Eight Florida companies have been selected for Pitch Madness, the competition for funding and awareness that will be a centerpiece at the Synapse Summit, the technology and innovation festival scheduled Jan. 23-24 at Amalie Arena.
The eight companies will be the first to try out a new format for a pitch competition, with the tournament format of March Madness meeting the competitive dialogue of political debates.
“We’re in this world of innovation and disruption, yet we’ve been pitching in the same format for the last 10 years or so,” said Tyler Kelly, chief revenue officer at E2Generations and co-founder and director of Pitch Madness.
He combined his two favorite things, sports and politics, to come up with Pitch Madness.
“Instead of founders being good at memorizing something and presenting it, I thought it would be a much better way to get insight into the dynamic thinking and skill set that are involved in running a business,” Kelly said. “I thought a different format could provide better insight into those skills.”
The new format puts less emphasis on the industry or sector a company is in and more emphasis on how well a founder can think on his or her feet and knows their business. That’s a better indicator, Kelly said, of someone who is going to be successful in the startup world.
Kelly just finalized the list of the eight companies scheduled to participate in Pitch Madness, with a caution that the schedule could change. They are:
SunVessel, a Miami company that wants to change the way people move in an urban environment and reduce dependency on automobiles
Metasense Analytics, an analytics firm for healthcare that’s based in the Tampa-St. Pete area
Jinglz, a mobile advertising technology company in Mount Dora
Immersed Games, an ed tech startup with a vision for how games can empower student learning, based in Gainesville
TSOLife, a Tampa company with technology to preserve and capture life stories
RxLive, a concierge health services firm in Tampa that connects patients and pharmacists
Everix Optical Filters, an Orlando company with a proprietary manufacturing process to create ultra-thin, plastic-based, high-performance optical filters
Logixboard, a Miami software company for the logistics industry
There will be prizes for the top three winners, including a $5,000 investment by Seedfunders, a St. Petersburg-based angel investment fund, for the first-place winner. “To commit to make an investment in a company that they’ve never engaged in before is awesome,” Kelly said.
Some of the other prizes include memberships in Embarc Collective and Station House Hyde Park, and in-kind legal services from AEGIS Law. New World Angels investment fund is offering to expedite its vetting process for top winners and Kelly’s company, E2Generations, a software firm in Tampa, is offering consulting services.
Nearly 100 companies from around Florida registered for Pitch Madness, and Kelly personally interviewed each one of them by phone. Basic criteria for each company included a product, some revenue and committed capital of no more than $3 million. A selection committee whittled the list down to the final eight.
The first day of Pitch Madness, Jan. 23, will have four rounds, with two founders going head to head in each round, with a panel of judges and an audience.
As moderator, Kelly will ask two questions about business strategies to spur debate, with the judges giving a yes or no as to who will move forward after 15 minutes. Semi-finals and finals will be on the following day, Jan. 24.
Kelly sees a lot of similarities between the startup community in the Tampa Bay area and that of Los Angeles, where he spent several years. Talent and capital migrated to LA from San Francisco, he said, and he believe the same thing will happen here, with migrations from New York to Tampa Bay by people looking for a better quality of life and a lower cost of living.
“I think it’s a full-scale effort when you see a community double down on innovation and technology and the holistic approach that’s required for it to be done well,” he said. “It seems the buy-in is coming around and more and more folks are getting on the wave. That’s the right formula for things to continue to grow and to yield some great results for the city and the state.”