By Caitlyn Finnegan
Two minutes: that’s all the time early-stage entrepreneurs had to pitch their business idea to almost 50 seasoned entrepreneurs, lawyers and other business professionals Thursday during the fourth annual “Fast Pitch” competition.
Sponsored by the Gainesville Area Innovation Network (GAIN), the baseball-themed event took place at the Hampton Inn downtown and set nine entrepreneurs against each other in a scenario not far off from what you would find at a speed dating event.
A whistle marked the beginning of each “inning,” or pitching round, when each of the competitors would sit face-to-face with pairs of seasoned entrepreneurs for two minutes before receiving feedback and switching to the next table.
By the end of the night, Nikhil Kundra, founder of business-to-business software Partender, had impressed the judges with his fine-tuned pitch and was named the winner.
As the winner, Kundra will receive $3,000 worth of legal fees from Gainesville business lawyer John Montague and a guaranteed spot in the Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Conference.
“This was a great experience,” Kundra said. “ I was able to refresh and beef up my pitch while talking with people I wouldn’t normally be able to meet.”
Lee May, the executive director of GAIN and the event’s organizer, thinks the most beneficial part of the event is that companies never end with the same pitch they entered the event with.
“By the end, they’ve talked to so many people and gotten so much feedback that their pitch is much more focused and thorough,” May said.
May encourages each of the entrepreneurs to consider a wide variety of questions that need to be addressed in their pitch to make it as strong as possible, such as “What’s your market size?” and “How will this idea stand out among competitors?”
The competition’s 2012 winner, Study Edge co-founder Rich Melgarejo, also attended the event to help judge the competitors.
Melgarejo said he used the event last year to help refine his business pitch before meeting with venture capitalists in California.
“It was really like a practice round and a way to organize our thoughts,” Melgarejo said.
The day after winning the competition, the Study Edge business team flew out to Silicon Valley, pitched to investors and were awarded with funding.
“It’s a great opportunity for developing your ‘elevator pitch,’” May said. “The ability to capture the essence of your company in one line is the holy grail.”