Custom Volunteer Experience Venture Wins Thousands at PitchNOLA

Last night, a packed house witnessed ten social entrepreneurship startups pitching for grand prize of $5,000.


Kicking off the night, the 2013 PitchNOLA: Community Solutions hosts Propeller, the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Social Innovation Social Entrepreneurship program at Tulane made it clear: it’s not just about startups and entrepreneurs, it’s about the surrounding infrastructure. It’s the community support that helps take the socially conscious ventures to the next level.

PitchNOLA took place during Global Entrepreneurship Week and was one of the thousands of events happening in over 100 countries designed to show of the entrepreneurial talent and passion of the participating individuals and communities.

According to Andrea Chen, Executive Director of Propeller, the quality of applications increases each year.

Participating companies were limited to a three-minute pitch and the use of between one and five slides. All had to be early-stage ideas that have generated under $50,000 in revenue for the 2012 fiscal year.

Judges Leslie Jacobs, Judy Reese Morse and John Frazee are all well-versed in the business and entrepreneurial landscape on New Orleans, including the education, technology and economic aspects.

After all ten entrepreneurs pitched, the judges deliberated and the three top ventures were brought back on stage for a rebuttal, addressing questions the judges had after the initial pitches.

The Center for Restorative Approaches, which is working in schools to build positive cultures and provide character building solutions to conflict and violence, Crescent City Connections, a venture that customizes volunteer experiences in New Orleans, and NOLA Eye Care, which seeks to conduct free eye screenings and provide assistance to the disadvantaged demographic, all made it to the second go-around on stage to face the judges.

“This was an incredibly hard decision,” Jacobs said. “You all are the reason the city’s just getting better every year.”

Crescent City Connections Co-founder Teddy Nathan pitches at the fifth annual PitchNOLA competition.

Crescent City Connections Co-founder Teddy Nathan presents the venture at the fifth annual PitchNOLA.

Crescent City Connections was then announced the winner of a $5,000 cash prize, pro bono technical assistance, and consulting through Propeller.

Founders Zach Cheney, Melissa Garber and Teddy Nathan said that the company’s current pilot program is designed to solidify their network of organizations and volunteers interested in using the platform that supports local nonprofits.

“From personal experience I know that there’s a demand for this,” Jacobs said while addressing Nathan.

Nathan said the $5,000 awarded to Crescent City Connections will go toward will getting new projects on board and taking the venture to the next level. The company wants to start small, with around 36 volunteer groups, but has plans to double in the next year.

During PitchNOLA, audience was also given a chance to participate by voting for an audience favorite. The $500 prize, collected from community donations, was awarded to I Heart Louisiana, a venture promoting economically and environmentally sustainable parading in New Orleans by increasing community involvement and connecting Krewes to locally sourced Mardi Gras throws.

The six other PitchNOLA 2013 semifinalists included:

  • BeneFit motivates individuals to live healthier lifestyles by allowing them to donate money, based on the number of calories they expend, to organizations that alleviate world hunger.

  • Brothers Empowered 2 Teach works to incentivize choosing education as a career path for black men and close the achievement gap for school-age at-risk children by providing in-class role models.

  • DrinkOnUs aims to create a portable device that is able to discretely detect common date-rape drugs in alcoholic drinks in order to reduce sexual assault

  • Gradient provides training and tools to support educators in writing and tracking high-quality goals for students with disabilities.

  • iSTEMNOLA combats the lack of representation in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) of minorities and women by exposing youth to STEM professionals and opportunities.

  • Where Y’Art is a curated digital gallery, marketplace and educational resource for artists, craftsmen and designers in New Orleans.