Every year, Propeller, the social innovation hub and accelerator, hosts PitchNOLA 2015: Community Solutions, a live business pitch competition that asks New Orleanians to explain how they plan to drive progress in their community. The event was held last night (January 28) in partnership with Tulane University’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching and A.B. Freeman School of Business.
Propeller encouraged the community to pitch any idea that offers support to workforce development, children and families, social justice, and the environment.
The ten semi-finalists each got three minutes to pitch to a panel of judges including: Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva and Puddle; Leslie Jacobs, CEO of the New Orleans Startup Fund and founder of PowerMoves NOLA; and Victor Alvarez, Director of Alvarez and Marsal and founder of Lucky Tree.
The four winners of the evening took home $10,640 in cash prizes, provided by the Lang Family Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and audience donations.
First place and $5,000 went to Brothers Empowered 2 Teach (BE2T), an organization with a mission to close the achievement gap for at-risk students by inspiring and incentivizing men of color to choose education as a career starting in New Orleans.
BE2T will use the prize money to fund stipends for two of the fifteen local college sophomores who will join the launch of the full program as fellows in the fall. “For BE2T, this means we’ve hit another milestone,” said co-founder Kristyna Jones.
unCommon Construction, a values-based construction- and character-skills development program, came in second place, taking home $3,000 in prize money, in addition to the remaining $640 in cash after winning the audience favorite vote. The program prepares high school students for the post-secondary path of their choice through hands-on training, certifications, and scholarship. Propeller said the program will be acquiring real estate and complete the construction of one house and one apprenticeship cycle within the next year.
Third place and $2,000 was awarded to Gator and Crane, which incentivizes healthy and sustainable living by exchanging food waste for nutritious groceries. During the pitch, founder Emily Gaddis said they plan to open the first brick and mortar store in downtown New Orleans.
Veteran PitchNOLA judge Leslie Jacobs said, “The talent tonight was impressive. I’ve judged this event since it’s started, and these entrepreneurs had the best pitches I’ve seen, across the board.”
Read more about the other semi-finalists here.