The participants—Tea Blumer of iScribble, Karen Tsang of Kyno Kit, Jasmine Miller of BatteryXchange, Emiley Joyce of X-Squared Health, Akshita Iyer of Inirv and Karly Pavlinac of WAAM—all delivered 7-minute pitches, after which a panel of predominantly female judges asked the participants questions about their companies.
The judges selected the Durham-based startup Inirv, which offers a ‘smart’ cooking hardware and app combination, to win the range of prizes. Audience members, meanwhile, voted for Charlotte-based BatteryXchange as the Audience Choice winner. BatteryXchange allows cell phone users an easier way to charge their phones on the go by using the startup’s smart kiosks, launching first in convention centers.
The prizes included a six-month mentorship at HQ Raleigh, a one-year membership to The Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership, an episode on RIoT’s podcast, a one-year 15Five subscription, an advertising campaign from Adwerx and several mentorship sessions.
The event was a step forward for women in tech and a symbol of how far American women entrepreneurs have come from the realities they faced as late as the late 1980s before HR 5050 was passed nationally, finally eliminating laws that required women to have male relatives co-sign business loans—even if the relative was a woman business owner’s teenage son.
The PitchFest came to fruition under Tricia Lucas. Lucas, a board member of TiE, is also the founder of the Alliance of Women in Tech Leadership and runs her own recruiting/consulting firm, Lucas Select. [Editor’s note: Tricia is also a GrepBeat correspondent.] She saw the way RIoT executed pitch fests and hoped to bring one specifically to women in the Triangle.
“A year and a half ago when I started the Alliance, it was because I was looking for other women in tech,” Lucas said. “I wondered, Where is my tribe? Through that journey, I found out there’s so many talented women right here in our community. A pitch fest for women just makes sense. Technology is male-dominated. We can be a part of the solution.”
Judges Tab Inirv As Winner
The panel of judges comprised of angel investor Jan Davis, United Drug Supply CEO Samantha Godfrey, Wyrick Robbins partner Chris Lynch, Hummingbird Creative Group CEO Wendy Coulter and Bull City Venture Partners partner Jason Caplain.
“We were really looking for companies that had an opportunity to go big,” Lynch said. “Every one of the opportunities presented to us had merit.”
Iyer, who noted the problem of unattended cooking leading to house fires during her pitch, hopes to bring safety and simplicity to the kitchen with Inirv with custom-designed knobs for stoves that can be monitored and controlled via an app. Her startup’s selection by the judges helps the Techstars accelerator startup stay close to its roots.
“I was one of six, and I’m not sure if there are any individual winners here,” Iyer said. “All of us are amazing. It’s really great to get involved in a community here. Both my Co-Founder and I are Duke grads, so we really want to stay here if we can. This is a great opportunity to meet folks that can help us succeed by staying in the Triangle.”
Several of the companies pitched were exciting to Lynch. From iScribble, a collaborative drawing app, to X-Squared Health, which hopes to offer an HPV test (HPVerify) to women as easily as they purchase and use at-home pregnancy tests, innovation is alive and well in the female Triangle tech community. The judges selected Inirv, Lynch said, for its market potential.
“Ultimately the one we picked as the leading one for the judges, Inirv, you can clearly see that having a huge market opportunity,” Lynch said. “The potential to penetrate the consumer market with a high-value product was pretty impressive.”
Iyer said she would love to hear from other women entrepreneurs in the area. Inirv is just one startup that will benefit from this type of pitch event, connecting female tech founders right here in the Triangle.
“The funding that goes to female entrepreneurs is dismally low already, and so events like this really help us in communities outside of Silicon Valley to succeed,” Iyer said. “I think it’s wonderful to get that support this early in our company’s life cycle.”