The Lewis Economic Development Council is gearing up to host its second annual Smart Tank competition for local entrepreneurs. Applications are now open and entrepreneurs have until Feb. 15 to either submit their application online or post their pitch to YouTube.
“The first application process, all they really need to do is come to the table with an idea,” said Kiersten Hathcock, founder and CEO of Mod Mom Furniture, winner of the ABC Television show “Shark Tank” and the event’s keynote speaker. “It doesn’t even have to be a full-blown business. … We see every stage, really.”
Candidates are required to submit an online application or post a two-minute pitch video on YouTube with their idea. Applicants are welcome to do both, as well. Lewis Economic Development Council Executive Director Matt Matayoshi said applicants may also call him to discuss their ideas.
This competition is the result of a partnership between Lewis EDC and Moonshot at NACET (Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology). The second annual startup pitch competition will take place March 28-30, where applicants will compete for awards, prizes and Moonshot scholarships.
“That’s a lot of what we do at Moonshot, is we connect people with capital or connections,” Hathcock said. “... Part of why we do this too is it brings out investors, folks who are maybe retired but have a passion for helping others.”
According to a press release from Lewis EDC, applicants must “explain their start-up idea, what they feel their unique selling proposition is, and the need in the marketplace that they fill.” Hathcock said applicants essentially just explain their business idea and why it could work.
“Mostly we want to see if they are scalable,” Matayoshi said. “They can call us and talk about their idea for their business to see if they are a fit.”
Last year, businesses included a temperature-resistant test strip for Zika virus from a recent W.F. West High School graduate and the vegan and gluten-free cookie bakers Pacific Northwest Cookie Company, among others.
“What they’re trying to do is they are trying to convince us, as if we’re investors, why they are a good bet,” Hathcock said.
On Friday, March 29, applicants participate in an all-day series of workshops to help refine their pitches. Finalists present 5-minute pitches before a panel of business leaders on Saturday, March 30. The event takes place at Centralia College. It is free and open to the public.
Matayoshi said there are multiple Moonshot scholarships available this year, based on merit and the scalability of the ideas. There are additional prizes available as well.
“My advice in pitching anything, for example when I went to pitch for Shark Tank, it is truly about authenticity,” Hathcock said. “Whatever they are coming to the table with, we don’t just invest in the idea, we invest in the person. It really is about being vulnerable and authentic. If there is a background story of why they came up (with) an idea, then that’s good for us to know.”