In one of the most competitive Pitch Olympics ever held by the Venture Association of New Jersey, entrepreneurs seeking funding and vying in a pitching contest to a panel of investors resulted in ties for both 1st and 3rd place–prompting Jay Trien, co-founder of VANJ to note the unique circumstance of needing more plaques for the winners.
lst place winners were New Tech Wind, the creator of a 2.8 MW direct drive wind turbine generator that will make wind energy competitive with natural gas, and Thermal Gradient, a biotech company developing technology for nucleic acid testing. 3rd place was shared by speak-n-find, creater of a voice recognition radio electronic device enabling users to find items within seconds, and SeedInvest, a equity crowdfunding platform associated with the recent passage of the JOBS Act. 2nd place was solely captured by Plehn Analytics, a data provider focused on leveraging data assets for multiple purposes.
Close to 3o startup companies faced a fiesty panel of investors who shared humor and barbs during the panel discusion prior to the Pitch Olympics. This continued into the voting portion of the Olympics as votes sometimes appreciably diverged among the investors assessing the quality of the presentations and prospects for funding of the participating entrepreneurs.
Each panelist offered insight to the audience, Brian Cohen, Chairman of New York Angels, noting that “ego and greed” often get in the way of success for startup ventures. Also, highlighting that the more successful entrepreneurs are those who “hire people who are smarter than they are” , as well as remaining adaptable since he estimated that close to “75% of their funded entrepreneurs are not doing the same thing a year later”.
Mario Casabona, Chairman of JumpstartNJ, New Jersey’s largest angel network, and founder of TechLaunch, a Technology Accelerator formed in collaboration with the NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA), Montclair State University and successful entrepreneurs also participated as a judge on the panel. Mario offered the key criteria he focuses on when making an investment: the team and a 3-5 year exit that will give him a reasonable return.
Other panelists were Jeanne Sullivan, Founding Principal of StarVest Partners LP, Steve Brotman, Managing Partner of Silicon Alley Venture Partners, Frank Graziano, Managing Partner of Monmouth Venture Partners, Scott Sipprelle, Managing Member & Innovation Garden Founder, and Carol Curley, Managing Director of Golden Seeds LLC.