Going virtual because of COVID-19 concerns might limit in-person interactions during the Pitch Perfect bootcamp, said Kathryn Golden, but it allows the seventh cohort to double its size and potential impact on growing startups.
“We finally came to accept that moving ahead online — while not ideal — was important,” said Golden, director of entrepreneur programming at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County (ECJC), which runs Pitch Perfect. “Companies are working to raise capital — to grow their businesses and to add jobs to the greater area, and we can help with that. So online we go.”
Click here to learn more about Pitch Perfect’s emphasis on going beyond product knowledge.
Twelve businesses have been selected for the bootcamp’s seventh cohort. The program typically targets a group of six to eight “students” to allow for robust conversation, Golden said, but ECJC hopes the newly virtual format will expand Pitch Perfect’s ability to help triage the evolving shifts businesses must navigate during the pandemic.
Members of the cohort, which began meeting this week and hail from both sides of the state line, include:
- Zenernet, JP Gerken — Zenernet is a national residential solar sales and installation company.
- Team Cura, Karen Hughey — Tech platform seeking to dramatically improve high school athletes recruiting readiness by improving their character, confidence, and performance skills. Click here for recent Startland News coverage of Team Cura.
- Particle Space, David Biga — Helps building and property managers automate management and operations.
- Fairmount Technologies, Hal Pluenneke — Provides rapid manufacturing of aluminum airframe components without tooling or fixtures.
- 17 73 Innovation Co, Conner Hazelrigg — Creates jobs in developing countries through a unique solar-powered cell phone charger.
- KansasTek, Lakshman (Laki) Sakaray — Series of AI-focused products that enables accurate proctoring of technical job applicants and test takers.
- Clara Biotech, Jim West — Harvest and purify naturally derived nanoparticles for use in next generation medicine and therapies that would otherwise not be approved. Click here for recent Startland News coverage of Clara Biotech.
- Vendux, Henning Schwinum – Pair interim and fractional sales executives in leadership roles.
- Safely Delicious, Lisa Ragan — Provider of allergy-friendly snack bites, free of the top 11 food allergens. Click here for recent Startland News coverage of Safely Delicious.
- Yes! Athletics, Deb North — Creator of athletic shoes for girls. Click here for recent Startland News coverage of Yes! Athletics.
- RPG, Nate Morsches — Subscription-service providing board games.
- OneRoom (CloudPeople LLC), Claudia Lamb — SaaS platform decluttering the noise around education communication – it’s a School in Your Pocket.
Pitch Perfect is free for participants because of ongoing financial support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The newly announced group was initially expected to be selected and begin the bootcamp in the spring, Golden said, but the process was delayed by COVID-19’s persistence.
“We obviously hoped that the environment might be right for this program to meet in-person, as so much of its power is the interactions with Keith Harrington, the instructor, and among students,” she said, noting Harrington — co-founder and managing director of Novel Growth Partners — will now teach the cohort online, with Frank Keck of CoreBuild Solutions also contributing to the programming.
In the past, students have been paired with an investor-mentor with whom they meet regularly during the program, Golden added.
“For this cohort, we have replaced that with extra sessions, labeled ‘Investors Tell-All’ — at which investors will share their perspective on what makes a deal great, or causes them to pass on an opportunity, she said.
Investors expected to participate include: Dan Kerr, Flyover Capital; Taylor Claussen, Abstraction Capital; Quinn Robertson, Wichita Opportunity Capital; Jeff Stowell, Royal Street Ventures; John Brandmeyer, Cognios Capital LLC; Maggie Kenefake, Fountain Innovation Fund; Ryan MacKinnon, Mid-America Angels; Kelly Sievers, Women’s Capital Connection; and Jeff Shackleford, Mid-America Angels; ECJC.
A “Founder Tell-All” session — featuring entrepreneurs who have successfully raised capital — will share lessons learned by founders along the way.
Founder participants are set to include leaders of several current and past Startland News Startups to Watch honorees, such as Jordan Warzecha, Backstitch; Stu Ludlow, RFP360; Jeff Rohr, SquareOffs; Kyle FitzGerald, LifeEquals/SuperFood Shot; and Sarah Hill, Healium — as well as rapidly accelerating founders like Brendan Reilly, Lelex Prime, and John Styers, Transportant; and veteran entrepreneur Wayne Morgan, Netchemia.
Previous cohorts have concluded with a final pitch feedback night in front of select investors. The pitch night for the seventh cohort is expected to be delayed until the spring.
“Hopefully by then it will be safe to meet in-person, and will be a combined event with students from other cohorts,” said Golden.