Be nice to your competitors; they could turn into your biggest supporters.

By Jessica Schimm (Digital Audience Engagement, Women 2.0)

Awarded the People’s Choice Award Winner at the 2014 Spring San Francisco PITCH Competition, the founder of Pretty Padded Room, Bea Arthur, reflects on her experience at the most recent PITCH competition (apply to our next PITCH competition). Perhaps the most unexpected lesson she learned during her experience was that the people she was competing with turned out to be her advocates.

Why did you decide to apply to PITCH?

I applied to Women 2.0 the first year that I launched and was rejected. I re-applied this year after a friend encouraged me to – even though I thought we weren’t their cup of tea – and this time, they said yes! I really didn’t want to risk rejection again but I’m so glad I did because participating in this conference was a major turning point in our fundraising process.

How did pitching (so far) as a finalist impact you or your company?

Well, our whole pitch deck and mindset changed. We learned so much from Dave Kochbeck [PITCH Coach] and Dana Rosenberg [PITCH Coordinator] about how to position ourselves. Even though we’ve been in business 3+ years, we’d been focusing on consumers and not investors so it was a real wake up call on changing our narrative and approach. We’re based in NYC and the startup landscape is still in its early stages, so learning from Valley insiders was like a college course crammed in a week.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

We got really close to the other teams. At first, I saw them as competitors but you quickly realize we’ve all had the same struggles, passions, insecurities, and that we really were in the same boat, so by the end, we were hardcore advocates for each other. They were all really impressive too, so it felt like we were in cool little overachievers club. There are so many investors in attendance so, if there wasn’t a match for us but a better fit for someone else, we were pitching each other’s products every chance we got!

What’s one piece of advice you have for future applicants or finalists?

Be a sponge, take notes and implement their advice. If you knew it all, you’d have funding by now so don’t resist their feedback—they’re rooting for you! Also, have fun. The energy in the audience is amazing because everyone wants to be successful, talk to any and everyone. The whole conference had a giving spirit when it comes to resources or connections, so no matter what, you won’t leave empty-handed.

 What was the most-surprising thing you’ve learned participating in a PITCH competition?

Photo by Ayesha Rizvi.