Entrepreneurs compete at Funding the Big Idea Event

Posted: April 29, 2015 | Updated: May 5, 2015 | Written by Brooke Cary

Tom Markel

Image courtesy of Joshua Scheide

INNOVATION AND BUSINESS: Tom Markel, CEO and founder of Storz Brewing Company, speaks at “Funding the Big Idea” at La Sierra Unversity.

Prizes amounting to $40,000 were awarded to winning entrepreneurs at TriTech’s Funding the Big Idea event at La Sierra University Zapara School of Business on April 21.

The event was hosted by the Riverside Community College District, U.S. Small Business Association and California State University Fullerton, providing entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to angel investors, private and public equity investors and venture capitalists.

At the event, entrepreneurs participated in 20 minute “speed dating” rounds with Tech Coast Angel investors, the largest angel investment organization in the U.S. In the “speed dating” rounds, start-up entrepreneurs sat down with Angel investors to gain expert advice for their own business ideas. Competing entrepreneurs and start-up CEOs also gave a 90 second Fast Pitch of their business plan, with a chance to present their companies if they advanced to the Finalist Piranha Pool competition.

One of the greatest benefits of the event, according to Patrick Edgett, is the practice of expressing your business plan. Edgett attended the event in 2014 as an entrepreneur and competitor in Funding the Big Idea and his business plan won the Audience Pick award for his business pitch.

“It’s a really good platform from the pitching perspective,” Edgett said. “It helps in honing in your message and express that to people you haven’t necessarily come into contact with before. For us, it was great practice in trying to tell our story … the lessons we learned in our 18 month run were invaluable.”

Learning to give a good fast pitch could win an entrepreneur up to $2,500 in awards for their business. However, from the perspective of Ryan Stull, Funding the Big Idea is all about networking.

“The Fast Pitch and Piranha Pool, that’s all educational. But we connect them (entrepreneurs) with the right people and that’s why a lot of these types of events are centered around networking,” Stull said.

Lori Torez, winner of the 2014 TriTech Piranha Pool competition, was able to network with angel investors. Four months after the TriTech event, she received $940,000 in investments from Tech Coast Angels.

“She met a couple of the investors from Tech Coast angels here,” Stull said. “She won the Piranha Pool competition and four months later got $940,000 investment from Tech Coast angels.”

There were 25-30 investors from TCA at the event and on the lookout for innovative entrepreneurs and distinguished business plans. David Friedman and Bill Waldo were among the TCA investors present at the event who offered insight on what they qualities they seek in entrepreneur.

“What we look for in an entrepreneur is something that’s really innovative, something that’s truly different,” Angel Investor and Senior Analyst, Bill Waldo said. “Then we want to focus on the market size. How big is the market they’re going after? Do they really have a product, I mean, really have a working prototype?”

Waldo described the next step as the “horse-and-jockey” concept.

“You gotta really love the horse, but you’ve got to be madly in love with the jockey,” Waldo explained. “For us, if we like the model real well and we’re at least considering an investment, we’re going to be focusing on the entrepreneurs … at the end of the day, if you like the model, it’s going to be their background, their skill sets and their experience that you’re banking on. If they have the background, the confidence, then you know they’ll take the company to the places they claim in the next five years.”

It seems that what investors crave is a business model that is held together by an entrepreneur with passion for the idea and a vision for the future.

“More than money, they need a plan and a vision,” said Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Daly Swartz Public Relations and sponsor of TriTech.

According to Swartz, entrepreneurs are the “lifeblood of American business.”

But, TCA’s Bill Waldo says the life of an entrepreneur requires more than a good business model.

“Everybody has a passion,” Waldo said. “The question is, are you interested enough to really take the gamble in it and become an entrepreneur? When you make that decision to become an entrepreneur, it’s a big decision and only a few can do it.”

Students can find out more info by contacting:

TriTech Small Business Development Center http://www.tritechsbdc.org

Tech Coast Angels https://www.techcoastangels.com/