Call an Uber and don't forget your business pitch!
Many local entrepreneurs showcased their ideas to top investors in Detroit's #UberPitch event. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m Wednesday, people in a special #UberPITCH zone downtown were able to hail a car carrying an investor. They had a critical 10 minutes to make a case and receive feedback.
A handful of participants gathered at Bamboo Detroit, a coworking space on Brush Street, as they waited for a chance to take their idea or company to the next level. Here's a little more about them:
Names: Michelle Kattula, Bincy Thomas
Ages: 22 and 23
Background: Best friends and graduates of Wayne State University. Michelle graduated with a degree in engineering, Bincy in psychology.
Pitch premise: Installing an air-tight trash compactor in the car that would eliminate the need for plastic bags. Eventually, the pair is hoping the trash could be turned into energy or fuel for the vehicle.
“As a clean freak, I find myself coming around with a plastic bag to put my trash in and I thought it was very gross,” said Thomas. She collaborated with Kattula and the compactor idea was born in October of last year.
Kattula and Thomas say they are excited to pitch in this unique setting.
“We have a presentation, we got a little skit going to present the anxiety of a dirty car.”
After pitch update (met with Gabe Karp from Detroit Venture Partners):
"After the pitch, he definitely loved the idea, he wants us to get a prototype..."
"He really understood what we were trying to put out there, asking relevant questions," said Kattula.
Name: David Boni
Background: Grew up Mt. Clemens, lives in Rochester. Soon-to-be graduate of Oakland University.
Title: Local entrepreneur, founder of local web design company Bold Meta Media.
Pitch premise: Dockups, software as a service to empower people to create beautiful documents.
The software would turn a document created by a graphic designer into a number of editable templates so people could change them as needed.
“You have to hire a designer every time you have to make small changes to a document,” said Boni. With Dockups, you just need to hire a graphic designer one time.
The hope for #UberPITCH: “We are in the early stages right now. We’re going to…use it as an opportunity to meet people,” said Boni.
He also wanted to add that he prepared for the pitch by "walking around Detroit and listening to the Wu [Wu-Tang Clan.]"
Name: Daniel Ebert
Background: Lives in Port Huron, worked IT in the United States Army.
Title: Founder of Poopster, a tech-based, multi-county pet waste pickup service.
Poopster started as an on-demand service, but has switched to a weekly service with a monthly fee. For $40, Poopster will come out every week for a month to remove your pet waste.
Pitch premise: After a successful first year, Ebert is looking for a $22.5K investment to franchise Poopster out.
“Last year, I did 50 houses a week,” said Ebert. “I’m trying to get the word out there more."
Name: Durand F. Davis Jr.
Background: Local entrepreneur, music scene aficionado
Title: Chairman & CEO of LavLabs, a consumer internet company
Pitch premise: Looking for kickoff capital to help hire more engineers before the launch of the company’s social music service product.
“I was always in the music industry... started playing drums at 6, DJing at 9…in LA at 19 years old.”
LavLabs was founded in 2013 and the operational team of three starting developing the company’s unique pay-as-you-play music platform. Their iOS app iLodRadio is currently in production with an expected launch in the first quarter of 2017.
The app, Davis Jr. says, provides a unique user experience—with in-app features that let you capture Snapchat-like video with your favorite jams. Another feature will let you "hear mark" a location, so you can “hear-in” instead of “check-in.”
Davis Jr. says his company is also working on a suite of music streaming products for businesses. But music is only the beginning for LavLabs.
Name: Timothy Miko
Background: Born in Grosse Pointe, grew up in Shelby Township. Recent graduate of Oakland University with a degree in computer science and concentration in A.I.
Title: Local entrepreneur—founder of Craft Labs, a digital experience agency
Pitch premise: Artificial Intelligence solution to customer service, the goal is to eliminate wait times, unavailability and unfriendly agents.
“It’s really my first, true serious pitch...looking for the experience, if I can get a good pitch going, maybe I’ll go pitch to other people and see what happens."
Thoughts after pitch (met with IncWell Venture Capital's Evonna Karchon): "Ten minutes is short, but it's not that short, it was good," said Miko. "Biggest tip is focus on what you want to get across.Got some advice, made a good contact. I could definitely do it again, once you get it out of the way, you can definitely do it again."
Name: Emily Baughman
Background: Moved back to metro Detroit four months ago after living in the D.C. area. Masters in public health at Johns Hopkins University.
Pitch premise: Storywell Health-- the concept of a community health hub, a monthly pop-up where patients can go on a speed dating-esque mission for healthcare providers.
"Choosing a healthcare provider now is done by word of mouth... just no way to know if you are going to make a connection," said Baughman.
Storywell Health will bring all wellness resources together in one physical space.
Her hope for #UberPITCH: "I think obviously just the number one goal is to bring in money, but more than that-- to make a connection...with someone who has connections with a large hospital, insurance company."
Update after pitch (met with investor Reda Jaber from IncWell Venture Capital): "He seemed to be really interested and asked good questions...would be interested in seeing early iterations of what this kind of event could be. I feel very positive about it," said Baughman.
— Emily Baughman (@emilyabaughman) May 4, 2016
Name: Lonnie Webster
Background: A barber who has lived in the metro Detroit area his whole life, recently purchased the Lee Burt House on Concord Street in the city.
Pitch premise: To turn the Lee Burt House into a luxury barber shop, salon and spa with the eventual plan to convert part of it into a bed and breakfast.
“When I purchased the building-- as I walked inside-- it was so massive, it has bedrooms already set up, I was just picking through my brain, like 'what could it be," said Webster.
"My hope is...to share my ideas with them, share my vision... see eye-to-eye on things."
Name: Drew Graham
Background: Currently a senior at University of Michigan-Dearborn majoring in IT.
Pitch premise: BRiX: Magnetic wireless charging solution, pitched as the "ultimate wireless charging solution."
Graham had his working 3D printed prototype in hand for the pitch. He's been working on BRiX since September.
"I've been a tech enthusiast since 14 years old, so I've always been interested in the best solutions, battery is the last problem left with smartphones... interested in how to combat that," said Graham.
Thoughts after pitch: "I think it went very well, he gave me a lot of insight into how the next steps would actually go."
"I was very nervous, I didn't want to look like an idiot," chuckled Graham. "It was a little intimidating, but then again it was pretty casual, very unique environment, makes investors so accessible to normal people."
Name: Calvin Moore
Background: Lived in Michigan for 24 years, the past three in downtown Detroit. Majored in history for undergrad, has two masters in religious history.
Title: Founder of Seven Point Two Tours, named after the 7.2 square miles of downtown.
"I've been giving tours for the last two years, but launched as a company in January," said Moore. "I just always had a passion for history, art and architecture...everything fell into place in this city."
Ninety percent of the tours are for companies, but they have a variety of public tours including bar tours, strolling suppers.
Moore's focus is to inspire people interviewing at companies to stay, helping to retain talent in the city. His tours cover three main points: history, present developments and how the city is facing its current challenges. Some of his tours also showcase and celebrate ethnic enclaves within the city.
Pitch premise: Moore wants advice on how to add additional value to the company.
Update after pitch (met with investor Ted Serbinski): "I think it went really well in that they're aware of me," said Moore. He says Serbinski welcomed him to bring tours through Techstars. "If only for the connection, it is great, but I think there are going to be other things to come out of it as well."