Students Hone Skills at Pitch Night Mixer
ABOUT THE EVENT
Any student involved in entrepreneurship or innovation on campus has most likely heard the word “pitch” used in a conversation. In fact, a fair number of students have either presented in pitch competitions or been in the audience.
There are certainly plenty of opportunities to pitch new ideas for ventures and startups at U-M, but very few are designed for others to practice this core skill that all entrepreneurs and innovators should master.
That is where the Pitch Night Mixer comes in. A monthly open-mic experience for students at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey and development, including students who are new to the ecosystem and experienced founders, to gather to practice core entrepreneurial skills, selling and communicating.
“CFE’s monthly Pitch Night Mixer allows students to practice their pitches in an informal setting among like-minded peers,” said Emilee Studley, Entrepreneurial Community Development Manager at the CFE. “This event creates a low-key, low-barrier space to support students preparing to compete in pitch competitions and those that want to connect to the community.”
THE PITCHES AND WINNER
On Friday, September 24, the Center for Entrepreneurship and MPowered launched the first of many Pitch Night Mixers.
Students who were interested in pitching their ideas and current ventures to gather feedback, and those wanting to listen trickled into the casual, open Chrysler Lobby on North Campus, signed-in, submitted their name to pitch, and then took a seat.
Co-facilitators Emilee Studley (CFE) and Sasha Golubova (Executive Board Member of MProduct) explained the rules to the group:
Participants had 30 seconds to pitch their idea or startup and then five seconds to share a call to action (i.e. something you need from others such as a co-founder or UX designer). Those who submit their name won’t know when they are pitching until their name is called. Those who pitch compete for a $100 audience choice award.
Paul Young, Co-Founder of yTAG Games was the first to be chosen to pitch.
“My startup’s Co-Founder joked I’d end up going first; sure enough, the first ballot that got picked was read aloud: ‘Paul Young,’” he said. “I thought I’d have time to prepare my pitch in my head a bit before going up, so instead I had to think on my feet.
“The short length of trying a 30 second pitch was a true challenge as I wondered how to communicate everything we’ve been working on for months and where we expect it to go for the next couple years all in 30 brief seconds. Ultimately I loved the experience and learned a lot through it!”
Following Paul, eight others pitched:
- Nate May: Diet Slats
- Satya Mummidivarapu: “Ammamma Kathalu” (Stories from Grandma)
- Eddie Jung: equip
- Jonathan Alper: Outcomes
- Priyal Sheth: Happy Tummy
- Yousif Askar: CaselB
- Christopher Okumura: BlueBirds Studio
Many of these students pitched for practice, for fun, or to share their ideas. This was one of the first spaces Nate May pitched his venture.
“Ever hear yourself recorded and think you sound absurd? Your first 30-second pitch will be even more shocking,” he said. “I’m glad to have first practiced among supportive peers.”
All students present were invited to give anonymous feedback and grade the pitches, and these grades were used to determine the winner. The inaugural Pitch Night Mixer winner was Christopher Okumaru. He’s been very involved in the entrepreneurship and innovation community since his first-year at U-M.
“Go up there, envision yourself as the CEO of the hottest tech startup, envision the audience as a group of the most elite investors, and then give them a darn good reason to invest in my company,” Christopher said. “That’s the mentality I gave myself, and that made pitching my idea a really fun and valuable learning experience. Best of all, the event provided a great opportunity to meet other innovative individuals who’ll honestly probably be the leaders of tomorrow.”
This event isn’t just for those that pitch, but equally for those that want to listen or learn. Many in the audience attended to hear what others were up to and for the opportunity to team up pursuing an entrepreneurial idea.
“As an audience member of the CFE Pitch Night Mixer event, I was inspired and impressed with all of the pitches that were presented,” said Jessica Paper, Economics (‘23), Director of Operations for 1000 Pitches Competition at MPowered. “Each one was in such a different sector, from tech, to health, to writing and creativity, all of the pitches were very unique.
“I was also able to learn a lot from the participants after they pitched based on their experiences. Several of them mentioned confidence as a key to doing well. I give each one a lot of credit. I can’t imagine how nerve-wracking it was pitching with a 30 second limit to a group of strangers.”
Most of us have heard of how important mastering the skill of selling is as an entrepreneur or innovator.
Try your hand at pitching your idea at our next event on Thursday, October 28th or join as an audience member and pick a winner.
Either way, it’s an incredible way to seek, discover, connect, and join the U-M entrepreneurial and innovation community, RSVP today.
To learn more about CFE’s ecosystem convening initiatives and events, visit cfe.umich.edu/ecosystem-convening.