By Tim Ryan

In the vibrant entrepreneurial landscape of Hampton Roads, the Start Peninsula 2023 event has once again spotlighted the brilliance and ingenuity that our region fosters. With a series of virtual Micro Pitch competitions culminating in an exhilarating championship pitch, three outstanding startups have emerged as winners, each embodying the spirit of innovation that defines our community.

AdvisorFinder: This inventive online marketplace has stepped forward to simplify the journey of finding a financial advisor. Launching their minimal viable product in early December, AdvisorFinder is a beacon of assistance in the often-complex financial world. Dive into their offerings at and witness a platform prioritizing ease and expertise.

Forentify: In an era where media manipulation is a growing concern, Forentify emerges as a more than necessary software solution. It stands as a guardian against the tide of deepfakes and manipulated media. With its advanced detection algorithm and capability to generate detailed media forensics reports, Forentify is not just an innovation; it’s necessary to preserve digital media’s integrity.

InfraSGA: Addressing the critical need for sustainable urban development, InfraSGA introduces a bioretention solution that blends simplicity, uniformity, and adaptability. It’s a testament to their commitment to environmental sustainability, offering a cost-effective solution for urbanized and constrained environments.

In recognition of their potential, each winner has been awarded $5,000 to fuel their business growth, along with a year’s seat at Velocity Growth. This accolade is not just a prize; it’s an investment in the future of innovation in our region.

Beyond the winners, the event celebrated all participants, with 12 contenders having journeyed through previous pitch events since March. Their dedication and entrepreneurial spirit were honored with cash prizes and continued support from local economic development departments.

The event’s structure, featuring a three-minute pitch followed by a two-minute Q&A session, provided a dynamic platform for challenging and refining ideas. The final event was further elevated by insights from keynote speaker Steve Waddell, President and CEO of Nasoni, and a panel of esteemed judges from various sectors, all embodying the entrepreneurial spirit of Hampton Roads.

The panel of judges at Start Peninsula 2023 blended expertise and experience crucial to the event’s success. Featuring Evans McMillion of Talkeetna, known for his strategic business insights, CJ Spady from Fahrenheit Advisors with his market and growth expertise, and the Virginia Small Business Development Center’s own Marty Kaszubowski and William Mcpheat, who brought a depth of knowledge in nurturing customer discovery. Paul Nolde, the Executive Director of 757 Collab, added valuable perspectives on entrepreneurial collaboration. Notably, Taylor Schaude, former Director of Investor Relations and Chief of Staff to the CEO at 500 Startups, brought a global venture capital perspective, enriching the judging process with his extensive experience in investor relations and startup ecosystems. This diverse group of professionals provided evaluations and essential mentorship and feedback, reflecting the vibrant spirit of innovation in Hampton Roads.

Since its inception in 2012, Start Peninsula has been a cornerstone in building and celebrating our local entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s not just an event; it’s a movement that nurtures early-stage businesses and connects entrepreneurs with opportunities to validate and grow their ideas. The backing of six regional Economic Development Authorities underscores our region’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship.

Hosted by Greater Williamsburg, in partnership with Hampton, Newport News, and Poquoson, Start Peninsula 2023 has indeed been a beacon of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. As we celebrate these champions, let’s acknowledge the collective effort and vision that makes Hampton Roads a thriving hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. Here’s to many more years of groundbreaking ideas and successful ventures in our community!