An intimate crowd of approximately 50 people gathered Wednesday evening at the Inspire Business Center in Chicago’s West Loop for Inspire’s monthly start-up showcase.
Amongst the crowd there were some returners and some new faces. Marina Dedes, vice president of venture capital firm Lightbank, was the keynote speaker and shared tips to entrepreneurs about how to pitch to investors.
Her advice: Begin with a warm introduction, as the investors are trying to get a feel for who you are, and “send a pitch, not a business plan.”
Dedes said many people feel the need to write up a 100-page business plan before approaching investors but neglect creating a solid presentation to pitch. She advised entrepreneurs to read Dave McClure’s “Startup Viagra: How to pitch to a VC” for an idea of how to do this.
She also said to grow your network, find relevant advisors, and not be afraid of contacting other founders who you can learn from and who can introduce you to their investors.
But Dedes said that she was even taken away with was the 1-minute pitch.
“You should always end with an ask,” said Joe Sheahan, co-founder of Savvo, one of the companies that pitched at the event. At the end of Sheahan’s pitch, he noted that they were seeking seed funding. “That way, you can lead into the next conversation,” he said.
Sollywood TV Inc. won the pitch competition. Started by Solomon Adekale, the company creates a “personal and affordable Hollywood.”
Dedes said Adekale had the most effective pitch due to not just his product, but his excitement. “He brought up the energy level,” she said, adding that passion is an important part of anyone’s pitch.
Adekale ended his pitch on the following note: “This revolution will be televised.”
These are the ten companies that pitched at the event.
Savvo – When people are going for the cheapest or most convenient bottle of wine, it’s a lost revenue opportunity for retailers and wineries. Saavo is a “match.com for wine,” a kiosk at stores helping consumers find their fit.
Luncheon – Have a free lunch hour? Owner Sanju Bhambani, also a developer, created this location-based networking app to connect professionals for lunches and coffees for networking or socializing.
Glappit – Founder Nick Brown built a social marketplace where anyone can share photos and information to marketers at their own price.
Windy City SDR – Software defines radio. Owner Martin O’Shield patented his product March 20, 2013 to untether 60-70 percent of radio frequencies from hardware devices.
Express Pigeon – Igor Polevoy created an e-mail marketing service that is without the inefficiencies of existing systems to build, track and send messages.
Healthify – Richard Donohue and Colleen Callinan began the company at start-up weekend in April. Healthify brings fitness solutions to workplaces, allowing professionals a healthier lifestyles.
Empeopled – Began by Aris Michalopolous, Empeopled is a social platform for groups, not only allowing group voting to stratify content, but giving the most credible users greater voting power.
Sollywood TV – Movie tickets and cable are costly. Sollywood allows you to pick and choose the content you want, allowing you to personalize your viewing preferences.
Chootopia – This app allows people to check into an event and see who’s in the room, so you can find professionals in your field and network with who you want to.
Spikeball – The only physical product at the event was a simple game with a ball and a net – generating seven figures in revenue this year, three times more than last year, all without any full time employees. Founder Chris Ruder said Spikeball is gaining popularity on college campuses and beachfronts.