(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
What can we say? Chris Gray knows his way around a pitch competition.
Gray won Case’s pitch competition, the capstone to his fully-booked day in Philadelphia on his Rise of the Rest bus tour that aims to highlight non-mainstream tech scenes. The pitch competition seems to be a way for Case to put his money where his mouth is. (The investment is a convertible note.) Seven other startups pitched.
Gray also used the platform to announce his $100,000 investment from the city’s StartUp PHL angel fund.
Shoutout to Ben Franklin:
— Technical.ly Philly (@TechnicallyPHL) September 29, 2015
Gray’s victory was a fitting end to the day, during which Case repeatedly spoke of the importance of making entrepreneurship more inclusive and how Philadelphia has the opportunity to be a leader in doing so. (It was striking how often he used the phrase “white guys,” as in “I’m not against white guys, but I don’t think that’s gonna result in maximizing a sense of opportunity.”)
Case’s points seemed to resonate with Gray.
“Being a black guy in tech is a hurdle in itself,” he said, after he accepted his giant check, “and one thing that Philly has done has shown me that you don’t have to fit that profile that Steve Case is talking about.”
The pitch competition certainly showcased the diversity of the city’s tech scene. Of the eight founders that pitched, only two were, to use Case’s phrase, white guys.
Why’s diversity so important? One thing that Case said to us was that diverse entrepreneurs means solving more diverse problems.
For example, he pointed to the pitch competition winners in Baltimore — a group of women who developed a device to improve blood transfusions in the developing world.
Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley aren’t working on problems like that, he said, because they may not even know that problem exists.