October 31, 2013
The continual success of Hamilton College’s unique business plan competition—Thought Into Action’s Pitch Competition—demonstrates the creativity and ambition that is characteristic of all the College’s students.
Hamilton’s Pitch Competition, which Mark Kasdorf ’06 founded three years ago, has attracted an increasing number of student participants since its creation.
The 4th Annual Pitch Competition began last Tuesday, Oct. 22 with a “Pitch Mixer” meant to spur innovation and collaboration between Hamilton students considering participation. The students were also introduced to this year’s expert panel of mentors and judges, including Michael Fawcett ’66, management partner at Meacham Woodfield LLC; Hedy Foreman, management partner at Meacham Woodfield LLC; and Prithvi Tanwar, corporate lawyer at Foley Hoag LLP.
Following, on Friday evening, Fawcett and Foreman sponsored a workshop for participants on how to develop an effective entrepreneurial idea, to analyze the potential market and competition, and to then effectively communicate a vision to venture capitalists or investors.
Prior to the official commencement of competition, Michael Fawcett ’66, Foreman, Tanwar and Natasha Householder ’84 offered office hours/mentoring sessions late into the night on Friday and all day Saturday for preparing contestants. These opportunities gave students the ability to ask questions, receive advice, and listen to feedback.
The preliminary round of competition saw nearly 20 teams of students and young alumni There were approximately 50-60 participants in total this semester, including those individuals who ultimately decided against entering. The initial stage of the Pitch Comp required participants to explain their ideas to the panel of experienced judges, who asked tough questions, and gave honest feedback. According to Teddy Clements ’14, the first-place winner of last semester’s Pitch Competition, was very impressed by the ideas presented by this semester’s event and said,“[The judges] all thought the quality of the pitches this year was better than any previous year.”
Three pitches, created by both individuals and teams, were chosen and, and after incorporating the judges feedback, presented an expanded pitch on Sunday morning.
Sam Matlick ’17 won the first-place prize with “Sell Your Tech,” a web portal for the purchase and eventual resale of used electronics Through the website www.sellyourtech.com, individuals will be able to easily navigate the sale of their device, and will be able to pick up some quick cash as we will be offering top of the market buy-back prices. Matlick originally started this business last year and has since been preparing for eventual expansion. Though the website is currently under construction, it is expected to be functional shortly before the upcoming Thanksgiving break.
Matlick’s prize included $2,500 and business coaching. Though Matlick maintained that most of his winnings will go towards his business, he joked, “I have my eye on some new J. Crew attire, and perhaps a party sized vat of Nutella to cap the celebration.”
Second place went to Peter Michalidis ’16 with his business “Showdown Life,” a website started in 2011 that, according to the Michalidis, “fuses together sports and a ‘spring break experience’” by allowing the players to both “party and play the sport they love.” He was awarded a Samsung Tablet.
The other finalist included the team of Nile Berry ’14 Nick Pappageorge ’14, and Sam Wagner ’14 for their idea “TrueBrew.”
Honorable Mention went to Jo Stiles ’15 for her idea for her college carpool app proposal.
In the future, Thought Into Action hopes to capitalize on the momentum from the Pitch Competition in order to leverage support to build a Social Innovations space on campus. This center would allow student entrepreneurs to collaborate and develop their businesses as though in a traditional start-up incubator. Additionally, the Social Innovations Program housed in this space will include a week-long workshop over the second week of spring break with Anke Wessels, the teacher of an award-winning course on social innovation at Cornell University. Selected student projects will receive project funding, as well as guidance about developing mentoring support from among alumni and community members. This unique new space will hopefully be completed and ready to function within the Levitt following the winter break.
Clearly, the significance of the Hamilton Pitch Competition extends far beyond the potential to win extraordinary prizes. Though the monetary and mentorship rewards provided competitors with motivation, the overall experience remains a vital part of the College’s traditions because it demonstrates the strength of the alumni network and provides a space for Hamilton students to showcase their savvy for social innovation.