Tamid Pitch Night
Yeshiva University’s Tamid chapter had a unique opportunity on Tuesday, December 20th to present startup ideas to venture capitalists in a pitch competition. Tamid is a campus club with branches in colleges all over the country. Tamid’s program is designed to offer experiential business learning, with students participating in an interactive classroom curriculum during their first semester on campus, followed by hands-on experience working with companies in Israel in subsequent semesters.
The pitch night event was the culmination of this educational semester that all first-semester Tamid members across all campus chapters participate in. The central part of this first-semester educational curriculum was preparing a startup idea, including competitive analyses and creating plans for business development and marketing. Then, at this pitch competition, the teams pitched their startup ideas to two venture capitalists who provided feedback to the teams and ultimately decided on a winner. The two venture capitalist judges were Joseph Tuchman, a former President of Tamid at University of Maryland who now works at Lead Edge Capital, and Adi Levanon, who is a venture partner at an early-stage venture capital firm called Symmetrical Ventures.
Initially there were eight teams in the Tamid club who came up with startup ideas and they all pitched their ideas to Tamid club leaders. The leaders selected the best four that presented and those four teams went on to pitch their ideas to the venture capitalists.
The first team to present was UCharge Mobile, a company that could be compared to “Citi Bikes,” but instead would allow people to rent phone chargers. Their pitch presented the simple problem that no one likes when they run out of battery on their cell phone or other devices. UCharge Mobile’s proposed solution is to place vending machines all over the city with chargers that can be rented and that people could take with them while on the move. From a profitability standpoint, UCharge Mobile believes that because there are so many electronic devices in the market and that this number is continually increasing, more people will need a service such as this one. One would be charged per hour or could get a monthly subscription for UCharge Mobile. The judges had the UCharge Mobile team walk them through just how this process of getting a charger, paying for it, using it, and then returning it, would work.
The following group was Planit, which is an app that tailors personal itineraries for the user. Their idea is to combine the services of Yelp and Stubhub into a platform that would show reviews and allow one to buy the tickets. They plan to target young adults such as college students. The site allows one to match a budget with whatever activities are available in the area. The group presented a prototype app, which is just the beginning of where they hope their company will be. The app’s main stream of revenue is advertising and they believe it will be very profitable because users are constantly searching. The VCs asks for them to walk them through the financials again and how will they be making money. They also asked what really makes them different than other similar companies. For anyone who just doesn't have the time to make their own itinerary, this app seems like it would be perfect.
The next company to present was EasyMeal an app that would simplify one’s dining experience. They plan to target the massive restaurant industry in New York. The app would have pictures of all the foods on the menu and in all different languages, and would reward customers in order to entice them to use the app more. The first 3 months of the app would be free, with a monthly subscription fee thereafter. The app will also include detailed reviews on all restaurants that are in the city. The judges were a bit more critical of this startup idea than they were of the previous groups; in particular, they questioned the startup’s proposed business model and asked how the app would make money.
The last company to present called themselves Stuff Yo Self Cupcakes, and presented a plan to open stores that allow customers to make personalized cupcakes. There has not been much growth in the $1.8 billion cupcake market, with the current options either too expensive or cheap, and all unhealthy. Their idea is similar to the froyo model that has become popular in recent years thanks to chains like 16 Handles, where the customer goes to the shop and makes their own frozen yogurt. With cupcakes, the customer would choose a batter, filling, and toppings for their cupcake, and then it would be cooked in around 6 minutes. During these 6 minutes, younger customers will be able draw pictures on store’s glass tables and walls. The store will also offer smoothies and hot chocolate for purchase, and would have a room for birthday parties so that a group can come and make custom cupcakes.
After deliberating for close to 10 minutes, the judges announced this last group, Stuff Yo Self cupcakes, as the winner of the competition. The judges saw a future for the company and wanted to put them on a path for success. They always made sure that there was a clear way for the ideas to consistently make money over time. In addition they always looked for ideas that would have demand and have a large target market. These presentations, as well as the judges’ insight and criticism that followed each group, were a valuable opportunity to see how actual venture capitalists value and analyze companies. Hopefully some of the groups that pitched ideas will be motivated to turn these ideas--or really any other startup concepts--into actual businesses that can received funding from venture capital firms.