Chicago CrowdPitch: Six Startups, Four Minutes Each
Submitted by Tedd Carrison on March 18, 2011, 4:50 pm
No one likes to wait. Everyone has a cell phone. Anyone who attended last month’s Chicago CrowdPitch event, hosted by the Illinois Technology Association, could support a budding company that melded impatience and cell phones into an innovative service – and most did.
CrowdPitch invites tech-oriented entrepreneurs to present their ideas to a panel of startup experts and an audience of peers and spectators. Through the allocation of “FUN” money, audience members “fund” their favorite idea(s) at the end of the evening. The Chicago event offered a prize package from NOW Advisors, FundingUniverse, and Amazon that amounted to $5,500 in startup assistance for the crowd favorite. Funding Universe, now known as Lendio, organizes the free CrowdPitch events, which have visited 15 U.S. cities since April 2010. Fundamentally a competition for prize money, CrowdPitch serves many purposes: refining each fledgling idea into a strict 4-minute presentation; generating candid feedback from peers and industry experts; and, perhaps most importantly, assembling dozens of industrious, innovative people in one place.
The night’s winner was a company that seeks to replace the wait-list pagers distributed at restaurants with a system that contacts each patron’s cell phone instead. According to its founders, ReadyPing, a web-based paging service that costs $49/month plus $.05/text, eliminates the need to wait in the restaurant, within the short range of conventional pagers. Instead, patrons can shop or sightsee nearby while waiting for their table – and restaurants can scrap the pagers, which are expensive and easily lost or damaged. Though primarily intended for the restaurant market, ReadyPing hopes the service will have applications across other industries.
Among the other startups that presented were:
Billionaire Exchange- an online auction house specializing in high-end luxury goods
MapDing – a smart phone app for “passive searching” as an alternative to traditional online classified services. Users enter the items they’re seeking and the distance they’re willing to travel; the user is notified when a seller posts the desired item within the desired distance – no browsing necessary.
Point Bearing – a tech-security company focused on identity fraud prevention and state-of-the-art encryption software
Pentamerus, LLC (Troika) – an online geomatching service named after the Russian word for, among other trios, a meeting of three political leaders. The service chooses convenient meeting spots, based on participant locations and preferences. By analyzing the users’ addresses and tastes, the service suggests restaurants, coffee shops, and other venues.
Sibylus – a service that aggregates college course readings at a lower cost than the average university bookstore/print shop. By combing online databases, public resources and private publishers, Sibylus is able to assemble most supplemental readings at a significant discount.