EnterCircle 2023 kicked off Tuesday, Nov. 14, with the JVC Showdown hosted by the Jacksonville Venture Competition network. It was an evening of refreshing business ideas for solving existing problems across a spectrum of society.
“JVC Showdown is an opportunity for four companies to pitch to a panel of four judges,” explained JVC Program Director Karigan Cannon. “It aligns with our mission to build a world-class startup ecosystem in Jacksonville.”
It also served as a kind of dry run for entrepreneurs who hope to pitch their ideas at JVC’s main event in March.
EnterCircle is an entrepreneurial summit organized by the Sapna Foundation and hosted by the link in Nocatee. In its third year, the event was expanded to five days for 2023, in part due to the inclusion of the JVC Showdown.
That happened after Raghu Misra, co-founder of the link with his wife Gurpreet, became involved with the JVC planning committee and suggested the idea.
“He’s a good host,” said Matthew Chang of Chang Industrial and one of the founders of JVC. “He always offers up his facility.”
JVC held its first pitch competition in March and is planning another in March 2024.
The idea behind conducting a venture capital conference in Jacksonville grew out of a realization that, while the city was home to great startup founders, there really wasn’t the seed funding here that they needed. The result has been a departure by these companies for somewhere they could find the necessary money.
The pitch competition came in response to a suggestion by Jaguars Hall-of-Famer Tony Boselli that something be done locally. Boselli, an entrepreneur himself, has spent a great deal of time flying to San Francisco and back because that’s where his funders are. And he was facing the prospect that his children would one day have to leave the First Coast to work for companies that appealed to them.
The competition is one way to generate interest by potential investors in local startups. The main events also award money to winners. While the EnterCircle competition didn’t include this provision, it did give competitors an opportunity to polish their presentations and benefit from the judges’ suggestions.
The JVC Showdown judges were: Dan Bender of Ironclad Accounting + Finance, longtime business professional Janet Wylie, Juliet Negrete Anderson of OnPay Solutions and Nahshon Nicks of Team Nitro MMA. The competitors had five minutes to make their pitches and explain what they could do if they had the funding.
The pitch deemed “most investible” by the panel of judges was made by Wesley F. Hunt, co-founder and CEO of Compliance View 360, which is the first of four areas of focus for the overarching Optic Systems.
The company holds two patents and uses 360-degree interactive video to conduct inspections.
Hunt explained that there is a shortage of labor to perform traditional inspections. His company began by serving homeowner associations that have covenants they must enforce and therefore inspections they must have done.
The company can capture video of the areas of interest faster, more efficiently and at less expense than traditional methods and then make the inspections available to the client right away via upload so that they can manage the sites remotely.
The company is expanding its customer base beyond HOAs into other areas, such as home construction, land development, public works projects and commercial landscaping. Capital invested in Optic Systems would allow it to grow and add staff.
The judges bestowed two awards on TendedBar, which places its automated cocktail bars at various venues and events, hotels and public places. CEO Justin Honeysuckle, who made the pitch, accepted the awards for “crowd favorite” and “most innovative idea.”
The company launched its first vending machine in 2019 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, just before COVID-19 shut everything down. The company used that downtime to further develop the business and launch its facial-recognition software, which uses data to better serve customers.
The automated bars are not simply drink dispensers. They can mix and pour cocktails just as a bartender might do, only faster. They can serve as many as 35 people in five minutes, greatly shortening wait lines.
These machines can also serve beers, wine and more.
At the time of ordering, customers swipe their credit cards and immediately receive a text receipt.
“They’ll be able to close out their bar tab whenever they want or automatically at the end of the night,” Honeysuckle said.
The JVC Showdown panel of judges gave their “eco warrior” award to NLR Solar, pitched by CEO Nathan Fabrick.
As solar power has been attracting more attention, the need for land is increasing.
“Right now, the solar industry is about 3% of the total energy mix,” Fabrick told the panel. “By 2050, that’s projected to grow to 50%.”
Thus, a million acres of land are being optioned annually, but there hasn’t been a real estate provider to identify the right properties and facilitate agreements.
Since 2015, NLR Solar has been bringing solar developers and landowners together. Thus far, it has helped secure more than 1,300 land agreements in 37 states. Most installations serve utilities.
The judges gave their “best presentation” award to Emmy James for her company, Renew Her Essentials, which specializes in all-natural active wear for women that aims to enhance feminine well-being and reduce infections.
James said capital would allow her company to perform research, develop products, create an inventory and conduct marketing.
To learn more about JVC, go to jaxvc.com. To learn more about the link, go to thelink.zone.