April 11, 2013
The annual Hamilton College Pitch Competition went 3.0 this year during Volunteer Weekend, April 5-7. The College’s unique business plan competition provides students with the opportunity to work alongside alumni conceiving, refining and launching companies while also working towards winning a prize of $7,500-$2,500 in cash, and $5,000 designated towards start-up savings.
Hamilton’s Pitch Competition, which was originated by Mark Kasdorf ’06 three years ago, has attracted a significant number of student participants since its creation. In fact, with 80 student attendees in 2012, PitchComp is one of the most attended “academic” workshops in Hamilton history. This year, 21 teams devoted their full weekend to engaging in this holistic approach to the entrepreneurial world of business.
The weekend kicked off with an all-day mentoring workshop on Friday, April 5. Gathering in the atrium of the Kirner-Johnson Building, students and alumni discussed business ideas and gave each other feedback and suggestions in small-groups. Though this particular segment of the competition was valuable because it helped competitors to tweak their plans and refine their presentational skills, it most importantly gave them with the chance to develop strategies and techniques that can apply to a variety of professional and life experience and situations.
On the following day, Saturday, April 6, students faced the panel of judges in the semi-final round of the competition. This year, the cluster consisted of the event’s founder, Mark Kasdorf, CEO of Burning Hollow and Intrepid; Michael Fawcett ’66 and Hedy Foreman of Meacham Woodfield; David Bisceglia of The Tap Lab; Prithvi Tanwar of Foley Hoag and Aude-Olivia Dufour, CEO of Invup. The competition ultimately came down to four teams of students, who would be judged in Sunday’s final round based upon their concept, financial plans, management and presentation style.
First place was awarded to Teddy Clements ’14 with his idea for “StorageLink,”a person-to-person storage space catered towards homeowners and businesses. According to Clements, the original idea for his project came from a personal need for such a service. He explained, “[My family has] a small 12-foot sailboat at home and [was] looking for a place to store it for the winter…Rather than rent a truck and drive it to a traditional storage place, we found someone right on our street that had an empty garage bay… and stored it there instead. Then, the idea for StorageLink just kind of came to me.”
Clements’s prizes included $2500 in cash, coaching services from Fawcett and Foreman, and $5000 in legal services from Tanwar (Foley Hoag LLP). Second place went to the team of Michael Nelson ’16, Farzad Khosravi ’16, Matias Wolansky ’16 and Noah Lowenthal ’16. Their plan involved the creation of Campus Scene, a personalized social networking app that combines campus-related social media services in one location. They were awarded a year of coaching services from Kasdorf as well as legal coaching services from Tanwar.
The other finalist teams included Samantha Sherman ’15, who won third place for her automated divot repair equipment and received an iPad, and Trang Nguyen ’14 and Ujjwal Pradhan ’15, whose plan for a campus-wide food delivery service earned them an iPad mini.
It can easily be said that 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 was extraordinary for competitors because it shed light on the College’s impressive alumni network and on the brilliant, creative minds of fellow students. “The Pitch Competition is...a great networking event for Hamilton students to connect with successful and caring alumni, but also with other current students who you might not have realized have a passion for entrepreneurship…[Khosravi, Wolansky, Lowenthal and I] also gained great contacts from the event that will be great resources when we have questions or seek advice in the future,” Nelson said. Clements similarly described the event as “highly beneficial.”
“There are actually quite a few students on campus who are literally running start-ups or non-profits from their dorm rooms, and that was exciting to see,” he said.
The PitchComp will no doubt continue to generate excitement amongst and spark the creativity of students in years to come. Until then, however, students have ample time to prepare their own pitches for next year’s competition!