Just like that, 2018 is almost over. As everyone takes a moment to look back at what’s happened in the past 12 months, we’re busy looking ahead. We cover the Richmond area’s startup scene every day, which you can read about on our site or in our twice-weekly newsletter, The Beat. If you read that, you probably already know who made big moves in 2018. But which startups are poised for huge things in 2019?
We’ve been exploring that question by reaching out the venture capitalists, founders, accelerator leaders and checking our own notebooks and past stories to pull out the 19 Richmond Startups to Watch in 2019.
A few of the names on this list are already pretty well-known — so well-known they’ve won national pitch competitions and completed top-class accelerator programs. Others have some of the top investors and rising Richmond tech stars behind their name, but they’ve spent the better part of the past year heads down. What they all have in common is the opportunity to blow up this year, whether through a big Series B round, all-star client addition or national expansion.
Without further ado, here’s our list of 19 startups to watch in 2019.
Coin Savage, a financial services platform, launched July 20 with the goal of being “the Airbnb of crypto advice.” The platform has a leaderboard of experts that users can turn to before investing, and experts can post content, track trading activity and interact with users, all of which moves them up or down in the rankings. The bootstrapped startup is still early in its development, but is tackling an industry ripe for disruption. Billions are spent each year on financial advice, and with cryptocurrency having a wild 2018, there’s bound to be demand for trustworthy advisers.
PepsiCo swooped into the River City in October to acquire local startup Health Warrior, which makes Chia Bars and other plant-based “superfood” products. The company, founded in 2011, will stay headquartered in Richmond but have the financial and scientific backing of one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies. Important to note is that Health Warrior was PepsiCo’s first investment under its new emerging-trends division, “The Hive.”
Two-year-old Henrico startup Legacy Navigator expanded its footprint north in August with the acquisition of Pennsylvania-based Moving Solutions. The company helps seniors and their families handle estate disposition, and co-founder Matt Paxton said the move is expanding its services throughout the East Coast, up to New York. Paxton plans to add 250 employees in coming years as it expands through acquisitions into more major metros, with the goal of having operations from Boston down to Miami in two years.
Two years after its founding, Richmond startup Dippy is on the verge of some significant expansion. The platform is used by local restaurants to create exclusive deals that are sent to users’ phones as they walk in. It has built a local client base of dozens of businesses and plans to expand into nine new markets including Virginia Beach, Philadelphia and Austin. Dippy was one of five companies selected for the 757 Accelerate program this fall, where it received $20,000 among other benefits.
Digital ReLab grew out of work in 2012 for Bob Dylan Music Co. to digitize and manage the musician’s vast archive of tapes, photographs and other media. Since then, it has signed on a lengthy client list including the New York Philharmonic, Billy Joel and Universal Media Inc. It recently closed a seed-stage investment round and has plans to significantly grow its customer base over the next 18 months.
Trolley Ventures, an investment fund created in 2017, has made its first three investments this year, keeping all of the money in Central Virginia. It participated in funding rounds for health tech startup Grenova, augmented reality company ARTGlass and digital media startup Digital ReLab. Trolley announced in June that it had completed an initial $4 million fundraising round from investors, and plans to close on a fund of up to $10 million by yearend.
After a successful $35,000 Kickstarter campaign this summer, Richmond-based startup CrowdLobby launched its online platform where users can crowdfund money to hire lobbyists to work on specific legislative issues. The site launched in September with nine active fundraising campaigns, five of which are legislative issues specific to Virginia. It’s now developing a mobile app that should go live in 2019.
Recently launched startup Naborforce helps seniors with nonmedical daily tasks like making meals, household chores and transportation by connecting them with people in the community looking to provide help. It’s a member of Startup Virginia and has been bootstrapped so far. Since launching a Richmond pilot in August, about 200 people have expressed an interest in becoming Nabors and several dozen seniors have signed up. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day for the next 10 years, there’s bound to be a fast-growing market for in-home care, and Naborforce is poised to take advantage.
RoundTrip, which has offices in Richmond and in Philadelphia, has developed a technology platform that lets healthcare providers book rides for patients from a network of about 200 medical transportation providers. Founded in 2016, the startup participated in the Lighthouse Labs accelerator last fall and currently is partnering with healthcare providers in 20 states, including Mount Sinai Health System in New York and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. In March, RoundTrip raised $1.9 million in seed funding from four institutional investors to fuel its expansion.