Making the Pitch | Features

Meet some of the innovative alumni of TCNewTech
By Alexandra Dailey | Nov 12, 2022

Every day we share our dreams with the world. We pitch our ideas to friends, coworkers, family members, baristas—anyone who’ll listen to us about what we think the next big thing could be or the plans we have for the future.

But what if you were given an actual elevator pitch opportunity, on stage, in front of a group of potential investors? (Like Shark Tank, but without the drama.) Could you stand up before an audience of your peers and competitors to share your big idea?

If your answer is yes, we know where you should go. At TCNewTech’s monthly events at City Opera House in Traverse City, aspiring entrepreneurs get five minutes—longer than your standard elevator ride—to present their plans and capture the interest of spectators in hopes of winning the evening’s popular vote and cash prize.

TC NewTech Origins & Impact
A community of tech enthusiasts, businesses, entrepreneurs, and Michigan policymakers, TCNewTech is focused on building a culture of innovation, economic growth, and opportunity for local talent in the Traverse City region.

In 2001, TCNewTech Founder Russell Schindler realized that Traverse City’s tech community was more extensive than he’d imagined, but they weren’t connecting with each other. Many working in tech positions—like coders, programmers, and IT staff—worked from home and didn’t have an outlet for networking with others in their field. Schindler decided to start TCNewTech as a way for individuals in tech-based careers to get together once a month and be part of the local tech community in a personal way.

The other main aspect of TCNewTech is the pitch opportunity at each meeting. On the first Tuesday of each month, five presenters are selected from an applicant pool, and they get five minutes on stage to highlight their new tech product or business venture to raise awareness and potentially find investors. They also get five minutes to field questions from the audience to further explain and promote their idea.

“Pitching is of value,” says Schindler, “but the connecting of like-minded people [is] the real value.”

Chris Nesbit, TCNewTech’s event, sales, and marketing director, adds, “The TC community has been fantastically supportive of the program as a whole. There is a robust ecosystem of local support groups, including Traverse Connect, 20Fathoms, and a serious battery of investors. The startup/entrepreneurship community views TCNewTech as the starting point for a robust startup roadman.”

At each month’s meeting, TCNewTech adds an alumnus to its ranks. The individuals must present pitches that are engaging, informative, and digestible—not everyone who attends is tech-minded—and they need a solid concept to win. Once the presentations conclude, the audience votes via the TCNT app to announce the evening’s winner.

What does it take to win the night, and what happens after the check is cut? We connected with three recent TCNewTech pitch winners to see what they’re up to.

Elizabeth Saunders, Wellfed Market
Saunders, a Traverse City native, was voted best pitch at the May 2022 TCNewTech meeting for her food sharing app, Wellfed Market, which Saunders says, “is a mobile food sharing app aimed to reduce both food insecurity and food waste.”

Wellfed Market empowers consumers to mitigate the environmental effects of food waste, alleviate hunger, and connect communities through food to ultimately localize America’s food system.

When it came to winning the TCNewTech audience vote, Saunders was ecstatic. “I have great respect and admiration for the TCNewTech community. Knowing that my app was validated by the same individuals I aspire to become, I am more motivated than ever to produce an app that supports innovation for the Grand Traverse area.”

A familiar face to the TCNewTech crowd, Saunders previously pitched while still a high school student, promoting CalcuSaver, an app that would discreetly send for help if you were in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

As a junior at Georgetown University, Saunders hopes to expand her app into Washington DC, an area whose food insecurity rates reach upwards of 33 percent. “By working to make a more sustainable food supply chain, Wellfed Market strives to bridge the disconnection between excess food going to waste and feeding hungry individuals,” Saunders says.

Broc Crandall, Stocked
Crandall won the June 2022 pitch competition with his app called Stocked, “a fantastic fusion of tech and function,” according to TCNewTech’s blog. Crandall’s goal is to keep area Airbnbs and short-term vacation homes stocked up with local foods and supplies, promoting local business and economy.

Stocked’s grocery delivery service would allow vacationers to enjoy the beautiful Traverse City area more and spend less time shopping for food while still supporting local businesses. In addition, online grocery ordering and scheduling take the hassle of planning meals and snacks off their plate.

His “well organized, well branded, and overall well executed” pitch explaining his use of scraping algorithms that ensure current stock counts and pricing won the audience over.

Vishnu Mano, Spotter
In September, Vishnu Mano, a Grand Rapids teen, impressed audience members through a remote pitch for his parking app, Spotter.

Spotter’s mobile app was designed to assist individuals in finding parking, but with a fresh take. The app uses a combination of sensors, security camera footage, and other modes of technology to inform drivers which parking lots or parking structures have open spots, how many available spots there are, and where the spots are situated. Spotter is all about saving time and reducing the frustration many of us experience when we hunt for a place to park.

Other 2022 Winners
Beyond the innovators listed above, 2022 TCNewTech winners include: WellBeing Connect, an app for connecting wellness professionals, clients, and venues (January); Auxin Games, an “edutainment” company looking to make education interactive, immersive, and fun (February); Hypersence, a wearable tech company with products like MemorySPEX, glasses intended to improve cognitive function and slow the aging process (March); Fresh Life, a prepared meal service startup (April); MeetingMaker, an app to help “individuals in recovery and/or required to attend court-mandated meetings” (August); Coordinatista, a medical sharing app (October); and Lakebed 2030, an initiative seeking to map the lakebed of the Great Lakes by the end of 2030 (November).

So, now that you know how TCNewTech works, what’s your elevator pitch?

Visit tcnewtech.org to apply to pitch at one of their upcoming meetings. Tuesday, December 6, is the last remaining 2022 pitch date for TCNewTech. The meetings are free and open to the public, and all are welcome to attend—not just tech community members.

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