Community members participate in winter edition of the Pitch

by Jennie Rhodes | 2/28/18 2:05am

by Jennie Rhodes / The Dartmouth

On Monday night, Dartmouth held its latest rendition of its entrepreneurial show, the Pitch. Twenty-one groups of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students pitched their startup ideas to a panel of six judges and approximately 100 voting audience members.

This year, the Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation Lab and the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, the event’s co-sponsors, experimented with several changes to the event.

Since its conception in spring 2014, the Pitch has taken place once per term. However, last night marks the only Pitch of the 2017-2018 school year.

DALI co-founder and director Tim Tregubov said that “different terms have different characteristics,” with the winter term usually generating the most participation and the spring term the least amount.

“Having it once a year really generates an entrepreneurial excitement,” Tregubov said.

Theo Obbard, DALI Lab administrator and organizer of Monday’s Pitch, said this year’s application process for the Pitch was revolutionized because of a business idea presented at last spring’s show, called Pitchback. Pitchback, which won the Pitch 17S DALI individual prize, is a software that allows applicants to record their pitches on their computer camera and get artificial intelligence feedback on what was not successful, according to Obbard. Once applicants are happy with their presentation, team members answer a few written questions about it and submit their video to apply to appear in the Pitch.

“In the past, the application was just, ‘Tell us about your idea,’” Tregubov said. “Now we thought, ‘Why don’t we use this cool platform to give feedback and [have teams] apply with their actual pitch?’ This allows groups to start thinking about their pitch much earlier, so a month in advance they are already thinking of their public presentation. I’m excited to see the effects of prepping a video ahead of time and getting feedback.”

The judging process has also taken a new turn, according to Tregubov. This year, four different awards were given: DALI Award, DEN Award, Best Pitch and Most Impactful. Previously, there was a People’s Choice Award that was decided by audience member votes — the audience now votes for both Best Pitch and Most Impactful. The judges of the DALI Award were students from the DALI core leadership team and the judges of the DEN Award were student DEN associates, according to DEN director Jamie Coughlin, who added that for the past four years, judges have been faculty and staff of DALI and DEN.

Coughlin said he wanted students to gain judging experience and have student pitchers get feedback from fellow students.

“The majority of people pitching are students,” he said. “So from a peer to peer standpoint, where you’re pitching this product geared towards the student-age demographic, [student judges] have a better perspective of whether they would use that product or whether a peer would use that product.”

In previous years, audience members have voted by writing down their three favorite pitches. This year, however, audience members ranked both the top three pitches and the top three most impactful ideas using the DALI Lab app, according to Obbard.

“I love to see the audience packed full of people and how they respond,” DALI co-founder and executive director Lorie Loeb said. “There’s a loyal following of people who come to every single Pitch event, and they just love to see the creative ideas that come along and love voting for their favorites. It has a good atmosphere.”

DEN associate Matt Kenney ’21 said he attended the Pitch this term because he believes it is a uniquely valuable experience.

“People waste away so much time not going to events like these, which are incredible experiences you can’t get at home or anywhere else other than on this college campus,” he said. “I try to come to events like these to see new ideas and people looking to change the world.”

This year’s DALI award winner was Nudge, a personal relationship management application that aggregates the data on mobile phones via email, text messaging and phone calls.

“Nudge is impactful because of the power of relationships in our technological age when it is so easy to reach out to someone,” founder Angela Orzell Tu’19 said. “It becomes more important to maintain those connections and make sure they are not superficial.”

Orzell said she saw the Pitch as an opportunity to obtain the help needed to develop a minimum viable product. As the DALI winner, Nudge will receive $1,000 and development support from the DALI Lab through a team of DALI assistants.

This year’s DEN winner was Cash Goals, a goal-oriented financial management platform for couples that works to prevent big ticket financial conflicts before they happen, according to founder Teddy Wahle ’21.

As the DEN winner, Cash Goals will receive $1,000 and entrepreneurial support from DEN.

“A lot of startups tend to blow a lot of money on development, which is a huge cost because they do not have a technical team member or co-founder,” Wahle said. “I am going to build a prototype where all the costs are small, so I hope the money lasts a long time. As for DEN support, I need access to people who can provide us with capital. I would like mentorship and guidance on big startup moves. I am also in need of a technical co-founder who can build an app.”

Who’s down?, an app that locates spontaneous events happening on campus, won the Best Pitch award, and Re-memory, an app that uses music to help elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease, won the Most Impactful award. Although these two winners will not receive DEN or DALI support like Nudge and Cash Goals will, they will receive “the same amount of funding and a heads-up in the DALI application process if they choose to apply to work with us,” Obbard said.

“The idea is exposure, not winning,” Loeb said.

Non-winners have also gone on to see success. Pulse, the online College polling platform, participated in the Pitch in spring 2016 under the name “The Dartmouth Transparency Project.” Order Orchard, the digital restaurant management suite, was also a participant in the Pitch during fall 2015 and winter 2016. Despite not winning in the show, Order Orchard won $25,000 in the 2017 Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Forum Competition and has gone on to receive a $1.7 million investment from a venture capital firm this past year, according to Tregubov.

“The world is requiring us to be more entrepreneurial-minded,” Coughlin said. “How do you do more with less? How do you think outside the box? On campus, given our liberal arts roots, Dartmouth produces these future entrepreneurial leaders. If they can all be provided an entrepreneur lens, I think [the Pitch] has benefited society.”