Category Archives: Grandin culture

Star Tank Recap

First things first: whether or not any of the participants at Star Tank yesterday agreed to allow their ideas and products to be highlighted in local media, I didn’t register as “media” at the event, so I’m not going to detail anybody’s pitch. Maybe I should have done so, though…I don’t think any of the working press showed up to watch.

Second things second: I saw a couple of really interesting ideas presented, but as you might expect, the most ambitious were the least finished and polished. Although I focus on tech start-ups, I’ve got to say I was most impressed by the efforts of a couple of local inventors who came in with actual physical prototypes of everyday consumer goods, including one guy who makes hammocks you attach to the trailer hitch of your truck:

On the tech side, my vote goes to Voxxel, a voice-synching application, as best in show. (I can’t find a website to link for Voxxel. Sorry. Although here is my man’s GitHub page; I’m sure you can find something about Voxxel there if you want to take the time to wade through it.) Voxxel wins because it was neat and because it had been built and worked.

Other techies included a pair of educational software presenters, neither of which had written a single line of code, and a delivery system idea (Code? No.).

So it wasn’t gangbusters, but I feel like that actually validates the premise of the need for this “tip-off” event: just because there might be good ideas floating around the Valley does not mean local entrepreneurs are ready to pitch them. So I hope the various participants will take their feedback and come back in November with more cohesive and better planned presentations.

A quick note on the crowd. There wasn’t one.

And then the Governor showed up.

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Filed under Grandin culture, Roanoke Start-ups

Star Tank Approaches…

The second Star Tank event at CoLab is a mere two days away, and the anticipation is running so high I’ve been vomiting for days! Could just be the flu, but hell if I ain’t excited!

So guess what I’ve gone and done for all y’all? I did some honest to goodness reporting! That’s right, I’ve cultivated a source, a real start-up Deepthroat. Heh.

Here’s what I found out: there were fewer submissions for this event than the one last fall, but there is a much higher percentage of tech start-ups pitching. Further, most of these start-ups are in the ideation/seed stage. This is opposed to the last event, where most presenters came with ideas for invented products, or existing business expansion.

Also substantially different than last time, this event is intended more as a coaching exercise than an opportunity to find viable business ideas. What was learned at the first event was that there are passionate entrepreneurs here in the Valley who do not have the business skills to successfully market themselves. Though I didn’t attend, I assume this means a bunch of dudes got up on stage just a-sweatin’ and a-stammerin’.

The idea this time around is to find the proverbial “diamond in the rough” and coach him/her up so that they can pitch more effectively in the future. This mission is less sexy than a full-on unicorn search, but potentially more useful to the larger start-up community.

In another deviation from the previous formula, this event will be open to the public and the media. I can’t say I support this idea. If you imagine Mr. Sweaty Inventor up there pitching, don’t you think additional audience members will amplify his nervousness?

I do plan to attend at least part of this event and will report back what I find, especially if I spot a sweaty diamond, regardless of whether they receive funding.

I know this bro is excited:

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Filed under Grandin culture, Start-up culture

XpoPitchNight, Reviewed!

Today is Wednesday, which means tonight is Xpo Wednesday at the CoLab, which means last Wednesday was XpoPitchNight, which means this post is a week late. Sorry.

Since this is somewhat less than timely, I’ll keep it brief, as you are unlikely to care any longer. Here’s the gist:

The event was less pitch-y than anticipated (by me). That is, if by “pitch-y” you mean entrepreneurs offering ideas in search of funding, and I do, so that is how we will be defining the term. And there just wasn’t much pitch-y-ness on display.

One gentleman stood athwart the stage and offered 4 business ideas he wasn’t interested in working on.

Another fellow dispassionately proposed a bike sharing idea.

…and that was it! At least from a pitch-y perspective.

There were other ideas, but they weren’t about tech start-up, billion-dollar-business kind of stuff. For instance, one dude pitched the idea of building a viewing deck/platform off the side of the Wasena Bridge. Why? No idea. It was kind of cool, though.

In summation, the event was not what I had anticipated or hoped for, but it was sort of fun anyway. Goes to show you, Ms. Jackson, that you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. Or more precisely, you can plan a pretty pitch night, but you can’t predict the pitch-y-ness.

There is another XpoPitchNight in the works for June. I’m fairly certain it will be fun, and I hope it will be pitch-y. I can assure you of this: the event was clearly enough of a success that time slots WILL fill up, so if you are a start-up looking for funding (it is possible!) or just looking to polish your knob pitch in front of a friendly crowd, contact Ariel at the CoLab post haste!

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Shart Tank!!!

How all y’all doin this morning? Peachy, I hope and pray.

Have you heard the latest about Shart Star Tank? No? Have you not heard of Star Tank? Allow me to enlighten you:

Star Tank is like that show “Shark Tank,” where randoms walk in off the street and pitch business ideas to a panel of potential investors, the only differences being that it is in Roanoke and instead of Mark Cuban you get to meet Mark Lucas and/or Mark Pace. And don’t ask why it is called “Star” Tank…you’re better than that.

Anyhoo, this version they are doing May 14th at the CoLab in Grandin will differ from the one they did last November (and will do again this coming November) in that this event “will focus on business development by allowing start-ups, inventors, and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their pitch and receive feedback.” That sounds totally different to me so I believe them that it is totally different and not exactly the same thing they’ve done before.

I personally love the idea of a local venue for start-ups to polish their pitch, potentially pitch polish, and certainly pitch woo. Seriously, I do! Is it a bit hokey, er, “hokie” (get it? GET IT?), to just balls-out copy this dumb tv show? Yes, but it also seems like fun, and really helpful even if you fall on your face.

As it happens, I walked into CoLab last November when they held the inaugural event. Didn’t have a clue what the hell was going on. They had a couple of banners hanging on the walls and a bunch of nervous, suited gentlemen walking around toting white binders. And that is the sum total of my reportage from Star Tank #1! I’d have taken more extensive notes had I realized I’d soon be starting a world-famous blog.

Here, now read more words: Since I’m not a journalist, I don’t feel like I need to make any stinkin’ disCLOsures to you beetches, but I will anyway because I like you, so you might be interested to know that I have met a few of the judges on the panel, I know everyone who works for and at CoLab, and I’m vaguely considering getting my “stuff” together and presenting my own biz idea at this shindig in May. ‘Nuff said.

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Filed under Grandin culture, Start-up culture