Whether it’s called a presentation, an introduction, or a proposal, the first 90 seconds of any discussion to convey a new idea are crucial. Sometimes it’s the only time one has to get and hold someone’s attention. To encourage undergraduate and graduate students to develop this essential skill, the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE) and the Office of Technology Commercialization held the fourth annual Elevator Pitch Competition on April 17.
“It’s often compared to trying to sell your idea to someone while riding in an elevator from the first to the top floor, hence the name, elevator pitch,” said James Spencer, executive director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, real estate and new venture development, and acting director of the Office of Technology Commercialization.
“In a university setting, research, creativity, and inspiration drive the engine of innovation,” Spencer said. “This student-focused event centers more on product design and presentation rather than traditional business planning. The Elevator Pitch Competition emphasizes the student’s ability to communicate a value proposition that may or may not be used in a strictly entrepreneurial sense.”
Following a preliminary written pitch entry phase, representing cross-campus students, 11 ideas were selected as finalists in the live Elevator Pitch Competition. Entries covered three pitch categories that include business, social venture, or idea/innovation.
Cash prizes totaling $3,000 were awarded to individual students and team participants: Nathan Fullerton, EZ Coaching LLC, for Best Overall ($1,500), Kevin Lyman, Resumazing, for Most Investment Potential ($1,000), and Alexandra Hudak, Step, for Best Presentation Skills ($500).
Two Elevator Pitch Competition 2013 winners were on hand at the event. Glenn Rothwell ’16, a dual major in aerospace and mechanical engineering who has been working on his concept to create self-healing bioglass technology, was awarded the prize for Best Overall Pitch; and Meghan Olson ’14, a dual major in mechanical engineering and design, innovation, and society, was awarded the Best Presentation Quality prize for her Mindful Dementia Tracking Device, which could be used to help people with cognitive decline locate misplaced items and track the decline’s progression for family and medical reference. Rothwell and Olson worked with Spencer to coordinate the event.
“In today’s world, students need to be able to develop their ability to deliver a brief, concise pitch of an idea or innovation, and then put it to the test,” Spencer said. “This essential business skill imbues students with the confidence to approach anyone, from a potential investor to a hiring representative at a career fair, in order to communicate their idea when it matters most. Overall, our goal is to connect Rensselaer students to the educational resources, student outreach activities, and networking opportunities available at Rensselaer that can help them to explore their interest in entrepreneurship on campus and beyond.”
This year, additional support for the event was provided by the Business Opportunities to Success (BOSS) Mentor Program.
2014 Pitch Ideas
• A quad-copter light that uses current technology to improve individual safety.
• A wellness chip dedicated to the advancement of veterinary medicine.
• A novel scheme to remove heat from electronic chips more effectively.
• An automated Web service that uses machine learning to bundle resume building and headhunting into one powerful and synergistic platform.
• A home physical therapy platform using the Xbox Kinect, along with robust tracking and vitals monitoring to optimize patient recovery.
• The development of new technology to enhance antiquated coaching methodologies in swimming and endurance sports.