We were blown away by each of our 10 finalists. Congrats to winner WiseBanyan and People’s Choice winner Hitlist!
By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)
One of the highlights of each of our conferences is our PITCH competition. We select 10 early-stage startups with female founders from to pitch to our panel of VC judges for the chance at a slew of prizes, including a meeting with a partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Our judges this year hailed from Y Combinator, Google Ventures, Forerunner Ventures and other top firms in Silicon Valley.
We receive around 100 applicants from around the world and from a variety of industries. We narrow the pool down to 10 finalists, we then have five short minutes to sell the judges on their idea on our conference stage and prove the market value and business model of their startup. It’s a lot to pack in such a short time, but thanks to the help of our PITCH coordinator Dana Rosenberg and our coach Dave Kochbeck, every single one of them nailed their pitches and opened our eyes to solutions to problems we didn’t even know existed!
What’s even more exciting is that many of our PITCH finalists go on to do amazing things after presenting on the Women 2.0 stage. Take a look at how many of our PITCH finalists have raised funding, gotten into an accelerator or gotten acquired. We always look forward to seeing how they blossom post-PITCH.
Congratulations to Winner WiseBanyan!
As usual, we were blown away by the talent and drive of this round of PITCH applicants. Based on scores, the judges awards WiseBanyan the win. Congratulations to the WiseBanyan team!
Founder and COO Vicki Zhou, who previously worked in asset management, investment banking at Citigroup, and met her co-founder while doing financial and economic consulting, found that the barrier to entry to invest was just too high, especially for Millennials. Most investment advisors or platforms require a minimum investment of several thousand dollars that’s simply too high for young people. Plus, traditional investment platforms take too large of a percentage of the money invested.
She had the idea to create a platform that was free and wouldn’t require huge investing. Zhou created WiseBanyan to encourage more people to start investing early. You can even invest just $10 a week!
WiseBanyan won a closed door, feedback-filled meeting with a selected partner at the coveted firm Andreessen Horowitz, plus complimentary legal services from Startup Legal Garage, WeWork co-working space, a Rackspace hosting discount and a lifetime Clear pass.
People’s Choice Award Winner: Hitlist
It was a close race between CheddarUp and Hitlist, and ultimately the audience chose Hitlist as the People’s Choice winner.
Hitlist is a mobile app that solves the problem of trying to find discount airfare. Sites like Kayak or Expedia work great if you know exactly what dates you want to travel and exactly where you want to go. But if you have any sort of flexibility in your dates or destination, you’d have to spend hours upon hours searching to find the best deal.
You could call Gillian Morris a bit of a travel expert. When she was 18, she grabbed her backpack, dug into her life savings, and traveled on $500 a month for a year. She studied at Harvard and was recently named a “35 under 35 Travel Innovator to Watch” by PhoCusWright in 2013 and is an entrepreneur in Residence at TechStars Boston in 2013.
Drawing on her own experience traveling cheaply because she had flexibility, Morris was inspired to create Hitlist. With Hitlist, you can create your own personalized list of destinations where you’d like to travel, then be notified when the lowest fares are available.
Congratulations to Our Other 8 Finalists!
Here’s a quick rundown of our other amazing finalists.
CheddarUp: A runner up for People’s Choice, CheddarUp solves a pain point that many parents experience: Group payments at school. Founder and CEO Nichole Montoya told us about some of the real-life examples her team has experienced -- some of which even led breaking into their kids’ piggy banks because they didn’t have cash handy! Whether it’s the parent who is tasked with organizing the group holiday gift for the teacher or a parent who is scrounging for the $4 so her kids can participate in pajama day, CheddarUp makes it easy to both collect and contribute to group payments.
Donde: If you have an idea of exactly the type of dress you want to buy online, but can’t seem to find it through searching, Donde has a solution. Search for that dress using visual characteristics instead of words. CEO Liat Zakay showed us how she found the exact dress she was wearing in just a few seconds. Donde is starting with clothing, but hopes to expand the technology to create visual search for other items on the web as well.
Ziggeo:When you’re trying to find the right candidates to bring in for a job interviews, the last thing you want to do is probably to sift through hundreds of resumes. Founder Susan Danziger showed us how her super easy and slick video recording platform Ziggeo can make that easier. Even Seth Godin tried it and loves it!
JobBliss: With estimates that by 2020, freelancers will make up 50 percent of the labor force, JobBliss founder and CEO Angie Kramer had the idea to build a platform that made it easier for employers and freelancers to connect. Instead of dealing the the time-consuming and expensive process of going through recruiters, JobBliss cuts out the middleman and makes it easy for both employers to find talent and freelancers to find jobs.
Yuru: Want to get advice on an embarrassing or sensitive question, but not sure where to turn? Daphne Hargrove, the founder and CEO of Yuru has an answer. Well, she doesn’t have the answer, but rather has an app that can provide you an answer. Yuru is a fun, visually appealing and simple way to crowdsource the answer to a question, ask an opinion or make a decision.
LocalData: The job of an urban planner is often a difficult one because of the meticulous and often messy process of data collection and organization. Not with LocalData. Alicia Rouault showed off the LocalData platform that makes it easy for data analysts to collect and organize data, then make data-driven decisions on the future of urban development.
Scrumpt: Co-founder and CEO Bri James brought tons of energy to the stage to tell us about the healthy lunch meal-delivery service she founded with her pediatrician mom. Scrumpt makes it easier for parents to pack healthy lunches for their kids.
Rock Your Block:Co-founder and CEO Sarah Young told us that employers who need adolescent or teenage employers are often advertising in the wrong placed, such as in the classified sections of the newspapers (yes, that’s still a thing apparently) and on Craigslist. Rock Your Block brings those employers to where their target employees are. The job and career development platform helps young people land their first job, grow their experience and build their first resume.
Congratulations again to all our PITCH finalists! We can’t wait to see where you go next.
*Photo by Ayesha Rizvi.
About the author: Betsy Mikel is the managing editor of Women 2.0 and runs the content consultancy Aveck. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a lifelong obsession with French language and culture. When she's not biking all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym.