Three Black-owned early-stage startups took home prizes at the Pitch for Good: Black Founder’s Edition virtual event.
The elevator pitch event was part of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s second annual Twende Summit open to minority-led startups in Tennessee. The event, which took place on Friday, is designed to connect Black and brown founders with the “networks, knowledge, and resources” to help them grow their startups, according to their website.
Six entrepreneurs were handpicked from more than 50 applicants. They were given the opportunity to conduct a one-minute elevator pitch to a panel of judges and an open audience to win an equity-free grant.
Grammy award-winning gospel singer Cece Winans was joined by Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US; Bret Lockett, retired NFL player; Bill McCleskey, founder and CEO at Mitech Partners, and Marcus DeVane from Dell, on the judges’ panel.
The six chosen companies were split into two categories based on revenue flow. “Launch” companies generated less than $25K and “Up and Running” startups needed to generate revenue of $25,000 or more. A winner was selected for each category and the audience also had an opportunity to select a “fan favorite” who would win an Entrepreneurship Center program scholarship.
Social enterprise Autism Possible won the top spot in the “Launch” category and the winning prize of $2000. The newly launched startup seeks to empower the autism community by providing families with “tools and services” to give adults with autism the independence they seek after they graduate from the educational system.
“We were stunned, excited, and humbled that this project we’ve lived with for so long has become valuable to not only the autism community at large but also the Black community,” Dr. Teresa Vasquez, co-founder and CEO of Autism Possible told UrbanGeekz. “The face of autism isn’t always representative of our community and we want to change that by not only being creators in the space but also by providing tools and services that meet the needs of the Black autism community.”
Vasquez said she hopes to use the funds to attend Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s Project Healthcare and prove that a “better life with autism is possible.”
Medical tech company CPRWrap, scooped the top prize of $2000 in the “Up and Running” category. Felicia Jackson, the founder and CEO, said winning reaffirmed that CPRWrap was moving in the “right direction” to become a trusted brand.
After nearly losing her son, she created a product that would help people render life-saving CPR to those who need it. She now plans to use her grant to increase product awareness and inventory.
“I have a feeling when more people know we exist, we will be able to scale rapidly and save many lives,” Jackson said in an email.
Audience-favorite, Pivot Tech School, won an Entrepreneur Center program scholarship. The company led by Joshua Mundy has created a 20-week data analytics and web development boot camp to create a more “diverse pipeline” to tech jobs.
“I was so excited about the opportunity to Pitch our business and to actually walk away with a prize was the icing on the cake,” Mundy said in an email. “I think being a part of the EC Ecosystem is going to help take our business to the next level!”
However, no one went home empty-handed. Beth Chase, the board chair of Nashville Entrepreneur Center, decided to gift each team a one-year Entrepreneur Center program scholarship at a morning board meeting, according to the moderator and VP of Inclusion and Community Relations at Nashville EC, Brynn Plummer.
The virtual event took place on July 24 and was sponsored by Dell Technologies, Intel, and EO Nashville.