Whether it’s putting an innovative new-tech spin on the delivery of floral bouquets, an AutoTextDriver, a smart-phone fix or even a quick, portable sideline scan to assess an injured athlete’s knee – Manitobans proved innovative technology is worthy of award-winning attention.
Pitch’Day 2016 draws another solid audience and presenters define innovation
Innovation… One definition is a new method, idea or product. Another is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated or existing market needs.
Participants in the fifth annual Pitch’Day, hosted by Innovate Manitoba, lived up to both definitions.
A crowd of over 180 presenters, investors, business owners and advisors gathered at Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre for Pitch’Day 2016 to cheer the 16 presenters whose unique visions and talents were shaping new products and services, many aimed at improving our daily lives.
President of Innovate Manitoba, Jan Lederman, continues to be wowed by those who take the leap and assume the risk involved with living up to being an innovator.
“Congratulations for having the courage to stand up and put your idea out there,” Lederman said. “We had 26 start-ups apply and, through a screening round held earlier this month, we had to make the hard decision to reduce the list to 16. It’s encouraging to see so many people come forward with their amazing ideas.”
Pitch’Day has become incredibly successful within the startup, innovation and business development communities.
What began as a small event in fall 2012 has grown. Since inception over 125 entrepreneurs have applied and 98 have presented at Pitch’Day. With the help of partners and sponsors, Innovate Manitoba has been able to award over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to Pitch’Day winners. Of the 82 Pitch’Day participants prior to this year’s event, 36 are actively operating businesses.
It’s never easy to raise investment capital. But these entrepreneurs are showing that it is possible. The 36 Pitch’Day businesses operating as at March 31, 2016 have raised a total of $4.2 million in risk capital, an average of $116,000 per company.
Ideas flowed once again this year, with the presenters, many at vastly different stages of the growth cycle, vying for a chance to access over $17,000 in prizes.
Taking on the role of Master of Ceremonies for the 2016 event was Bryce North. An Innovate Manitoba veteran, North first presented at Pitch’Day in 2012 where he won Best Technology Pitch for Advolve Media. He, along with his partners, took first-place at Pitch’Day 2015 with TrapTap, a completely legal, hands free, speed trap indicator with pre-mapped red light cameras/school zones and community mapped radar traps/road hazards. He hopes to be a Pitch’ Day judge in the future and has advice for those who want to take part in this experience.
“You can never over prepare,” said North, who has pitched all over North America and admits to completely forgetting what he was going to say on more than one occasion.
“Succeeding and winning isn’t just about taking the prize, it’s also about learning from the people who don’t like your product and what you need to change.”
An important point made by both Lederman and North is that no matter what, the event isn’t about winners and losers. It’s about selecting the ideas that may be a little more advanced than those that need some tweaking. In the end, everyone goes home a winner.
The Judges this Year Were Impressed with What They Saw and Heard.
Matt Golden, founder and managing partner of Golden Venture Partners, said he was “super impressed” and the quality was “really good.” His advice was that many of the presenters could aim higher. “Don’t just worry about a market in Winnipeg or a market in Canada,” he said. “If you’re going to go to the effort of launching a startup, you might as well aim higher.”
Returning judge Mike Fata, co-founder and CEO of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, liked that there was a nice range amongst the contestants. “It was good to see some that are in the concept stage and others that are farther along on their journey to commercialize, or are already commercialized.”
Mark Evans, founder of Emerging Information Systems, noted there were a couple of pitches that were head and shoulders above the others. “The two-minute pitch really differentiated,” said Evans. “You saw the people who knew how to do the two-minute pitch. That level of polish and differentiation was there.” Of the work of Innovate Manitoba, he said, “These are amazing opportunities for young entrepreneurs to pitch their idea, and get feedback from the judges and audience. That is invaluable.”
Another returning judge, Barb Gamey, co-founder and CEO of Payworks said, “If you’re an entrepreneur, take any opportunity to talk about your ‘thing’ whatever it is. And be proud that you represented it and be passionate about it.” Her final words of advice? “Be flexible, because what you thought you were going out with on day one may be entirely different down the road.”
