(Photo via Facebook)
This Saturday, I helped judge the first-ever Philadelphia Diamond Challenge Pitch Competition for high school entrepreneurs. A partnership between Coded by Kids, Benjamin’s Desk, and the Paul & Linda McConnell Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative at the University of Delaware, this event brought together 14 teams from the Greater Philadelphia area to compete for cash prizes in Business Concept and Social Venture categories. As a judge for the Business Concept track, I watched students present ideas that ranged from sneaker ecommerce to dog treats to solar-powered tablets. To put it mildly, these kids had game.
The winning team was SteerSecure, from West Chester East High School, whose idea was a steering wheel cover that prevents car accidents from drowsy driving. The idea was impressive, with both a big market opportunity and the ability to make a huge social impact. They won $1,000.
SteerSecure’s execution was even stronger than their idea. They knew their pitch cold, had coordinated the entire thing down to matching accessories, and seamlessly handed back and forth between each other. They identified all of their key stakeholder groups and developed targeted, distinct value propositions for users, economic buyers, and influencers. This would have have been an impressive pitch for a team at any age, but it was even more mind blowing when I compare it to my high school business experience inadvertently committing mail fraud.
Frost Heave, from Freire Charter in Center City, a cross between a fantasy eSports league and social gaming network, was another incredible team. I’m not a gamer, but their pitch resonated with me because it was all about emotional connection. The two cofounders initially bonded playing games together online before they became partners on this project. They weaved the story of their product and go-to-market strategy like a well-executed raid on an enemy guild (fingers crossed that is a legit reference). It was a good reminder of the importance of emotion and storytelling in a pitch.
Watching all of the teams, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude that none of them are starting ETL software companies. I do not envy their future competitors.
If you’re looking to get involved with the next generation of Philly entrepreneurs, reach out to Coded by Kids at firstname.lastname@example.org. The nonprofit is looking for volunteers for events on May 1 and 2 during Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast.