The inaugural UpRiver event, a two-day summit for entrepreneurs, was hosted at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture this week and concluded with an award celebration honoring some of the region’s most promising businesses. Following a series of education sessions focused around the data-driven needs of founders, UpRiver announced the finalists for the rvAwesome Founders Award (previously known as RVA Companies to Watch) by Venture Forum RVA and Activation Capital. Founders of 26 impressive companies were nominated in four categories, with one venture selected as an rvAwesome founder from each category. One overall winner was then honored as the rvAwesome Founder of the Year.
Finalists for the High Growth category were EdConnective, Major Clarity, Nestiny, OccasionGenius, RoundTrip, Tablee, TraceRX, WealthForge, and Workpath. The winning company in the category was EdConnective for its work to ensure every school and every teacher has access to low-cost, high-quality coaching. After being matched to an instructional coach, participating teachers using EdConnective record a clip of their classroom instruction. The teachers then shares the recorded instruction with their coach who observes the video and provides tailored feedback via Skype.
In the Main Street category, the finalists included Floricane, Mobelux, Randall Branding, River City Elite Boutique Real Estate Brokerage, The Spark Mill, V4 Development, and Wine & Beer Supply. The recipient in the Main Street category was Wine and Beer Supply, an Ashland-based company working to streamline the winery and brewery supply chain. Wine and Beery Supply offers everything from wine and beer glasses to growlers to bottles and cans. In addition, the growing business offers a mobile bottling solution, warehousing, and a comprehensive direct-to-consumer wine fulfillment service.
Finalists for the Micro category were Junior Founders Club, LightSwitchBio, ReRunner, Sauber Cleaning Solutions, and The Starz Program. The winning company in the Micro category was the Starz Program, a children’s fitness educational enrichment program offering classes in dance, sports, cheerleading, and a fitness program used by a growing network of school systems. Starz was created by Sophia Wastler, a former middle school Physical Education teacher, in the fall of 2015. Today the Starz Program is used by preschools, private schools, daycare centers and Montessori schools as a franchise model in Richmond, Northern Virginia, and Florida.
In the Makers category, Light the Music was recognized for making interactive apps for music lovers to easily play, create and share visual music, using content from their favorite artists. Light the Music has developed an ORO Visual Music app that delivers standards based education curriculum and activities that support music-brain development, problem solving, expression, collaboration, self confidence, and well being. The program is currently being used in by over 300 students with special needs in seven speciality schools and two school districts.
The recipient in the Students category was DuraSafe, a company founded by Alex Ritchie, a 2018 graduate of VCU who is on a mission to revolutionize the way epidurals are administered in the United States and across the globe. Her goal is to provide a new dimension of safety and efficacy for both the patient and the provider in order to create a deeper sense of confidence in the epidural administration process.
The award event concluded with the selection of Sophia Wastler as the rvAwesome Founder of the Year for her work to grow the Starz Program. Organizers of the UpRiver event say that the first annual rvAwesome award, along with recognition of all of the finalists, is one of many ways that Activation Capital and Venture Forum RVA are working to highlight the innovative activities and support resources that are on the rise throughout the region. For additional information, visit www.activation.capital and www.ventureforumrva.com.