And now, the Winners of Pitch’ Day 2016 Are…
1st place | $7,500 and People’s Choice Award | $1,000:
Catherine Metrycki, the brains behind Callia, is reinventing the consumer floral market by selling standardized packages direct from the manufacturer to customer. This innovative, digital operational model is coupled with luxury branding in a non-branded industry to deliver an easier higher quality and better value experience. The startup, which has already seen $7,000 in sales in its first 90 days, is well positioned for breaking into a $7.8 billion market in North America. Of selecting Callia for first-place, judge Golden said, “An absolutely backable entrepreneur, backable market size, and good demonstration of traction, which are the three things we look for.”
Metrycki, who was elated with the win, said “It was hard to convey my idea in 120 seconds, because you have to get to the point as to why you’re doing it. The feedback was clear in helping me see where I need to go,” she said. “For me, it’s important to understand the balance between scaling this market and scaling the North American market. The questions about frequency, how we’re going to go against the biggest competitors in the market were really relevant, and I am thrilled to be supported by the entrepreneur community.”
In addition to the cash prizes, all the winners receive six months’ free banking from RBC Royal Bank and complimentary entry into Innovate Manitoba’s Launch’Pad Startup Skills Workshop.
First place prize also includes $2,500 in business advisory, accounting or tax compliance/planning services from PKBW Group and $600 in legal services from TDS Law.
2nd place | $2,500 and Best Technology Pitch | $500:
Dan East created AutoTextDriver to help customers reach sales staff “faster than ever.” This application makes interaction as easy as sending a text. The software also helps target high-potential clients, guide sales conversations, and directly answer customers’ concerns. AutoTextDriver is built to work with and enhance existing CRM systems and is East and Chief Quality Officer Jeremy Major’s answer to a $60 billion market. The platform is currently bringing in $10,000 a month.
“We knew going in that there would be some really smart, well thought out questions,” said East. One was about East’s plans for scaling his idea. “We started with the automotive industry and did the beta test with Google, but now it has turned into a solution for any business and any website that’s out there, so really it’s about scaling the idea. We all text more than we call. There’s no limit, really.” The judges agreed, with Fata weighing in that the AutoTextDriver idea “was really well put together,” and Gamey adding, “What a great technology play.”
AutoTextDriver also receives $400 in legal services from TDS Law.
Best Student Pitch | $500:
Dylan Asmundson and Kyle Jagassar consider Teku to be the Uber of phone repair. They describe their business as Canada’s quick, affordable, and certified on-demand smart device support. They repair, automate, and install smart technology, like a cracked phone screen. And they come to you anywhere, 24/7.
“We’re focusing on launching in Winnipeg, have a beta test in Edmonton but then plan on expanding to other markets,” said Asmundson. Jagassar adds, “The next step is to bring this model we’ve already proven to every other city in Canada.” The pair project $2.1 million in sales in their first year.
Best Research Pitch | $500 and Best New Product Pitch | $500:
Cameron Kaye, Mohammad Asefi and Stasi Baran have come up with EMbrace, an inexpensive, portable knee joint imaging device for sideline assessment of injured athletes. The comfortable device uses safe, low-power microwave imaging to collect data about ligament tears, and utilizes cloud-based diagnostic software for fast evaluation to localize and detect the severity of an injury. “We plan to continue to develop our prototype, particularly a portable device, then go through testing and clinical trials and eventually take it to market,” said Asefi. Kaye, who is also a full-time medical student said, “[The timing of] going to market is dependent on how the testing and clinical trials go.” He, like all the presenters, offered kudos to Innovate Manitoba. “We really enjoyed this event.”
While not everyone in the room could be a winner all were energized by the creativity, passion and knowledge of their fellow presenters. Judge Mark Evans underlined the importance of the presenters taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another. “They should be looking at some of the other presenters and thinking ‘wow – How can I repackage my pitch to look like that?’”
Check Out the Pitch’Day Event Photos.