Space Gallery buzzed with excitement on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017, as aspiring Colorado entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas at THE CLIMB | Collegiate & Community Pitch Night. Hosted annually by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, five collegiate and four community teams pitched front of a panel of esteemed judges and a record-breaking audience of 150 people.
This year’s competition featured an online craft beer marketplace, a meal planning mobile application and companies wanting to do social good. “There’s a very diverse group of entrepreneurs within Denver that are trying to solve some really cool problems here that have meaningful impact on society,” said Caleb Polley, first place winner in the community category. His company, Boogaloo Beds, wants to improve sleep, safety and sensory control for people with autism, dementia and sensory processing disorders.
Michael Potts, Managing Partner at Advance Wave Partners; Stephanie McCoy, Chief Operating Officer of Wazee Street Capital Management; Joel Appel, Owner and CEO of Launch Pad, LLC; and Jake Jabs, President and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse and Jake Jabs Center namesake, were tasked with judging all nine pitches. Molly Hughes, communication consultant, executive coach and former anchor at CBS4 Denver, served as emcee for the evening.
The evening began with five pitches in the collegiate category.
First was James Fazzio of Nutrition Leaders, a company that provides research-based nutrition consultation and education by registered dietitians. The company serves to provide in-person group classes, online education and one-on-one consultations.
Second to pitch were Christa Corrigan and Chloe Canterbury of Pantree, a smartphone application with a barcode scanner. The app is a modern-day cookbook designed to help users track their food purchases and come up with recipe ideas based on what’s currently in their kitchens.
The UtiliChair team was third, presenting their idea for a chair with a built-in latch designed to prevent purse or backpack theft. During the question and answer portion of their pitch, they boldly appealed to Jake Jabs in hopes of partnering with American Furniture Warehouse
Fourth came Charles Stanley with his company, Local Beer Connection (LBC). Stanley’s goal is to provide fellow craft beer lovers with a greater access to local breweries, allowing them to order beer from over 1,000 breweries in the Denver metro area and pick it up at a local retailer.
The final contestants in the collegiate category were Omeed Saghafi and Henry Duong of Diagnosis AI. Their artificial intelligence system “DexMD” provides medical patients with reminders, answers to questions, and treatment recommendations, all in the comfort of their own homes.
Next up were four pitches in the community category.
Polley of Boogaloo Beds pitched first. Second was Craig Canon of Spinhead Media; his “Spinheads” are over-7-foot-tall structures that hold signage to help people navigate special events, road construction, and emergency situations while reducing frustration and anxiety.
Molly Schaefer pitched her company, Silver Spoons Kitchen, third. Passionate for the aging community, Schaefer hopes to empower the aging population to live independently by providing seniors with nourishing meals and companionship.
Last but not least, James and Samantha Gardner (a wife and husband duo) closed out THE CLIMB after pitching their company, Milk Stash. The idea was “born” after the birth of their daughter and Gardner was frustrated with the tediousness of tracking and storing her breast milk. Milk Stash is an end-to-end solution for breastfeeding moms, equipped with a refrigerator storage tray and smartphone application to help track of inventory.
While the judges deliberated, Dave and Lars Baugh of Lithic Foods – and last year’s community winners of THE CLIMB – gave attendees an update on their successful cricket-based foods company. Then, Dr. Madhavan “MP” Parthasarathy, Director of the Jake Jabs Center, chatted with Jabs about his entrepreneurial journey and took questions from the audience. The judges gave their final remarks on the pitches, with Appel reminding aspiring entrepreneurs to “always work on your network, and don’t be afraid to ask people with knowledge.”
Jake Jabs helped announce the winners.
In the community category, Boogaloo Beds won first place and $2,000. Spinhead Media came in second place, winning $1,500. Silver Spoons Kitchen won the $1,000 People’s Choice Award, which attendees granted to their favorite startups by voting in real-time using a mobile application developed by Brainspire.
In addition to the monetary prizes, winners were granted in-kind prizes in the form of mentorship and business advising from THE CLIMB sponsors. Polley said, “I’ve met some really great people here who are looking to help me. They’ve offered me help, and they’re interested in getting involved with the local businesses here.”
In the collegiate category, Diagnosis AI won first place and the grand prize of $3,500. Local Beer Connection came in second place, winning $2,000, and Nutrition Leaders won the $1,000 People’s Choice Award.
“In preparing for the event, we learned a lot about how to pitch, how to develop a proper business plan, and how to test our product to make sure that it’s a market fit and actually a product people want,” said Duong of Diagnosis AI. “From the actual event, we’ve learned that it’s really about the community – the people that we’ve talked to here have been very encouraging, and we’ve made a lot of contacts that we’re going to be following up with. I think it’s a lot about getting out there and talking to people.”
And the night wasn’t just about the winners. All of the competitors had something positive to take away from their CLIMB experience. “The biggest thing that I learned is that if you have an idea, you’ve just got to go for it,” Stephanie Diaz of UtiliChair said. “In our particular instance we didn’t win, but we won’t let that stop us. Take a chance because you never know what you’re going to get unless you try.”