Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who are the most successful entrepreneurs of them all?
Or the most successful Richmond entrepreneurs of the past 25 years, as it were.
The Venture Forum, an organization run by local business people to promote entrepreneurship, is switching gears to mark its 25th anniversary. The group, which normally honors up-and-coming local companies, is in search of 25 of Richmond’s most successful entrepreneurs from the past 25 years to recognize at its annual event Oct. 27.
“This event should be an inspiration to people thinking about starting businesses now,” said Carl Johnson, president of NBI Advisors and creator of the Forum’s Greater Richmond Companies to Watch signature event. This event honors innovators that have affected the Richmond area.
The “Top 25 of the Past 25,” will replace, just for this year, the usual Companies to Watch.
Finding those 25 honorees is the hard part. The entrepreneurs will be selected from nominations submitted by media and businesses. “We’re hoping law firms, accounting firms and banks get competitive,” Johnson said. “We want them to be able to say they had most of the 25 as their clients.”
To be considered for the Top 25, the nominated entrepreneur must be a founder or co-founder. The business has to have been founded after 1984, currently successful or have ended their venture successfully, and the business must have originated in the Greater Richmond area. Multiple entrepreneur nominations are allowed. Winners will not be announced until the event.
The Venture Forum was formed in June 1986 as Richmond Venture Capital Club Inc. Although the name has changed, the mission is the same: to bring entrepreneurs and investors together.
Being recognized at the Companies to Watch event has become an important notch on the belt for many new local firms. The purpose of the annual event is to highlight early-stage businesses that have significant growth potential but have yet to attain institutional funding.
“Since 2005, we have picked 53 Companies to Watch, and about two dozen have gone on to a successful sale, raised venture capital or raised significant angel financing after being selected,” said Johnson.
Two companies have sold for a combined $84 million, and four have raised venture capital.
The even last year drew 250 people with nominees from 50 companies.
The featured speaker at this year’s event will be Jigar Shah, founder of Sun Edison, a successful solar energy company. Shar is also chief executive of Carbon War Room, an organization started by billionaire industrialist Richard Branson, a group that promotes climate change among entrepreneurs.
Selected entrepreneurs will receive two free tickets to the event, plus a meet and greet with the other chosen entrepreneurs and a plaque recognizing their contribution to the Richmond area. They also will be mentioned in Richmond Grid Magazine’s brochure.
Tickets to the Top 25 of the Past 25 are $50 for Venture Forum members, $75 for non-members registering as a guest of a sponsor and $100 for non-members. To nominate yourself, your client or others that should be honored, visit the Top 25 website. The event will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and attendance is limited to 250 guests.