While pitching to the sharks, entrepreneur Alec Brewer told them, “I do have white powder in my pocket,” before quickly clarifying that it wasn’t an illicit substance: “It’s PHB! It’s PHB!”
The co-founder and CEO of Charlottesville-based biodegradable plastics manufacturer Ourobio, Brewer explained that his company makes PHB, or polyhydroxybutyrate, from waste in order to reduce microplastics pollution. Ourobio converts whey into PHB through a biochemical process.
Ourobio was voted “shark favorite” out of nine entrepreneurs in Richmond business accelerator Lighthouse Labs’ 2022 spring cohort that pitched to four business leaders as part of the accelerator’s biannual Demo Day competition May 24. Ourobio received $1,500 from sponsor ThinkNimble and will have naming rights to a tagged great white shark that Lighthouse Labs is sponsoring.
Founded in 2012, Lighthouse Labs is a mentor-driven nonprofit accelerator that runs two, 12-week cohort sessions each year, investing $20,000 equity-free in six to 10 early-stage startups. Entrepreneurs accepted into the program receive mentorship and education on scaling up their businesses. Lighthouse Labs has accelerated more than 80 companies during the last 10 years, providing more than $1.6 million in equity-free funding. The Demo Day pitch contest is the grand finale event for each cohort.
Llamawood CEO Hunter Garen won the audience vote in the Demo Day competition; for his prize, he was given the privilege of throwing the first pitch at a Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball game.
While the same may not be true for his throwing arm, Garen started his business pitch with a flourish, tossing postcards with coupon codes into the first few rows. Llamawood connects firewood suppliers and purchasers.
“I designed for a woman … because, as they say, women’s standards are much higher than men’s, so if you design for a woman, you’ll make every man happy,” Garen joked when telling the sharks about his customer demographics.
Sharks judging the competition were: Ajay Kori of UrbanStems and Novilla Pharmaceuticals; Claire Herring of Blue Ocean Brain; Richard Wintsch of Startup Virginia; and Joy Polefrone with VCU Health.
Also pitching at the competition were founders of Richmond-based beauty company LipLoveLine; Philadelphia-based software manufacturer Viora Health; Fort Belvoir-based health tech company Kinometrix Inc.; Philadelphia-based health care tech firm Hoth Intelligence; Richmond-based Nessle, which operates an online platform for expectant parents; Austin, Texas-based tech firm On-Time Trials; and Houston-based health care tech company CaseCTRL.