AI, Biotech, Robotics, Entertainment and Culinary Businesses Awarded $150,000 in Loudoun Innovation Challenge Grants

Loudoun Innovation Challenge 2021

On Wednesday, the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority and Department of Economic Development announced six winning businesses for the second annual Loudoun Innovation Challenge. The grants total $150,000 and winners were selected from a pool of 156 applicants.

For a return on investment, last year’s 71 applicants resulted in 22 business expansions, creating 169 jobs and investing $14.8 million into Loudoun’s economy.

Under a new format this year, businesses were scored by the Loudoun EDA directors against their peers in the following categories: tech ventures, commercial ventures, launch focus, and smart county focus. The winner of each category is awarded $25,000 and the top overall business applicant was granted $40,000.

“This was a very competitive field this year, drawing applications from across Loudoun’s diverse economy. That allowed us to select winning businesses that are early stage trendsetters and thought leaders in their industries,” Loudoun EDA Chair Bernard Mustafa explained. “These winners have applied innovation to their area within the market, and this Challenge is designed to showcase and invest in those ideas.”

Another first for this year’s contest was the People’s Choice Award, a $10,000 grant that was democratically awarded to the business with the most votes from the public. The contest garnered more than 4,300 votes and was tied for first place going into the final day of voting.

“There’s a lot of energy around entrepreneurship, especially coming out of the pandemic, and we embrace the opportunity to cultivate the next generation of #LoudounPossible success stories. We have so many smart people in Loudoun County that are bubbling up these ideas, and this Challenge is just one way that we can give them that hand up,” Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer said. “Congratulations to all of our winners, and we look forward to working with the entire pool of applicants to find success in Loudoun County.”

Here is this year’s list of Loudoun Innovation Challenge grant awardee businesses:

First Place ($40,000): HelloGov, Ashburn

HelloGov is the nation’s first, full-stack, federal artificial intelligence company, offering solutions ranging from data labeling to modeling to customized AI-enabled software and consultancy services.

“All of us at HelloGov are humbled by this incredible recognition,” Partner Shami Khalili said. “Loudoun County has been very near and dear to us, a place where we see our future growth as our company blitz scales at the national stage. Onward and upward!”

Runner Up, Tech Venture ($25,000): I2pure, Aldie

I2pure is a biotechnology company that has advanced 200 years of iodine chemistry to create pure and stable anti-pathogen formulation for use in pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

“This is a tremendous honor for I2pure, and the recognition of I2pure’s innovation, mission and work during the startup phase is gratifying,” CEO Douglas Spitz said. “From its inception, I2pure has been privileged to call Loudoun County home. We have been welcomed here since day one and cannot imagine growing our global biotechnology company anywhere else.”

Runner Up, Commercial Venture ($25,000): The Difference Baker, Ashburn

The Difference Baker is the first commercial bakery and shared kitchen concept in the U.S. that is certified free from gluten, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish and crustacean contaminants.

“We are so thankful to be selected for this amazing recognition by Loudoun Economic Development,” The Difference Baker Owner Alyssa Sobecki said. “Winning the Commercial Venture award comes with a grant that will help us fund our building expansion, and is huge for our business!”

Runner Up, Launch Focus ($25,000): Applied Impact Robotics, Sterling

Applied Impact Robotics seeks to eliminate the need for costly, dangerous, and environmentally hazardous manned-entry into crude oil tanks by using robotics for the inspections.

“Applied Impact Robotics is grateful for this award and excited to use the grant to continue building our company. The Loudoun Innovation Challenge is a testament to the county’s vision and commitment to supporting entrepreneurship, which is a core reason our company is here,” President and CEO Fred Briggs said. “This win further validates the idea that specialized manufacturing and robotics have a strong future in Loudoun, and we are thrilled to be a part of that.”

Runner Up, Smart County Focus ($25,000): Frontier Kitchen, Chantilly

Frontier Kitchen Chantilly is a food business incubator and ghost kitchen focused on new or early-stage entrepreneurs, providing both commercial kitchen space and business advisors.

“We are so honored to be a part of the Loudoun County community! Being selected as a 2021 Loudoun Innovation Challenge winner means so much to our team and the dozens of small businesses in the kitchen,” Co-founder and CEO Brenda Cromer said. “We are not only excited to offer our help and support to all potential entrepreneurs in the county, but look forward to bringing incredible new foods and restaurants to all Loudoun foodies!”

People’s Choice Award ($10,000): XCAL Shooting Sports and Fitness, Ashburn

XCAL Shooting Sports and Fitness is Loudoun’s newest sports, training and entertainment destination, offering 95,000 square feet of shooting ranges, fitness, retail, café and spa for members and guests.

“The team at XCAL is proud to win the Innovation Challenge People’s Choice award. We are grateful to everyone who has supported, encouraged, and helped us make our fitness and shooting sports vision come true,” lead investor Jeff Brown said. “Loudoun County has always been our dream location. The opportunity to build our business in a place where people work, live and play is something we cherish.”

Loudoun Innovation Challenge applications opened during Loudoun Small Business Week in May and required basic product or service information and a business plan. After a round of Loudoun EDA review, qualified applicants were encouraged to submit a five-minute video pitch, from which 12 finalists were selected.

Each finalist presented virtually in front of the Loudoun EDA at their regular business meeting in July and a final round of scoring was conducted to select the winners.

“This year’s pool of applicants represented Loudoun geographically, demographically and across our major industries. Looking ahead to next year, our goal is to continue elevating this opportunity by pursuing additional funding, marketing the challenge in creative and inclusive ways, and increasing the exposure for Loudoun innovation,” Small Business and Entrepreneurship Manager Danelle Hayer said. “Beyond the Innovation Challenge, I look forward to connecting with entrepreneurs at any stage in their growth cycle and helping them find success here in Loudoun.”

For more information on this year’s winners, please visit