On Saturday, the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority and Department of Economic Development presented six awards totaling $150,000 as part of the third annual Loudoun Innovation Challenge. The winners were selected from a pool of 166 applicants and announced during the halftime show of Loudoun United’s last home match of the season.
Under a new format this year, businesses were narrowed to a group of twelve finalists, who then presented pitches to a live audience and panel of judges. Categories this year consisted of Agri-Tech, Information & Communications, Clean Energy, and Highly Specialized Manufacturing. The winner of each category was awarded $25,000 and the top overall business applicant was granted $40,000, while the popular People’s Choice award winner received $10,000.
“The quality of applications received this year made judging incredibly difficult, but the winners who rose to the top represent some of the brightest innovators and thought leaders in the county,” Loudoun EDA Chair Bernard Mustafa explained. “These winners have applied innovation to their industry and this Challenge is designed to showcase and invest in those fresh ideas.”
“There’s a lot of energy around entrepreneurship in the county and we embrace the opportunity to cultivate the next generation of #LoudounPossible success stories. We believe investment in these small companies with big ideas will help diversify and stimulate our local economy, while bringing attention to the strong business ecosystem we have developed in the county,” 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): Birdie Everything, Leesburg
Birdie Everything is a company that focuses on innovation through impactful everyday designs that improve the quality of life for people in meaningful ways. Currently Birdie Everything solves the over reliance on harsh chemicals that are used when enjoying the outdoors with a flagship innovation, The InfusenClip™. Birdie Everything uses a flexible, distributed manufacturing solution to produce devices that deter bugs through a patented system that combines infusions of natural insect repellents with wearable accessories.
“Birdie Everything is extremely honored to win the Loudoun Innovation Challenge,” said Robyn James, Owner of Birdie Everything. “We are grateful to everyone who has supported, encouraged, and believed in Birdie Everything. Loudoun County has always been an amazing place to invent and grow and this Innovation Challenge investment will go a long way in continuing our growth. Words cannot begin to share how excited and grateful Birdie Everything is.”
Winner, Agri-Tech Innovation ($25,000): Worm Works, Hamilton
Worm Works LLC is a composting company with a mission to divert biodegradable waste from the landfill while supporting sustainable agriculture and horticulture. Like your trash or recycling service, Worm Works offers a service that composts your food and yard waste into the “black gold” of agriculture; compost.
“Worm Works LLC is grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in and win this award,” stated George Ardura, Co-Founder of Worm Works”. “We are excited to use this grant to invest in the infrastructure and machinery we need to bring composting to hundreds and thousands of new families, businesses, and farms around the community. With the continued support from community members and the Loudoun County government, we are ready to continue building Loudoun’s alternative waste management system until all families, businesses, and farms in Loudoun compost!”
Winner, Information and Communications Innovation ($25,000): Gigasheet, Leesburg
Gigasheet is committed to providing big data analytics that are beautiful and useful. They have created patented software that allows users around the world to work with massive datasets and pinpoint answers in minutes, instead of hours.
“We are thrilled to be recognized as a winner in the Loudoun Innovation Challenge,” Gigasheet’s Co-founder and CEO Jason Hines said. “Loudoun County has been a great place to start and grow a global tech company. We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received and we’re looking forward to taking our business to the next level.
Winner, Clean Energy Innovation ($25,000): Fuel & Tire Saver Systems Company, Sterling
Fuel & Tire Saver Systems Company provides patented fuel and tire optimization services for fleets, saving customers money and lowering their carbon footprints.
“It is a great honor to be recognized in Loudoun County for our innovative solution to helping the environment and making all businesses and government fleets more productive and profitable,” said Mike Lo Presti, Chief Tire Scientist, Founder & CEO of the Fuel & Tires Saver Systems Company. “What a great recognition. I am so proud of my team, all the hard work of all our employees, and the opportunities our customers provided to give us a chance to make a difference for their company, the environment, and the communities we serve. We are so deeply grateful to be singled out among such a deserving group of peers!”
Winner, Highly Specialized Manufacturing Innovation ($25,000): FireBot, Woodbridge
FireBot is a residential fire suppression device that detects and extinguishes a stovetop fire with no damage by fire or water. Mounted on the back wall below the microwave or range hood, FireBot detects an out-of-control stovetop fire and sprays nontoxic suppressant on all burners, stopping the fire quickly and safely.
“Thank You, Loudoun Innovation Challenge for selecting FireBot,” said Mark Baldino, Founder of FireBot. “You have given us the encouragement and validation that our idea and product can change the world, Preventing half of all Home Fires. The grant money will be used for design of our smaller housing, marketing and sales, manufacturing. As we get sales growth, we look forward to utilizing Loudoun Economic Development for all the resources needed to establish our production facility in Loudoun County.”
People’s Choice Award ($10,000): Worm Works, Hamilton
Nearly 4,000 people participated in the highly popular People’s Choice Award this year. Worm Works received 1,072 votes to win the $10,000 grant.
Since their first food waste pickup in August 2020, Worm Works has composted over 40,000 pounds of food scraps as well as many dozens of cubic yards of arborist-sourced wood chips, and now composts over 1,000 pounds of food and compostable waste each week at Gathering Springs Farm in Middleburg.
“This was the most competitive Innovation Challenge yet. 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 LoudounInnovationChallenge.com.