LaunchU Final Pitch Round

Kerensa Loadholt

After attending the final round of the LaunchU pitches, it was inspiring to see how many students and people made time and put the needed effort into their projects in order to make it to this point. These competitions are annual, this being the seventh year one was held. The Birenbaum space made it an intimate space, easier to ask questions and interact with the judges there. There were eleven judges in the space, eight there in order to represent investors and sponsors, but people who can separate themselves from those organizations and put money into whatever idea they believe is worth supporting whether or not a team won funding from LaunchU. Three judges were students from the Oberlin Entrepreneurship Club.

In the original pitch competition, there were 23 teams competing for funding from investors, eight teams became semifinalists, who competed on Friday, March 8, 2019. Three of those teams intellectual property was protected by stopping the broadcast of this final round before they went on. The stages of development of teams that competed varied greatly but didn’t invalidate the fairness of such an event. Both alumni and student teams made it into the finals and all received 8 minutes to present and judges got 3 minutes for questions after.

The NewsReel presentation exemplified my idea of LaunchU at an institution like Oberlin; while they didn’t win the final round, one of the judges asking questions mentioned “I think what you want to do has a lot of value…I would challenge you to think broadly…” about who would buy ads on such a website, pay for subscriptions.  NewsReel presented themselves as a nonprofit news source that would provide accessible, trustworthy facts on a platform showing customer awareness. This team asked for 20,000 dollars in funding for website creation and upkeep, and to fund the salaries of the two co-organizers currently working on it.

The person presenting made sure to emphasize that this would benefit students, teachers, and higher education institutions because of free access. While students currently get free access to some news sources at higher education institutions, this is something that could be useful at high schools and middle schools. The original nonprofit idea would serve to offer free access to those who needed it or could prove a professor, teacher, or student status if the company became for profit. “If you create something great, you should consider its profits” (the previous judge mentioned) whether or not those benefit the owner(s) is up to them.

***I could not physically attend the LaunchU Final Round and the judges didn’t mention names on the FacebookLive broadcast, nor were all the names of team members audible.

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