Pitch Stream 2019 Recap
For the fifth year in a row, local startup founders had their chance to pitch their business concept to a room full of judges and potential investors at Pitch Stream. This year’s pitch competition took place in the overflowing food court of the Fifth Street Public Market on May 4, and three presenters walked away with a combined $3500 in prizes.
Kate Harmon, an instructor with the University of Oregon’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship; Katherine Moyer, a business and securities attorney; and Elaine Pendolfi, a graduate of RAIN, CEO of Ink Defense Tattoo Care, and co-founder of Redefining Women In Tech, sat on the judges’ panel. Each presenter had five minutes in which to make their pitch, and the judges had three minutes for follow-up questions. At the end of the night, the judges conferred and presented checks to the first-, second-, and third-place winners.
The creator of Dirtballs and other healthy snacks, Jeremy Cummings was inspired to create his snacks after eating simple and healthy foods while working on an organic farm in Fiji. After returning to the states, Cummings made Dirtballs for a bake sale, and people enjoyed both the name and the taste, he says. He hopes to capitalize on the trend toward eating more healthfully—In Oregon specifically, there has been a 7% growth in snack food annually over the past decade, largely due to the success of energy bars. He’s looking for an investment to get the Dirtballs production going, and social media support to get the word out about his snacks. The judges asked about packaging, and the crowd responded with a round of hearty applause when Cummings reported that Dirtballs are packaged in packs of five in petroleum-free biodegradable packaging.
Joseph McLaughlin created Shelve as a recruiting platform to connect software developers with projects. Connect with him at Hello@shelve.api, or 541-514-6183.
Alex Mentzel pitched Averto as a mass awareness and mapping system for use in conflict zones around the world. Co-founder Abdullah Alhesnawi has contacts and experience in the Middle East, and so far Averto has been used in beta in Tripoli, Libya. Mentzel reported that they have 6,500 monthly active users in Libya. With 2 billion people around the world living in conflict zones, a tool like Averto replaces fear and lack of knowledge with vetted crowdsourced information and has the potential for a lot of usage. Judges agreed, and awarded Alex Mentzel their grand prize check of $2000!
Salons need hair stylists, and stylists need chairs and customers. Cassie Meyers’ startup AlohaMana promises to connect stylists with empty chairs and make it easy for customers to book time with them in a platform similar to Uber. With more than 13 years of experience as a cosmetologist, she saw first-hand how hard it was for stylists to find salons that needed them. With AlohaMana, salons can post their available stations by day, date, and time. Like Uber, the platform handles payments and accepts a transaction fee. Judges agreed that AlohaMana seemed promising, and awarded Meyers the $500 third prize. Learn more at AlohoManaLLC@gmail.com.
Shelley Bowerman hopes to connect farmers with customers through Lane County Bounty, a program that delivers customizable orders of organic goods to your door. She says that customers are moving away from the CSA model of supporting local farmers because they want convenience, customization, and don’t want a long-term commitment. Farmers are always looking for customers, and customers are increasingly embracing an interest in local food, an interest in online shopping, and home delivery options. She says that there is $2 billion spent on food in Lane County alone, and a program like Lane County Bounty helps local farmers benefit from a larger marketing effort and improved margins.
The desire to celebrate a loved one’s end of life wishes inspired Sarah Vajgert to create Global Goodbyes, a destination ash scattering service to honor the final wishes of your loved ones, whether humans or pets. In her business model, loved ones of someone who has passed away could hire her to deliver their loved one’s ashes to their final resting spot. After her own family experienced a loss a couple of years ago, she was left wondering what her own end of life plan might look like and whether someone would be able to scatter her ashes in the manner and in the place that would be most meaningful to her. She reported that the choice to opt for cremation is increasing, with 74% of people choosing cremation now. She hopes to increase her presence through a website and social media, and partner with funeral homes.
Dea Lisk, founder of LivingLove Superfoods, understands that people are busy and want portable nutrition at an affordable price. She hopes to leverage her 12 years in the food industry plus an educational and nutritional background to bring her nutrition-packed superfoods to consumers. Learn more at LivingLoveSuperfoods@gmail.com.
Pilates instructor Madison Page pitched Core to Coeur as a way to help women overcome the studio and gym model of fitness, which is so prevalent and which she says does not work for most women. With this online fitness platform, women (and men!) can easily schedule one-on-one or group sessions with a certified fitness instructor over Skype. Instructors keep 80% of the funds. Judges agreed that Core to Coeur has what it takes, and awarded Page the $1000 second-place prize.
After hearing the eight pitches, the judges spoke briefly to compare notes and make their decision. After Alex Mentzel learned that Averto had won the $2000 first-place prize, he spoke about how our world today is increasingly inward-turning, and an app like Averto connects people in really troublesome countries. “This win is a real vote of confidence,” he said.