Meet the 2015 Best Startup category finalists in the i.e.* Startup Competition

Seven startups compete for the gold (which, in this case, is $10,000) on Tuesday. We asked them to convince us why they should win, and what they’d do with their money. (Tomorrow, check back for the Best Social Entrepreneur finalists!)

Before3, Inc. – Rick Bishop

Before3 - Service. Nearby. Now. PIC B 041915

What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

Before3 is a smartphone tool that most everyone on the planet can use (to find rated and reviewed service providers of all types that are nearby, interested, and available). Before3 is proximity-focused and the technology deployment model has multiple applications, in multiple channels, throughout the global on-demand economy. Before3 is scalable without need for a factory, physical distribution system, retail space, or other costly physical or human capital infrastructure.

The platform is free for those looking for services and stupendouslyinexpensive for service providers–and only once the service provider is selected and accepts the “hire” does the provider pay. Both consumers (individuals and businesses) and service providers (individuals and businesses) use Before3 multiple times per month. Our variable costs are miniscule and opportunities for location-based marketing and other derivative revenue are significant.

SP Details Consumer Sees 042515

The concept is ridiculously simple yet exceptionally powerful and fast. We use the magic of GPS to connect two parties who likely would not have found each other–even using a “call-around-to-the-neighbors-and-see-if-anybobdy-knows-anybody” (very inefficient) approach. Unlike other similar services, Before3 does not take a percentage of the service providers’ earnings, letting providers offer their services at lower rates than would be required to yield the same financial outcome on competitive systems. Consumers pay service providers directly, opening to consumers providers that may not have sophisticated search-engine-optimized websites or whose rates cannot justify a 20% haircut (e.g. a college kid looking for random “heavy lifting” gigs).

This model also keeps our risks low and our scalability less complicated. So, essentially, we think we can grow faster, get bigger (more revenue), and make more money (net profits), consistently, with less risk.

If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

Our inaugural system was built for the iPhone, for various reasons. Android devices, however, seem to be the technology of choice for a growing number of service providers and already dominate the smartphone market in many countries.

So, just after series of uninhibited “yee-haws,” we would likely start development on the Android version.

— ∮∮∮ —

Ginger Juice – Erin Powell

Ginger Juice - carrot

What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

Our mission. We exist to help RVA gain access to natural, healthy, cold-pressed juice for adults and children. While the cold-pressed juice business is estimated to be worth anywhere between $1.6 to $3.4 billion, there is not a cold-pressed juice bottler in Richmond. Furthermore, there is no cold-pressed juice company in the world that focuses on offering its product to kids. Nine out of 10 Americans don’t get the recommended daily allotment of fruits and vegetables–Ginger Juice can help with that. It’s our goal to grow to a size (via vending machines, partners, franchising, and distribution) where there’s an option for Ginger Juice at every place where you can get a Coke.

Ginger Juice - green

If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

We have our eye on a production space that will also have a small retail storefront–I’d buy all of the assets to build out that kitchen with the $10k!

— ∮∮∮ —

Marilyn & Michelle


After double mastectomies, Marilyn and Michelle (two real people!) created the TaTa Topper, a mattress topper with a hole cut out in the breast area. Their mission is to get the TaTa Topper to as many women as possible to help them sleep better and recover faster.

What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

Since January, we have been selling in seven retail stores as well as online. We have been well received by local nonprofits, physicians, and nurses. We raised over $20,000 in a crowdfunding campaign and we have low overhead cost and a viable profit margin. The TaTa Topper is being produced right here in Virginia. The bottom line is: we are providing a product that is needed and there is no other product like this on the market.

If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

If we win, we would like to grow our business to reach the national market. We would use the money toward marketing and PR to build awareness. We would like to improve our website, take better pictures and create a prettier package for our product to be sold in the retail stores. It would also allow us to produce additional toppers that we have designed for other medical issues to grow our demand.

