The annual PitchNOLA elevator pitch competition was held yesterday evening, October 6th, 2011, at Tulane University. The event, presented by Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO) and Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business attracted a packed house of local entrepreneurs, funders, and a wide range of supporters from the community.
Before the pitching began, judge Nishith Acharya, Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation, delivered a keynote address. With his foundation, Mr. Acharya noted that solutions we come up with here in New Orleans shouldn’t be restricted to local problems. “It’s important that we think about these problems from both scalability and price point.”
He also discussed the “VC method” of looking at ideas. “A VC will see 1000 business plans, look at 100 of them and fund ten. Six of those ten will succeed.” He stressed that we need to create tens of thousands of ideas and create a culture of idea generation and risk taking in order to solve big problems.
MC Matt Candler of 4.0 Schools also had a slew of advice to the finalists but stressed most importantly how they all deserved props for sharing their ideas in front of the crowd. “This takes guts. I applaud you for stepping up in front of us and putting it out there.” He also told the finalists to not expect sunshine and rainbows from the judges and specifically asked the judges to be as honest and direct with the finalists as possible.
Judges Leslie Jacobs, Nishith Acharya, and Eric Shaw seemed to take that advice to heart and provided critical feedback throughout the evening. On several occasions, Mr. Candler addressed them as, “Simon, Simon, and Simon,” referencing notoriously tough TV judge Simon Cowell.
The Well is a concept in development for a comprehensive outpatient medical practice that includes psychiatry alongside primary care and also includes massage therapy. Dr. Arwen Podesta, board certified in psychiatry and addiction management presented The Well with her business partner Sarah Mason who is also a registered nurse and soon to be family nurse practitioner.
During the pitch, Dr. Podesta shared the story of a patient that suffered from heroin addiction and had a possible thyroid problem. The patient was referred to a primary care doctor who eventually prescribed cough medicine with codeine for a separate respiratory issue. The codeine caused the patient to relapse on heroin and for Dr. Podesta, highlighted the dangerous need for better communication between primary care doctors and mental health practitioners.
The Well plans to focus on health issues endemic to South Louisiana including addiction, anxiety, cardiac dysfunction, chronic pain, endocrine disorders, and post-traumatic stress. The prize package for first place includes $3,500 in cash plus mentorship and consulting services provided by Trumpet Group and Baker Donelson Law Firm. Dr. Podesta and Ms. Mason stressed that the prize would be used to do research and finalize the proof of concept for the practice.
Takeashine and Future Prep NOLA were the other two groups selected to be in the final three with The Well.
AMPS Takes Audience Favorite
A second prize was awarded for “Audience Favorite” that included $500 in cash as well as services from Baker Donelson Law Firm and Trumpet Group. The audience voted via text message while the judges were deliberating and selected AMPS.
AMPS are sustainable and environmentally friendly food production systems that function as small farms in urban areas. Stephanie Stefanski presented the idea and pitched how AMPS could provide a constant source of organic food for a local grocery store, restaurant, or small community.
The full list of finalists selected to participate in the 2011 PitchNOLA competition is available here.
Beadcycle Aims to Green The Gras
The first place prize went to Beadcycle, an idea for collecting beads for recycling right along the parade route. Parade goers would receive tokens for recycling unwanted beads to receive discounts to nearby bars and restaurants. The idea also incorporated access to portable restrooms.
The Green the Gras first place prize includes $1,000 in cash from LifeCity and consulting provided by Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans.
Congratulations to all of the pitch participants and to the winners: Beadcycle, AMPS, and The Well!