Startups stand out at annual business event

The crowd watches the award presentation at Wednesday evening's Venture Forum RVA event. Photos by Michael Thompson.

The crowd watches the award presentation at Wednesday evening’s Venture Forum RVA event. Photos by Michael Thompson.

A crop of growing Richmond companies was in the spotlight in Jackson Ward last night.

Venture Forum RVA honored five local companies on Wednesday evening as part of its annual Companies to Watch event. Venture Forum is a business group that aims to connect investors and startups.

Held at the Hippodrome Theater in Jackson Ward, the event gave out awards in two categories: growth companies and emerging startups.

The four companies named in the emerging startup category were healthy food startup Health Warrior; Knox, an online payment company; Shockoe Denim, a blue jeans manufacturer and retailer; and WealthForge, a startup broker-dealer.

The lone company recognized in the growth category was Integrated Global Services, a Southside-based firm that installs custom metallic coating and welding on commercial machinery to help prevent corrosion.

Iain Hall of Integrated Global Services

Iain Hall of Integrated Global Services

“The emerging startup category is a company that is still in that initial phase of the business, maybe still raising capital,” said Jessica Barnes, the chair of the Companies to Watch committee. “The growth category is for companies that are more established and have been generating a significant amount of revenue in a 12- to 24-month period.”

Barnes said the committee received nominations for about 45 companies. The committee looks for companies that have increased local hiring and worked with local vendors and nonprofits, among other things. Last year, Venture Forum RVA honored eight companies total.

“We really scrutinized the companies more than we had in the past,” Barnes said of this year’s selection process.

The panel of judges that chose this year’s honorees consisted of Barnes, Tom Bendetti of Blue Heron Capital, Patrick Hull of Phull Holdings, Charles Merritt of 80amps, Zack Miller of Hatch Norfolk and VCU professor Matthew Rutherford

The event included a video presentation of each company. Unbound RVA, a nonprofit focused on helping low-income individuals become entrepreneurs, also got some time to present itself to the crowd of about 300.

Venture Forum RVA has put on the Companies to Watch event since 2005.

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