Brooklyn Delhi founder Chitra Agrawal had the winning pitch Wednesday night, snagging the $5,000 prize and the respect of some of Brooklyn’s top investors and executives.
“Since Indian flavors are still nascent in the American market, we need capital,” Agrawal explained to the panel of judges in Brooklyn’s own, live version of Shark Tank. “We plan to put people in supermarkets for demos of the product over the holiday season. I’ve seen the strategy work first-hand.”
The pitch competition was the ultimate event of the daylong Make It In Brooklyn Innovation Summit, organized by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
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Of four startup companies chosen from over 100 applicants, Brooklyn Delhi impressed the judges with its defined plan for what to do with the $5,000 prize, its stable and already-profitable business model and its locally sourced ingredients.
Agrawal, who has worked in banking and marketing previously, works full-time on the company. She makes the product, called achaar, in the kitchen of Bed-Stuy’s St. John’s Bread and Life, one of the borough’s biggest hunger-relief organizations. She and her husband, who designs the packaging, live in Crown Heights.
“At the end of the day, there was one company that said what they’d do with the $5,000,” said Charlie O’Donnell, founder of the Brooklyn-based venture capital fund Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and one of the evening’s five judges. “That was Brooklyn Delhi and that’s who we thought we would best put the money to work.”
After her win, Agrawal revealed it was the first time she’d ever pitched investors.
“I’m still like, ‘Wow,'” she said in an interview with Technical.ly. “This is my first time doing a pitch, too, so it was great practice for me, because I do want to grow the business.”
— CoLab-Factory (@CoLabFactory) September 29, 2016
After her win, Agrawal was congratulated by and talked at some length with several of the judges. Asked if there was any advice in particular she’d taken from those conversations, she said, “One was just how, when you’re pitching something, the confidence has to come through. I had nerves a little bit and I’m not used to giving speeches, so that’s an area for personal improvement.”
Although at the start of her pitch, Agrawal’s voice trembled at times, in fact her presentation was one of the easiest-delivered and natural-sounding of the night.
The other contestants in the pitch competition were: KaChing, a startup which teaches and allows children to invest their money in the stock market; Smallhold, a vertical “produce as a service” startup; and Svrround, a 360 video platform from two recent grads of NYU’s ITP program. To the judges, and also, anecdotally, to many people in the audience, each of these three were substantially impressive in their own right. None of the three, however, had a specific reason for asking for the money or a specific use for it.
More than 60 people filled the events room at Downtown Brooklyn coworking space CoLab-Factory for the pitch competition, which awarded three free months of membership to the winner (and a discounted rate to the runners up). The audience ranged from recent grads in T-shirts to older bankers in suits and ties.
The judges, besides O’Donnell, were: Jay Reno, who won a previous Make It in BK pitch competition with his company, Happy, which was recently acquired; Joana Vicente, the director of the Made in NY Media Center; Steve Kuyan of NYU Tandon School of Engineering; and DK Smith, a marketing and branding consultant. Full disclosure: The event was emceed by Technical.ly Editor-in-Chief Zack Seward.