The inaugural LaunchPad startup competition kicked off in true StartupConway fashion, with a 33-day-old business taking top prize.
Nine contestants were given three minutes to pitch their winning business plan, and another two minutes for the panel of tech-savvy judges to facilitate a quick Q&A.
The winner was given $15,000 from judge Stanley Burrell, aka MC Hammer. Hammer is known for his signature moves, hip-hop tunes and parachute pants, but in recent years has spent time as an investor in Silicon Valley.
Nada Stirrat, Chief Revenue Officer for Acxiom and Jonathan Sasse, Chief Marketing Officer for Privacy Star who helped launch Slacker Radio, and was President/CEO of iRiver America joined Hammer on the panel.
This year’s nine presenters included:
PBX or Passenger Baggage Xpress: a mobile app that facilitates direct communication between airlines and passengers to increase efficiency of airline baggage operations.
Bourbon & Boots: an online showcase of medium to small vendors who create “a unique Southern experience.”
DataRank: an easy to use integrated analytics dashboard for analyzing all of the online conversations relevant to your business.
Treatsie: an assortment of high-end artisan sweets delivered in a monthly subscription box.
Overwatch: an app and hardware accessories that bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor gaming with the use of GPS radar, voice chat and In-Game Perks.
Eyenalyze: a management portal that enables independent restaurants to pull point of sale data in real time like a chain restaurant.
Pocket Dealership: an app that provides consumers an easier way to communicate with car dealerships through the use of push notifications for service and digital records.
Talentt: an app that connects businesses to talented freelancers in their area.
ARFoodJobs.com: a job-listing site specifically for Arkansas’ growing culinary and hospitality industry.
With only one month in operation, Christie Ison, owner and principal of ARFoodJobs.com, couldn’t believe she won. When they announced ARFoodJobs as the winner, Ison gave out a scream and ran to give each judge a hug.
“The organizers told me that the decision was unanimous, and that the crazy reaction I had was exactly what they wanted for this competition, to be life changing for someone,” she said. “It definitely is.”
ARFoodJobs is a matchmaker for Arkansas’ growing hospitality industry, Ison said, connecting qualified job seekers with restaurants and hotels.
Hammer said some of the companies that gave pitches, not naming specifics, were a little further along than a startup that could truly benefit from $15,000.
“With revenues of $1.2 million and with partners like Walmart already, this is not necessarily the contest for you — you’re like an NBA player playing a round with AA league,” he said.
The contest was geared toward people who could use $15,000 to move their idea to the next level, Hammer said.
“It’s nothing against your company, it’s just the opposite,” he said, “You were shining a little too bright for this contest.”
Hammer said Saturdays pitches were “in line” with the pitches he’s seen and heard in Silicon Valley.
The “No. one suggestion for a startup with no funding” came from Sasse, “never sleep,” he said. Stirrat also suggested a more practical option is putting up a Facebook page.
It is a quick, easy and cheap way to market your business, she said.
One of Hammer’s biggest lessons from an investment mentor is to “invest in the entrepreneur — not the idea.”
“His first ideas probably won’t be his best, but you will see in him [additional] companies,” he said.