It’s nearly gala time for the Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship and its alumni, as the program prepares to award top honors next week.
Eight fellows from the 2017 Pipeline class are set to compete in an Aug. 25 pitch competition, which will culminate with one participant being crowned Innovator of the Year during a sold-out “The Innovators” gala later that evening at the Midland Theatre.
Founded in 2006, Kansas City-based Pipeline typically welcomes 10 to 13 entrepreneurs each year for its development program. Now with about 100 alumni, Pipeline derives much of its power from an expansive network that allows members to tap a wealth of connections and resources from other powerful businesspeople in the organization.
Pipeline’s 2017 fellowship has a heavy St. Louis flavor. Though the class began with 12 fellows, three of which were based in Kansas City, only one member of the KC trio remains and two Omaha-based fellows are no longer listed among the group. Such changes within a class are not unusual, Pipeline CEO Joni Cobb said.
Competing participants include:
- Austin Barone, Just Play Sports Solutions, Kansas City
- Lei Shi, UAVradars, Lawrence
- Elisha Yaghmai, Vigilas Telehealth, Wichita
- Dan Curran, PowerPost, St. Louis
- Joe Fischer, Greetabl, St. Louis
- Beth Handrigan, Lean Media, St. Louis
- Derek Weber, goBRANDgo!, St. Louis
- Evan Luxon, Esculon, Omaha
Innovator of the Year award criteria is based on performance during the fellowship year, scores from fellows’ retooled business plans, and the individual Aug. 25 pitch presentations, according to Pipeline. Fellows will be judged by expert national/international panels, which include:
- Sonya Kerr, Catalyst Inc., Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Julie Lenzer, UM Ventures, College Park, Maryland
- Meredith Manning, MSM LLC, Chicago, Illinois
- Yelena Shkolnik, Jump Capital, Chicago, Illinois
Business/operating plan judges
- Craig Buerstatte, U.S. Department of Commerce/EDA, Washington D.C.
- Wendy Lea, Cintrifuse, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Tom Parkinson, IllinoisVENTURES, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
- Paul Wolf, Deer Creek Holdings, Los Angeles, California
“It is thrilling to finally attend Pipeline’s The Innovators in person after hearing so much about the competition and celebration from my peers in Northern Ireland,” said judge Sonya Kerr. “It will also be great to reconnect with the many Pipeline entrepreneurs who made the trip here to Belfast two years ago and further our discussions on how to have an even deeper international connection. To be able to judge the graduating Fellows will add even more excitement to the trip. I’m honored and excited to be there.”
Pipeline’s evening gala not only will herald a new Innovator of the Year, the festivities are expected to include awards for long-time Pipeline entrepreneurial members who continue to grow and lead in their careers, the group said.
Pipeline Member Award finalists include:
- Kim Gandy, Play-It Health, Kansas City
- Brian Handrigan, Traaqr, St. Louis
- Jeff Hargroves,, ProPharma Group, Kansas City
- Aaron McKee, Purple Wave, Manhattan, Kansas
- Dusty Reynolds, RaceNote, Omaha
- Jen Amis, Encounter Telehealth, Omaha
- Alfred Botchway, Xenometrics, Kansas City
- Tim Donnelly, SeniorVu, Kansas City
- Paul Jarrett, Bulu Box, Lincoln
- Blake Lawrence, opendorse, Lincoln