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The Pitch Recap

Jun 21, 2022 | Announcements, Ecosystem

Six years ago, events for Startups were few and far between in our region.

A small group of Entrepreneurs came together to create a Startup event to fill the need. We decided to put together a pitch event featuring other local Startups with the mindset that we’d start small and build up the community. In just a few months we put together the first event and nervously awaited the arrival of attendees. We believed that the event would be a huge success if at least 25-30 people attended.

That night, 150 people walked through the doors of The Venue at the King’s Centre. We were scrambling to pull out chairs and setup more tables for everyone. We ran out of food, we ran out of drinks, and our event went way over our planned time! But the crowd was electric. An energy filled the room and I’ll never forget standing on the stage and saying, “Entrepreneurship is strong in Northeast Tennessee!” The crowd erupted in cheers.

Something special was happening in that moment and you could feel it.

Six years later, Founders Forge held its 5th pitch competition.

The Pitch has evolved to be at the local ballpark with a full baseball theme. The previous competition went very well with over 140 in attendance during the craziness of 2021. The event felt special and unique at the new venue, and we loved every moment of it.

But this year the weather did not play nice. We had to implement our backup plan and move the event back inside to the original venue of the first pitch competition. With any large event, it’s common to assume 25% of the attendees will not show. With inclement weather and a last-minute change of venue, you often expect to lose even more.

But something unique was happening as each day grew closer. RSVPs continued to arrive, and our estimated attendees grew to over 200 people, the largest crowd we expected to see. Still, we expected only 100-150 people to attend like every year prior.

That night, 250+ people came through the doors.

The vast majority were first time attendees along with those that have been supporting Entrepreneurship for years. Once again, we were pulling out every available chair from the back room and the crowd was electric. Our past pitch competitions were awesome and well attended. However, this night an energy filled the space that we haven’t seen or felt in 6 years.

Something truly special is happening in the Appalachian Highlands.

After our Startup Bootcamp programs, Founders Meetup, and our monthly events we’ve seen a community of Entrepreneurs come together to make our region better. At our event, we had an army of volunteers that consisted of Entrepreneurs helping each other. Our sponsors (seen here) came out and helped us offer a $10k grand prize!

In attendance, we had city and county commissioners, business leaders, and our region’s organizations that support Entrepreneurs. LaunchTN, the state’s Entrepreneurship support entity, also made the drive up from Nashville to attend and connect with our region. This truly was an event showcasing our region at its best. It showcases that when we work together, and support each other, amazing things happen.

At the event, 8 Startups pitched their ideas for a chance at the $10k grand prize. Each company showcased the innovation and capability of our region in excellent fashion. But there can be only one grand prize winner.

This year the grand prize went to Green Llama, a Startup founded by Matt Keasey and Kay Baker. Their eco-friendly (and effective!) cleaning products combined sustainability, function, IP and personality into their pitch to take home the win.

Second place went to Sam Bellavance with The Stable Mode, a new take on online physical training for the hyper-mobile that improves lives while saving lots of their customers’ hard earned money!

Third place went to Michelle Black and Mitch Miller with The City ID, a new approach to economic development that helps cities and developers attract the best talent to their region. It’s truly incredible when your region’s own economic developers are building new Entrepreneurial endeavors.

And last, (but never least) Jim Hughes of ShowerCrown, took home the crowd favorite. The voting process knocked down our webserver for a short period of time and a fierce battle took place as soon as it was back online! But Jim won over the crowd with his incredible product that is a bathroom remodel in a box and with lines in his pitch like, “You can hide a world of sin behind your shower curtain, and with ShowerCrown, you can look amazing doing so!”

These were the winners of the event, but the incredible talent of our region made this decision very difficult. Joshua Trimm, of TrimYard didn’t change his name for his Startup but he is building an incredible product for landscapers. Mark Sutton impressed the audience with his words about his invention, the Firestarter Mug. Morri Howell introduced a new way to approach continuous diabetes monitoring with a novel approach to reusable technology to improve lives and save the environment! Then Matthew Rauhuff, the founder of EM/ERGE showcased the value of teaching lifesaving skills to college students through his emergency preparedness program that is going to save the lives across our region, and hopefully the nation.

The Pitch is not just a Startup competition.
It’s a time when everyone comes together, supports each other, and showcases to the community the innovation we have happening here.

But this is not the end, it is just the beginning.

At the pitch, we also announced a new event coming Fall of 2023.

The Startup Mountain Summit of the Appalachian Highlands will bring Entrepreneurs together from across the Southeastern United States to connect and learn from each other. The summit will feature some of the best Startups from the Southeast and speakers from across the country with a focus on actionable information that you can use to accelerate your Startup.

At this event, you can meet a mentor, investor, or start a new partnership while being in the best region of Tennessee! This is also a time for our region to showcase why this place is an amazing place to live, work, and play. More information will be released soon about this event, and we can’t wait to share the speakers, sessions, and workshops happening this Fall. Information will be announced throughout the year so follow us to be the first to know what is happening.

Yes, COVID was a crazy time! The economy may slow down, and the future is uncertain. But our region will not be held back. It will continue to innovate, grow, and thrive thanks to our region’s Entrepreneurs as well those who support them.

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