The Shot Heard ’Round the World sparked a revolution that led to American independence. The Pitch Heard ’Round the World at Boston TechJam on Thursday isn’t likely to live up to its namesake’s historical magnitude, but I bet the participating startups would settle for some funding.
The pitch contest was one of the main attractions at TechJam, a block party for the local innovation community at District Hall in South Boston, and part of Boston Idea Week. Eleven entrepreneurs got two minutes apiece to sell their ideas to a panel of judges from MassChallenge, Techstars, and a few venture capital firms.
They got instant feedback — Shark Tank-style, only much more encouraging and with no real money at stake.
In the meantime, winner Carlos Acosta of market research startup DataCrowd walked away with a trophy, a scooter, and a big plastic mystery box that appeared to be some sort of entrepreneur’s care package. He won over the judges and the crowd with humor and polish, likening himself to Jonah Lehrer’s stat-geek character in “Moneyball” while also making a case that there is room for his fledgling company in a $32 billion industry.
DataCrowd’s online platform connects marketers to freelance researchers who can produce data reports that inform better campaigns, Acosta said.
The line of the night came from the judges’ table, however, when Techstars managing director Katie Rae responded to a pitch by Pixtr chief executive Aviv Gadot. Pixtr is a photo app that performs instant Photoshopping — clearing blemishes and dabbing oily foreheads, digitally of course.
“Make me thinner, more symmetrical — awesome,” she said. “That’s a winning pitch every day of the week.”
Entrepreneurs, take note before your next funding pitch.
Other business ideas included a website offering access to stylish furniture found in home decorating magazines and a sensor that alerts runners when the tread on their shoes has worn out.
The furniture site, Furnesh, aims to solve a common problem for catalog flippers: “If you try and buy these products, you’ll find the vast majority are not accessible to you, the consumer, unless you hire an interior designer,” said co-founder Shawn Gargiulo. Many companies, he explained, are afraid that widespread accessibility will diminish brand status.
That philosophy is changing, he said, and Furnesh aims to position itself as a new distribution channel for high-end furniture manufacturers.
The shoe sensor, called a Mino, counts a runner’s strides to estimate the shoes’ lifetime mileage — and how much longer they will perform as designed. Founder Aaron Burke said he was inspired to create the $15 device, which slides under the insole, after wearing a pair of running shoes too long and suffering a stress fracture.
“I was brushing my teeth one day and thought, ‘My toothbrush has a blue strip. Why don’t my shoes have a blue strip to tell me when they’re worn out?’ ” he said. “So I invented the Mino.”