For the third year in a row, a Richmond nonprofit is providing a boost to a group of startup hopefuls.
Lighthouse Labs announced last week it will give six new businesses $20,000 each, with no strings attached.
The companies, most of which are based in Richmond, will also participate in a 15-week program to help them develop their ideas and products. The program meets on VCU’s campus and culminates in a pitch day before a group regional investors.
The Richmond companies in this year’s class are Consumer and Community Connections, Painless1099, PartyRVA, Upchurch Chocolate Co., and Zoozil. The lone out-of-town startup in the group is Illinois-based MajorClarity, though one of its co-founders is based in the Richmond area.
Consumer and Community Connections helps healthcare and university researchers market their projects and get data from hard-to-reach populations. Painless1099 helps freelancers manage their taxes. PartyRVA, which won $10,000 earlier this year in another startup contest, connects party organizers with service providers. Upchurch Chocolate makes chocolate in Manchester, and Zoozil makes interactive, online stories for children. MajorClarity helps students decide on their career plans and counselors track their students.
The program last year had five companies participating, and Lighthouse Labs Executive Director Todd Nuckols said this year’s batch includes industries that haven’t previously been in the program, such as financial services and retail.
“It’s kind of an experiment for us,” Nuckols said. “We’re always looking for companies that are very early in their process.”
Nuckols said more than 120 companies applied online to participate in the Lighthouse Labs program. Business mentors and investors whittled the pool to 20, which then had to do interviews before the final six were chosen.
Lighthouse Labs launched in 2012. The nonprofit gets its money from private and corporate sponsors like Capital One, Center for Innovative Technology, Jim Cheng and Covintus.
More than 60 companies have come under its tutelage in some way and have gone on to raise a total of more than $3.5 million in capital after the program.
Painless1099 has another startup event on its calendar in addition to Lighthouse Labs.
It will also have the chance to pitch Oct. 7 at TechBuzz in Washington, D.C. Fellow Richmond startup Farm Table will also present at the event, which is put on by the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association. The companies will present to an audience of fellow entrepreneurs and investors.