Winter Pitch awards funding and support to five teams

by Kristine Jiwoo Ahn | 3/7/17 2:00am

Last Thursday, the Digital Arts, Leadership and Innovation Lab and the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network hosted The Pitch, Dartmouth’s shark-tank style entrepreneurial show, in Filene Auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m.

The five selected winning teams were Gift Crate, Turf, Notist, AlertDrive and Cormat.

Seventeen teams each presented a two-minute pitch about their new idea or startup to a panel of six judges and an audience. Each audience member then marked their three favorite pitches on ballots distributed before the event.

The panel of six judges, consisting of students, alumni and entrepreneurs, gathered during a 20-minute intermission to decide the winners. During the intermission, the audience’s votes were tallied to decide the People’s Choice Award.

DALI and DEN each selected a winning team and a runner-up. DEN’s first-place team received $2,000, and its second-place team received $1,500, both in addition to support from DEN. The People’s Choice team won $1,000. The winners of the DALI Team Prize and DALI Partner Prize were awarded a team of DALI assistants and resources.

First-place DEN winner Gift Crate provides care packages, handpicked by cancer survivors, for people battling cancer and other critical illnesses. Tuck School of Business director of strategic initiatives Dia Draper, who is a co-founder of The Gift Crate and a cancer survivor herself, said that she thought of this idea after many people asked her what they could do to support a friend or loved one facing such a battle. Draper said many are overwhelmed and do not know what might be helpful or appropriate. As cancer survivors are informed by their own personal experiences, The Gift Crate reassures the gift-giver that it has crafted a custom gift that will be useful for his or her loved one.

Draper said that her team will use DEN funding and support to create an e-commerce platform with customized functionality. DEN funding will help her team invest in professional product photography, while its mentorship and advising will help prioritize her team’s next steps and hone their brand as they prepare to launch the website and e-commerce store, Draper said.

Second-place winner DEN Turf will develop a piece of turf equipment that would be used to maximize the rooting potential of grass on athletic fields. Michael Wade, a College grounds service staff member and co-founder of Turf, said that his team will use DEN funding to pay for the provisional patent and materials that it needs to construct the prototype.

Both Draper and Wade said that DEN’s mandatory “Pitch Clinic” for all teams prior to the actual competition was very helpful. The Pitch Clinic gave members training in how to pitch their ideas to the judges.

“We are not business students or professional businessmen by any means; we are turf guys that work outside on the fields,” Wade said. “We had no idea how to structure a pitch, do market research, any of the things needed to do this competition. We went to the DEN seminar on how to make a pitch and had to use all the resources available to us and learn.”

Draper also said that DEN and DALI connected her to Dartmouth librarians who provided her team with research and data that she would not have been able to access on her own. There are databases that contain many industry reports that would cost thousands of dollars to get access to, and Draper said that they gave her team industry perspective and a solid platform to start from.

The Pitch was created in 2014 and has since been hosted every fall, winter and spring term. This winter’s Pitch was the 10th such event.

“The purpose of The Pitch is to encourage and create a culture of people coming up with innovative and creative ideas and to support them to take their ideas to the next level,” executive director and co-founder of DALI Lorie Loeb said.

Loeb said that The Pitch could expand to also include non-startup ideas. People might pitch research ideas and ideas to the administration that the College might adopt.

“There’s a lot of things we could be pitching and things that could be developing across campus,” Loeb said.

She added that bringing in big companies such as Amazon to sponsor a prize could be exciting and draw more contestants and audience members.

Loeb said The Pitch is garnering more people every term from various backgrounds — students, faculty, staff and local Hanover residents.

“There seems to be a real buzz around campus,” she said.