Recent CHN PhD in Pitch-a-thon

| July 3, 2013

Malima at PitchathonAsanterabi Malima, a 2013 graduate from the Center and co-founder of Biolom, a diagnostic biosensor company, presents at the Pitch-a-thon, during which ventures had five minutes to present their business to a group of investors.

For up-​​and-​​coming entre­pre­neurs, per­haps the most impor­tant make-​​or-​​break moment is the one when they have the oppor­tu­nity to pitch their busi­ness to investors capable of cat­a­pulting their promising ideas into entirely new territory.

More than a dozen entre­pre­neurs with North­eastern ties had that oppor­tu­nity on Wednesday evening at the bian­nual Pitch-​​a-​​thon. The event was orga­nized by IDEA, the university’s student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator, and held at the Mass­Chal­lenge head­quar­ters in the Inno­va­tion Dis­trict of Boston’s water­front. But rather than speaking to just one poten­tial investor, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of each of 18 ven­tures were given five min­utes before an audi­ence of 150, many of them ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists or angel investors looking for the next busi­ness to fund or mentor.

“Why are we here?” asked North­eastern senior Phoebe Farber at the end of her pitch for CareerApp, a web plat­form that con­nects job can­di­dates with employers. “We’re here because we’re fundraising.”

CareerApp, like each of the fea­tured ven­tures, has already achieved some suc­cess. But in order to grow, it needs money.

“We’ve proven our con­cept and we’re ready to grow,” Farber told investors.

IDEA offers a range of resources and ser­vices to star­tups, and it hosts Pitch-​​a-​​thon twice a year to show­case the stu­dent, alumni, and faculty-​​run ven­tures it sup­ports. Four ven­tures in IDEA—3-Spark, 88 Acres, Quad Tech­nolo­gies, and Plexx—are also final­ists in this summer’s Mass­Chal­lenge com­pe­ti­tion, which pro­vides men­toring and space to more than 100 ven­tures from around the globe.

“I’m amaz­ingly impressed with the pro­gram at North­eastern,” said Scott Bailey, the Mass­Chal­lenge director of part­ner­ships. “The power of the stu­dent body is some­thing no one should underestimate.”

The bur­geoning entre­pre­neurs prepped dili­gently for the Pitch-​​a-​​thon, working with IDEA coaches and men­tors to craft the per­fect pre­sen­ta­tion, one that intro­duced their busi­ness, high­lighted what made it unique, and explained how an investor could help it grow and develop.

While the ven­tures pre­senting at Pitch-​​a-​​thon rep­re­sented a range of categories—from high-​​tech biosen­sors and cutting-​​edge 3-​​D printers to mobile apps for the restau­rant industry and a web plat­form to plan group outings—each addressed a real-​​world problem and had a fully-​​established busi­ness plan.

Take Lean­Wagon, a fledg­ling ven­ture that this year has already grown from two employees to a staff of 10. The com­pany aims to help small and medium-​​sized com­pa­nies deploy incentive-​​based pro­grams to help their employees lose weight and become healthier, deliv­ering the kind of sav­ings in health­care and other costs that large cor­po­ra­tions like CVS and Safeway have been able to achieve through pro­grams of their own. But those incentive-​​based pro­grams, while very suc­cessful, are dif­fi­cult to imple­ment on a smaller scale since they require part­ner­ships with a range of com­pa­nies, from food providers to gyms.

“Most small and mid-​​sized com­pa­nies don’t have the resources to run those pro­grams on their own,” said co-​​founder Dustin Haines. “That’s where Lean­Wagon comes in.”

The formal event even­tu­ally turned into a net­working ses­sion, with poten­tial investors and men­tors meeting one-​​on-​​one with the young entre­pre­neurs. North­eastern entrepreneur-​​in-​​residence Bob Lentz and IDEA adviser Dan Gre­gory, along with other fac­ulty from the D’Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness, were on hand help the hopeful entre­pre­neurs make con­nec­tions and schedule meet­ings for more information.

“It was an impor­tant showing for our capital-​​seeking ven­tures because it max­i­mizes their expo­sure to angel and VC investors and offers the audi­ence an array of invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties across dif­ferent indus­tries,” said IDEA CEO Max Kaye. “I was impressed with the quality of the pitches, the level of sales­man­ship, show­man­ship and pro­fes­sion­alism all our ven­tures brought to the table.”

[Original Story]