Twelve businesses have advanced in the annual Loudoun Innovation Challenge, a contest meant to recognize and fund businesses that are rethinking the status quo in their industries.
The businesses that moved into the final stage of the contest were selected from more than 100 applications, vying for six grants totaling $150,000, including a $40,000 first place prize and a $10,000 People’s Choice Award.
In the final round, those businesses will pitch their concepts to Loudoun Economic Development Authoritiy directors to be scored. The highest overall score will win the first-place prize, while runners up will be named in four categories.
Meanwhile the People’s Choice Award will go to the highest vote-getter at loudounInnovationChallenge.com, where voting will remain open until midnight July 22.
Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer said the businesses represent the best of Loudoun innovation.
“The Loudoun Economic Development Authority and Department of Economic Development work with the Board of Supervisors to promote a business environment that’s ripe for entrepreneurship and creation,” Rizer stated. “Fresh ideas are worthy of investment today, because they can grow into successful enterprises and major sources of employment for Loudoun County.”
“We saw an uptick in interest for the Challenge this year, with applications pouring in from all corners of the region, representative of our major industries, and inclusive of Loudoun’s diverse populations,” stated Loudoun Small Business and Entrepreneurship Manager Danelle Hayer. “Regardless of who wins grants, we are excited to track these businesses for years to come, as they become economic leaders for Loudoun County. With one of the most educated populations in the U.S., we know that the next great business idea is incubating in the heart and mind of a Loudoun resident.”
The four categories are tech ventures, commercial ventures, launch focus and smart county focus, with three finalists in each.
In tech ventures, they are ClearBeam, dedicated to improving indoor, GPS, WiFi and first-responder reception through energy efficient windows, using laser beams to etch a grid pattern on the glass; HelloGov, the first full-stack federal AI company, ranging from data labeling to modeling to customized software and consultancy services; and I2Pure Corp, a biotechnology company that has advanced iodine chemistry for medical, agricultural, surface and water purification products.
In commercial ventures, they are The Difference Baker, a certified free-from gluten, soy, peanut, tree-nut, fish and crustacean bakery, bistro and shared kitchen space; LoudounGo, a discovery and transactional technology partnering with local businesses to support Loudoun agritourism; and XCAL Shooting Sports and Fitness, a sports, training and entertainment destination for shooters and fitness enthusiasts.
In the launch focus category, the finalists are Applied Impact Robotics, a robotics company eliminating the need for manned entry into crude oil tanks by using inspection robots that can clean faster and cheaper; The Ballpark Loudoun, with training and entertainment for all things baseball, including cutting-edge technology, training, food and atmosphere; and MVTi, a tech company helping people with low vision better interact with their environment and restore freedom of movement and autonomy.
And in the smart county focus category, the finalists are Cork & Keg Tours, a boutique winery and brewery tour company; Effortless Electric, a one-stop service for residential and commercial plug-in electric vehicle charging systems; and Frontier Kitchen, a food incubator and commercial kitchen designed to help early-stage food businesses launch into successful restaurants, food truck and other concepts.