Silicon Alley’s borders have been steadily expanding into all five boroughs, with incubators and coworking spaces hosting local entrepreneurs, meetup groups forming small tech nations, and even VC firms, and proudly displaying their boroughs in their titles.
What one organization decided to do was find out how big and innovative these communities really are, and how they measure up to one another. NY FiveBoro Pitch Slap organized a series of pitch competitions in all five boroughs, with each hosting a preliminary competition, and the final round of five finalists competing against each other.
After three weeks, five boroughs, 21 startups, 17 judges, and unlimited inspiration, this quest turned into a case of “it’s not where you’re from, but where you’re going,” and as in every great story, the winner turned out to be not whom those of us who were there from the spot, might have imagined.
Image credit: CC by Global Jet
The series kicked off in Manhattan at Fueled Collective, with five startups pitching to a judging panel that included Stephen Wyper of MasterCard Path, Veronica Guzman of WAM Ventures, Dave Mathews of NewAer and Deep Gujral of Nomad Financial.
Debitize presented its FinTechcompany that combines benefits of both debit and credit by automatically setting aside funds from your checking account to cover every credit card purchase.
ArtPort built a place for artists to connect. Think LinkedIn for creatives.
Perqy took the stage to introduce Croissant, which lets freelancers reserve a seat at a cafe and pay by simply checking in.
Crowdzu is a crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for creatives.
The Manhattan winner was Visit.org. Judges thought the URL alone was a golden ticket for this worldwide travel concierge.
Second stop – the Bronx.
Based on the data presented by NYCEDC at the finale, the Bronx and Staten Island have the lowest percentage of tech operations, and while it certainly affected the number of qualified presenters, it didn’t stop the Bronx Pitch Slam, which was held at BXL.
The judging panel included Keith Klain of Doran Jones and Miguel Sanchez of Mass Ideation.
Rentity pitched their new venture, a platform that foregoes real estate agents and connects tenants so that they can exchange information about each other’s apartments: rent, move in/out dates and other information we don’t gather easily from middlemen.
SohoAnalytics develop digital platforms that leverage the use and value of consumer data. The presentation showcased how the company connects women with a certain hair type to the right hair care products.
Spare is on a mission to close the hunger gap by providing an app which rounds up a restaurant bill to the nearest dollar and feeds hungry New Yorkers.
Spare took the Bronx winner title and advanced to the finale.
Venue: Urban Future Lab
The Brooklyn competition was by far the most competitive one, with the judges – which included Ken Martin of Barclays, Anastasia Leng of Hatch.co and Nelson Chu of Hyperion Media – taking 40 minutes to decide on the winner. Tough one!
HomeEdison is a solar company that stores energy in case there’s a power outage.
The Crowd’s Line sources game predictions from fans and plans to launch during the NFL season
Intellibins puts fun into recycling and tells you how and where to get rid of your waste. Did you know that you can bring that bubble wrap to FedEx? Foregoing ignorance is the first step to saving our planet.
Lineapple wants to get rid of physical lines by giving anyone a chance to hold their spot via phone.
Gemstone caused some chuckles in the audience. It’s a smart vibrator company with unique design for a modern woman.
The line to get into Urban Future Lab alone might have predicted the winner in this one, as Lineapple moved on to the finale.
Staten Island competition was unlike any other, with a tremendous show of support from the small tech community, the families of the presenters and the judges themselves, which included Aileen Gemma Smith of Vizalytics Technology, Anthony Onesto of Razorfish and Marc Fields of The Compleat Sculptor. Here are the startups that pitched at SI MakerSpace:
Crypta was pitched by the youngest founders, 17-year-old high schoolers from SI Tech. They showed a prototype of a USB connective device that reads your fingerprint, allowing you to log in to multiple websites that require passwords.
Vpsie is a cloud server that understands and caters to startups.It’s cloud computing made simple.
Roots was founded by two brothers, both speech pathologists, and caters to ESL students, enabling them to learn English in a fun and interactive way.
Crypta accepted the applause as they were named the winner who would move on to the finale.
The last leg of the series took place in Queens at the QNS Collective, with the judging panel consisting of Reza Chowdhury of AlleyWatch, Julie Lorch of DoSomething.org, Martin Viau of WishWould and John Evans of Decision CFO
COSIGN puts those selfies into use and makes you money by linking your clothing and accessories to the brand’s website. Kim Kardashian, step back!
Gamechat connects all gamers in one place, no matter what game console they’re using.
Pommtree brings travel reviews via videos, because words can’t express your experience the way visuals do.
Appigi sources Social Service referrals and was the winner of BigApps NYC competition in 2014.
Morico is an IoT company, customizing your playlist based on your mood, by linking the experience with colors
Selfies win automatically. COSIGN, took the Queens championship title and advanced to the following week’s finale.
And the Winner Is…
After the borough winners met with their mentor judges to enhance their decks and presentations, it was time for the final pitch slap!
And if you don’t think that working with a mentor can make all the difference, you’d be mistaken. Crypta wins the prize as the company that matured the most since winning in their borough. They spent a whole day with Aileen Gemma Smith to work on their pitch and they nailed it. Visit.org defined their target audience as millenials this time around, and Spare concentrated on a personal story that inspired the company’s founding,rather than focusing on the investors and connections behind it.
Impact HUB hosted the final pitch slam, and while the judges voted anonymously on which company they felt should take the title and the prizes that go with it (mentorship from Jeanne Sullivan and Peter Shankman, consultation from Nomad Financial and dining credit from Reserve), Jeanne Sullivan took to the stage to address what investors look for – a CEO who knows his or her market through and through.
And the winner was… the Bronx’s own Andra Tomsa, founder of Spare.