its kind in Central Virginia, the i.e.* Start-Up Competition is produced by the Greater Richmond Chamber’s i.e.* initiative, which was launched in June 2011 to highlight the Richmond Region’s talented workforce, make cross-industry connections and encourage new innovation and growth.

Finalists and Judges

Read more about each finalist on RVANews

2013 Finalists (in alphabetical order):

Boho Cycle Studio

Dragon Grips



Love This

Richmond Autism Connection

Richmond Food Cooperative

RVA Farms

Sir Bentley Art


The Storytellers Channel

Success Without Limitations Inc.



2013 Judges (in alphabetical order):

Karen Booth Adams, CEO of Hot Technology Holdings

Marti Beller, Co-Founder and CEO of Plan G

Tom Benedetti, Co-Founder of Blue Heron Capital

Alejandro (Alex) Cedeno, Vice-President of Global Innovation of MWV

and MWV Operating Council Member

Moses Foster, Founder/Senior Director of Creative Development, West Cary Group

Satya Rangarajan, Managing Partner, Enlightened Capital Management

Matt Rho, Managing Director, New Richmond Ventures

John Toler, Chief Operating Officer, Evergreen Enterprises


Entrepreneurial Trilogy Partners

Trilogy Presenting Sponsor – MWV

Award Sponsor – Cherry Bekaert LLP

Platinum Sponsor – Evergreen Enterprises

Start-Up Competition Sponsor – Tumblr

Competition Celebration Sponsors – LeClairRyan, Health Diagnostic Laboratory

Idea Showcase Sponsor – Union First Market Bank

Beyond the Patent Powerhouse Sponsor – Troutman Sanders

People’s Choice Award Sponsor – First Capital Bank

Office Space Award Sponsor – New Richmond Ventures

IT Support Award Sponsors – Imagine Simplicity

Mentoring Award Sponsor – 804RVA

Office Furniture Award Sponsors – LaDifference

Mobile Application Sponsor – Shockoe

Crowdsource Sponsor – Fundroom


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