1776’s DC Challenge Cup drew contestants from all around the world — France, Austria and even (gasp) the West Coast. Mayor Vincent Gray made an appearance too. And that was just the semi-finals.
Over 350 swung by 1776 to watch dozens of startups present their pitch in four categories: education, energy, health and cities.
Alas, there was only one winner in each category:
- Education: EdBacker, a crowdfunding website for school administrators. (Runner-up: Homework Unlocked)
- Energy: BaseTrace, a DNA tracer technology for environmental monitoring. (Runner-up: BitGrid Inc.)
- Health: 1EQ, the maker of BabyScripts, a mobile app that connects pregnant mothers and their obstetricians. (Runner-up: Rebel Desk)
- Cities: Local Roots Farms, which is seeking to build a network for indoor farming. (Runner-up: ZeroCycle)
Daniel Kuenzi, the cofounder of Local Roots Farms, had not quite absorbed the news yet — “I took a red-eye from California last night,” he said. Just a few weeks ago, he added, “we were in stealth mode.” Local Roots Farm is still a bootstrapped company — its D.C. office is located in 1776.
Others were simply here to cheer on: Kristina Griffin, 27, had worked on The SWAT App, a contestant presented by cofounder Brandon Anderson, at an earlier Startup Weekend. So, of course, “I’m like rooting them on.”
And there was a very big consolation prize for those who did not make the cut — besides the beer, wine and miniature hamburgers. “There’s a lot of knowledge and talent in the room,” said Matthew Stanton, the CEO of Pittsburgh-based SolePower. Many of them, added Stanton, 24, “I’m going to follow up with.”
“D.C. is a great place to innovate,” said Abigail Seldin, who at 26 was the youngest of the judges on the hefty panel. She spoke wistfully of her own successes setting shop in D.C. After moving from Hong Kong to the area, her university cost calculator College Abacus was bought up within a year. “It’s a sign of how fast the community here is growing,” she said.
The four finalists will now compete in the Global Finals, held in D.C. in May 2015 against 60 other global startups. 1776 will award $150,000 to the winner in each category, and $50,000 to the runner-up.
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