Local startup gets a big shot from AOL founder

Steve Chase presents the prize to WealthForge co-founders Mat Delorso and Fred Bryant. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Steve Case presents the prize to WealthForge co-founders Mat Dellorso and Fred Bryant. Photos by Michael Thompson.

During a quick stop in Richmond, a traveling investor made a quantifiable economic impact before getting back on the road.

AOL co-founder Steve Case and his Rise of the Rest startup event doled out $100,000 to a local company as part of a pitch competition on Monday. The event was held at Gottwald Playhouse at CenterStage and was one of five stops on a tour intended to fund startups and promote entrepreneurship.

The winning firm in Richmond was Wealthforge, a local startup broker-dealer.

Case, who runs Washington, D.C.-based investment firm Revolution, said WealthForge has proved it can grow.

“I liked the fact that WealthForge could be judged not just on ideas but on execution,” said Case, who funded the prize money.

steve chase crowd

The crowd at Monday’s Rise of the Rest event at CenterStage.

Mat Dellorso, a WealthForge co-founder, said the West End-based company will use its winnings to move its offices downtown.

“We really want to put it into use to open an 8,000-square-foot office in Richmond, downtown,” Dellorso said, though he didn’t identify a location for the potential new office.

This isn’t the first time WealthForge has found itself in the good graces of investors. The 35-person company raised $2.3 million in 2014.

The Rise of the Rest competition capped off a day that included a breakfast with Gov. Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner at Urban Farmhouse in Shockoe Slip and a “startup crawl” that stopped by New Richmond Ventures and Ledbury.

Case and Rise of the Rest are now heading south – to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Atlanta; and New Orleans – where similar events will be held, each dishing out $100,000 to four more startups.

WealthForge’s pitch beat out seven other local hopefuls, including Rockin’ Baby, a baby carrier brand; Marilyn & Michelle, which products for women with breast issues such as post-masectomy sensitivity; Painless 1099, a banking platform for freelance workers; Nutriati, a plant-based nutrition company; Luminary, a multichannel customer relationship management platform; Hourwise, an on-demand back-office support for tradespeople; and Vibeats, a mobile web platform for dining services.

Aside from Case, the judges were former U.S. chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra; Tige Savage of Revolution; Ting Xu of Evergreen Enterprises; Aaron Montgomery of Carlotz; and Eric Edwards of Kaleo.

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