One of an entrepreneur’s biggest challenges is knowing how to explain their idea simply, quickly, and in a way that grabs an investor’s attention, and convinces them that its worth betting on. You often only have one chance to make your pitch, so it better be good.
Now, imagine that pitch happening on a chairlift.
New York City VC firm High Peaks Venture Partners just hosted its 8th annual “Peak Pitch” event, where it invited more than 100 investors and entrepreneurs to hit the slopes for a full day of skiing, pitching, boozing, and fun.
More than 80 entrepreneurs loaded onto two buses at 5 am. High Peaks provided much-needed coffee and bagels.
Meanwhile, most of the investors were already there. They had come to the mountain the night before (and played a lot of poker and blackjack).
Everyone signed in and grabbed some breakfast before renting their skiing or boarding equipment and doing last minute pitch-prep.
To help keep track of who was who, VCs and angels wore yellow while the entrepreneurs pulled on blue jerseys.
Brad Svrluga, general partner at High Peaks, got the day rolling by explaining the 'rules.' Entrepreneurs and VCs would pair up on the chairlift, giving just enough time for a roughly six minute pitch.
After hearing a pitch, an investor could choose to give an entrepreneur a few of his or her 'pitch bucks.' The entrepreneurs with the most bucks at the end of the day would get to pitch in front of the entire crowd (and win some cool prizes, too).
One entrepreneur said the hardest part about pitching on the lift was trying to enunciate despite having a frozen face.
Peak Pitch was the perfect situation for entrepreneur for Brendan Walker, who could show investors his product in action. He designs snowboard bindings that use magnets to let boarders lock in on the lift.
I didn't catch any wipe-outs on camera, but several VCs and entrepreneurs admitted that it was their first time on skis in many, many years.
After a few hours out on the mountain, we breaked for lunch and warmed up with sandwiches, hot soup, and coffee.
Tess Micheals, still a junior in college, was the youngest entrepreneur there. She founded a company called Soceana that helps facilitate corporate volunteerism.
One investor told me that he loves the event because it takes the formality (and monotony) out of the usual networking event. It's much more fun to hear pitches on the slopes versus in a stuffy office. And you can just ski away if you aren't into an idea!
Jamyn Edis, CEO of car technology startup Dash, came to the event last year, too. 'The format of the six-minute lift ride concentrates your thinking,' he says. 'And people loosen up.'
One of the most unbelievable parts of the day was when one of the investors and one of the entrepreneurs re-enacted a conversation they'd had earlier in which they'd discovered that they had both grown up in the EXACT same apartment in Brooklyn.
After all the pitch buck were tallied, three entrepreneurs got to pitch their idea to everyone. Third place when to Rebecca Kantar of BrightCo.
Daniel Fountenberry pitched Borne Digital. His company created a reading platform for tablets that changes books to suit students' reading levels.
Zachary Aghion, founder of A/B app testing company Splitforce, was the first place winner! He got a big bag of swag.
We rounded off the day with some free drinks and more great conversation. Here's Hayden Williams of Treatings and Alfredo Carrillo of CityHint.
Then, it was time to head back on the bus. The buses were stocked with plenty of beer for the voyage back to the city.
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