The music blasting Friday inside the Glebe Road offices of Arlington Economic Development set the tone for a high-energy, two-hour event that gave 20 area entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas to some of the top names in the greater Washington startup scene.
Startup Virginia's Pitch for Charity event gave each entrepreneur one minute to sell their idea to a panel of startup leaders and investors. They got immediate feedback — and judgment — on their ideas and delivery.
"We really have the opportunity to take this energy and this excitement … and create the future of this country," Donna Harris, managing director of the Startup America Partnership, told the crowd. She cited the importance of small, fast-growth companies to the overall economy.
The companies represented could not be shoehorned into any one category (other than startup).
Their missions ranged from fighting homelessness to training employees; their products, craft beer to digital wallets. And they featured apps to encourage food-to-table dining, to connect parents with camps for their children and to give restaurants the ability to digitally map their customers' buying habits.
The big winner was TroopID, a McLean-based company that allows active military and veterans to digitally verify their credentials to claim discounts and benefits from businesses.
Holly Tennant Billy, who has been with the company for three weeks, said she was nervous when she made the pitch. But her win means that the nonprofit National Military Family Association will receive $2,000.
"It was so exciting," Tennant Billy said later. "It's amazing, but not surprising, how well the TroopID is received. It's a proud moment. I like shining a light on the good work the team has done so far."
After winning, Tennant Billy was given an hour mentoring session with the panel, which included Jonathan Aberman, managing director of Amplifier Ventures; Aneesh Chopra, former White House chief technology officer; Jen Consalvo, chief operating officer and co-editor of TechCocktail; Jonathon Perrelli, founding partner, Fortify.vc; and Harris.
Second place went to Aomed Najafie, creator of SeatJumper, an app that would let people upgrade their seats in real time at sporting events. His charity, the Two Sparrows Foundation, will receive $500. That foundation helps fund education programs for destitute children and orphans in Afghanistan.
"It was all over the board, which is awesome for the economy," Harris said. "We're creating jobs across all sectors of the economy."
Chopra, who kept the energy going with his cheering, talked about the need to "contextualize innovation" — solving problems locally and then scaling globally. He also was a strong advocate of the education and health sectors sharing their data with entrepreneurs.
"Arlington will build valuable startups on top of Silicon Valley infrastructure to solve 21st century problems," he told Patch.
The Pitch for Charity rounded out a week that featured Startup Virginia events in Charlottesville, Roanoke, Richmond and Hampton Roads.
Videos of each pitch will be live on YouTube on Monday. From noon Monday to noon Thursday, whichever pitcher gets the most likes on YouTube will win a two-hour consultation with a patent attorney and three months worth of space at UberOffices in Rosslyn. Friday's winner, TroopID, is ineligible.
Jennifer Ives, director of business investment at Arlington Economic Development, said she hopes to make pitching for charity an annual event here. Now that the first one has succeeded, interest among entrepreneurs should only increase, she said.
"Their energy is amazing, their ideas are amazing and their stick-to-it-tive-ness is amazing and inspiring," she said.
Read more: Wakefield High School Students Get to Pitch With The Pros