While startups and entrepreneurs are honing their skills and working on their pitches all year, springtime in Spokane is where the rubber meets the road for many business teams as a plethora of business pitch competitions and events are hosted in the region. Entrants from our local high schools, universities, community colleges, and other entrepreneurship programs all show up ready to compete, with many going home with thousands of dollars in cash prizes for best in show.
In early April we saw the first glimpses of some of the teams vying for the top slots when the 2015 Inland Northwest Business Plan Competition held their annual trade show at the Red Lion Hotel in Spokane. Teams had their first shots at giving their quick pitches to judges stopping by team booths to learn more about each business and ask questions. The competition was wrapped up a few weeks later when teams came to Whitworth University to give their final pitches in front of a judges panel. Over 30k worth of prize and 10K of in-kind contributions were given away to the top three teams in each competition category.
Another great event that took place in April was the INW Cleantech Open Kickoff event at Greater Spokane Incorporated, where a group of over 30 attendees learned more about the Cleantech Open, the world’s largest accelerator program for cleantech companies, and listened to pitches from a handful of our region’s newest startups. It was a nice mix of education about the Cleantech Open model, hearing from some of our local startup companies, and a little bit of socializing. Great night!
Not to be left out, the Palouse had a great pair of events to showcase the end of their semesters, each hosting business pitch competitions in both Pullman and Moscow. While each turned out to be a great success, one of the unique things we saw was the University of Idaho utilizing a new event format called the “Idaho Pitch”, which turned out to not only be a great success, but a really fun and engaging way to have students “sell” their ideas.
Judges were free to have cocktails and hor derves in an open ballroom, while students teams approached them and pitch their idea. Judges could award cards based on if they like their pitch, sign the cards they awarded if they thought it was outstanding, and also give feedback on how to hone the pitch if it wasn’t yet up to snuff. It allowed each student team to not only pitch multiple times to multiple judges, but allowed them to gain quick and valuable feedback, as well as make good connections to the judges themselves through the loose conversational format.
The final pitch event of April wrapped up with Startup Weekend Spokane, finding a new home this Spring at Spokane Community College. This long standing 54 hour event had a good turnout of people looking to pitch their ideas, form teams, and build their products, and resulted not only in a great weekend of learning and fun, but a chance to take some of these ideas from concept to reality.
Overall April turned out to be a jam packed month for startups in Spokane looking to take their business ideas to the next level, and we saw a lot of great ideas getting polished into real business possibilities. Way to go Spokane!
And while April was a busy time for business pitch events, for those looking to continue to hone their skills, Startup Spokane in conjunction with Avista Center for Entrepreneurship will be hosting a Pitch Panel event on May 20th, 5:30 pm at Share Space Spokane. This is a great way for those teams looking to continue down their path to success to get some additional feedback on their business presentations, and practice their skills in front of other startup peers and the community.
If you’re interested in participating, feel free to reach out to me, Ryan Arnold, Entrepreneurship Program Director with Greater Spokane Incorporated at RArnold@GreaterSpokane.org.