Editor’s note: Husch Blackwell is a financial supporter of Startland News. This report was produced independently for Startland News’ nonprofit newsroom.
Startups in Kansas City and nationwide have the opportunity to compete for $25,000 in cash plus pro bono services in an upcoming pitch contest organized by a leading law firm.
Get Started Omaha has opened applications for its in-person April 6 event. Three virtual pitch competitions leading up to the big event offer contestants exposure and practice.
Husch Blackwell — which has offices in Kansas City and leads initiatives across the country to allow its attorneys to get involved in startup and entrepreneurial communities — is organizing the pitch events. The firm sponsors a variety of community events in other markets, but recognized an opportunity to leverage its connections specifically for the April 6 contest, said Casey Kidwell, an Omaha-based attorney with the HB Startups group.
“We hope more than anything it’s a way for the startup community to get together and celebrate what they’ve accomplished over the past year,” Kidwell said. “If they can meet other startups or investors or service providers that can help them along their journey, that’s fantastic. We just want to be able to bring people together and have a good time and celebrate their successes.”
How it works
Get Started Omaha is looking for early-stage startups that have raised less than $1 million in funding and generated less than $1 million in revenue. Applicants should be past the ideation stage and at least in the beginning stages of taking on customers and earning revenue, said Casey Kidwell, an Omaha-based attorney with the HB Startups group.
Judges will be looking for companies that have a good market opportunity, a product or service that can make a difference in its sector and “a clear path forward,” he added.
They also must be willing to travel to Omaha for the April event.
The competition focuses on innovation in five industry tracks:
- Health care and education
- Manufacturing, transportation and logistics
- Food and agriculture
- Energy, natural resources and real estate
- Technology and financial services
The tracks mirror the practice groups at Husch Blackwell, Kidwell explained, and allow its attorneys to offer subject matter expertise.
The final contest is set for April 6, 2022, at The Living Room in Omaha.
It begins with a startup showcase where selected companies can mingle with investors, founders and other interested community members, followed by a networking happy hour. The main event is the pitch competition, where industry track winners from previous contests have the opportunity to impress the judges and win the $25,000 grand prize. All participants who qualify for the pitch competition will receive equity-free grants of cash and in-kind awards.
The final deadline to apply is Jan. 28, 2022, but it benefits founders to apply early and take advantage of the virtual pitch opportunities, Kidwell said. The three virtual pitch events leading up to the showcase are expected to feature five startups each. The virtual pitches allow startups to get practice and put founders in front of a judge, who is usually a venture capital investor.
Startups can apply for each virtual pitch by the following dates:
- Virtual Pitch 1, Nov. 18; deadline Nov. 10
- Virtual Pitch 2, Dec. 30; deadline Dec. 20
- Virtual Pitch 3, Feb. 10, 2022; deadline Jan. 28, 2022
The winner of each virtual pitch will gain automatic entry into the April showcase.
Click here to apply for the Get Started Omaha pitch competition.
Husch Blackwell hopes to feature 30 to 35 startups at the showcase, Kidwell said.
Those who don’t win or participate in the virtual pitches will be judged separately; primary judging criteria includes the elevator pitch, business model, problem being addressed, competitive landscape and customer discovery. The amount of funding raised and revenue will be considered but will be given “little weight,” Kidwell said. Invitations to participate in the startup showcase are expected to be extended on March 4, 2022.
Get Started Omaha began highlighting innovative companies in 2014.
The 2018 grand prize winner, Retail Aware, has gone on to a $1.1 million oversubscribed seed round in 2020 and continues building momentum, Kidwell said.
Though he understands the appeal of the financial incentives, Kidwell said, the event can provide so much more.
“The financial awards motivate people to go,” he said. “But really, I find it is about the connections, and we’re so excited to be in person this year. We lost out on that last year. We just find the connections that are going to be made here can be really, really valuable.”
Get Started Omaha is open to the public — as well as open to additional sponsorships for companies wanting to interact with the selected startups, Kidwell said.
He emphasized that the organizers hope to bring in startups and ideas from across the region and nation, not just Nebraska.
“I want it to be well-known that it is for companies in Kansas City and St. Louis and throughout the Midwest and throughout the country,” he said. “We’d love to bring a diverse group together. Startups in industries that wouldn’t typically see themselves in this kind of environment — we’d still love to have them.”