— ∮∮∮ —

MedNav, Inc. — Waleed Qamar


What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

MedNav was borne out of a personal need, after a traumatic experience that I faced as a student at the University of Connecticut. It opened my eyes to inefficiencies and fragmentation in our health care system. I also realized that I was not alone. Every day, millions of Americans get sick or need medical treatment, and finding the right provider isn’t always easy.

We are looking to apply an Uber/ model to health care, so that individuals can either use the overarching MedNav platform to find doctors in their area with the touch of a button.

If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

If MedNav wins, we will have a team celebration, and invite our early adopters, supporters, and individuals from the general public to attend! We will also use the opportunity to emphasize that the time to disrupt health care is now, and encourage people to join us in our effort to promote real change.

— ∮∮∮ —

PartyRVA – Nate Marcus


What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

PartyRVA is free to use, saves people money and strengthens RVA’s small business community at the same time.

PartyRVA provides everything related to group fun and celebrations, from ideas to invitations.

PartyRVA has several features that combine services of other sites (such as Yelp, Groupon, Evite, and Survey Monkey) to make party planning easier. Users can find and vote on local ideas, send free electronic invitations, and get back RSVPs. The site also plans to streamline gift-giving through a gift registry and PartyRVA gift certificates.

Stir the night 5

PartyRVA’s team finds the best hyper-local ideas for events such as living statues, life-sized balloon sculptures, mobile petting zoos, human bubble soccer, and digital photo booths. The mission is to provide a platform to little-known local mom-and-pop businesses that are not well known other than by word of mouth.

For parents, raising children can be challenging–planning their party shouldn’t be. PartyRVA offers reliable ideas with positive testimonials and a track record of successful events. The site also offers a free reminder service– great ideas can fill up two months before, so we’ll remind you when it’s time to book. Supermom saves the (Birth)day!

Now everyone, regardless of experience or connections, can organize a party from little-known local ideas.

Tipsy Sommelier MAIN 3

If you win, what is the first thing you’re going to do?

If we win, we will develop a PartyRVA gift certificate program, making gift giving easy and seemless.

Besides supporting local small businesses, the gift certificate program will help Celebrate!RVA, a local nonprofit that puts on monthly birthday celebrations for kids in underprivileged schools in Richmond.

The money will also allow PartyRVA staff to quickly develop an online marketplace for local gifts, featuring non-franchised gift stores and local artists, making sure that money stays local and that gifts are truly unique.

— ∮∮∮ —

Richmond Rides Bicycle Tours – Catherine Illian


What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

Richmond Rides is Richmond’s first and only bicycle tour company, and we are helping tourists and hometown tourists experience Richmond’s iconic landmarks in a new way. Biking is the best way to see a city and with the growing number of people coming to Richmond (our region has seen record growth in tourism over the past three years), we are poised to be very, very busy showing Richmond off to the world. With the opening of the Capital Trail coming this year, there are also opportunities to expand our tours beyond Richmond proper.


If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

I’m sure we’ll have a celebratory bike ride with our advisory board. Then we’d like to buy a “bread truck” to transport the bikes around town, get some professional photography of the bicycles, and pay for some more target ads online.

— ∮∮∮ —

SecuriChecks — Chris Sullo


What about your startup makes you a better choice than your competition?

The SecuriChecks product is needed by security software companies, the Fortune 500, and the individuals working day-to-day securing critical corporate and Internet infrastructure. SecuriChecks will work with the security software they currently have installed, but enable them to perform more comprehensive security assessments. I have twenty years of leadership in the security industry behind me, and the relationships with other industry leaders to easily launch a product to tap into the $75 billion market.

If you win, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

The top objective is to hire a developer to work on the SecuriChecks infrastructure and help convert data from the founder’s Nikto open source software, which is 15 years old and has been #1 rated.

— ∮∮∮ —

Attend the i.e.* Startup Competition IN PERSON!

  • Tuesday, May 12th • 6:00 PM
  • Carpenter Theater, 600 E. Grace Street
  • Free!
  • error

    Report an error

Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead