LaunchVT 2018 Recap

2018 was an incredible year for our acceleration program and pitch competition. It was truly a privilege to work with the extremely talented and diverse group of entrepreneurs in our cohort. We had eight startups from eight different towns with eight very different products and services! This made for a unique learning environment with lots of complementary skills and experiences. The enthusiasm and dedication that each entrepreneur brought to the program elevated the level of acceleration for everyone in the cohort.

We added several new components to the program this year based on survey feedback form LaunchVT Alumni and research with VT startups. New sessions this year included Flight Check - a business model stress test with over 40 local experts, The Deal - a primer on financing, valuation and term sheets with Ken Merritt, Been There - a peer session with LaunchVT Alumni, and Brain Trains - a brand strategy exercise with Michael Jager. We also added two new components to help prepare teams for “what’s next” after LaunchVT. Teams worked with their coaches to create Launch Reports (executive summaries) and six month action plans. The final change we made this year was in the allocation of in-kind services. This year each team received at least two services and the total value of all in-kind services was $90,000! Below is a list of the amazing local service providers our teams are working with.

Burlington Code Academy - Qwerkal, Merritt & Merritt, Renaissance Information Systems, Gallagher Flynn & Co, Dale Carnegie Training

Northview Weather - Hark, Dunkiel Saunders, Forecast LLC, IOT Conduit, Dale Carnegie Training

Home Outside - Moulton Law Group, Renaissance Information Systems

Cora Ball - Paul, Frank & Collins, Renaissance Information Systems

EZ-Probate - Downs, Rachlin, Martin, ReconciledIt

Varises - VCET, Forecast LLC

Still Thyme Botanicals - Oxbow Creative, Dinse, Knapp, Mcandrew, Dale Carnegie Training

The Maple Connection - Forecast LLC, CWE-Vermont

The pitch competition was attended by nearly 200 people and the pitches were very impressive. In the end the judges awarded the Grand prize of $30,000 to Burlington Code Academy, and the EPSCoR Innovation Prize of $15,000 to Northview Weather. We added a new component to the pitch competition this year based on an impromptu moment from last year. Half way through the pitches we asked entrepreneurs from the audience to come up and make their pitches to the crowd. We passed a hat and raised $420 that the crowd decided, by applause, to split between two great pitches.

The success of our acceleration program and pitch competition was a fitting end to a very busy and productive 12 months at LaunchVT. In addition to another great year of LaunchVT Collegiate and HackVT, we created a searchable directory of organizations that support entrepreneurs called the Connector, we created a new program for makers in partnership with Generator called JUMP/START, and we endeavored to play a larger role in building our entrepreneurial ecosystem through a public calendar of entrepreneurship events and new partnerships and collaborations.

With the 2018 cohort we have now brought 43 startups through our acceleration program and provided them with $550,000 in cash and in-kind services. Our alumni have cumulatively received over $9,000,000 in funding, created 150 jobs, and generated over $5,000,000 in revenue in 2017. LaunchVT is a community supported project and we can’t thank our partners enough for their contribution in making this possible. Because of their support we are having a real impact on the economic future of Vermont, and we will be able to continue to expand our programs and resources to serve even more of Vermont’s aspiring entrepreneurs.

LaunchVT is made possible thanks to our amazing sponsors, including: the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vermont EPSCoR, Vermont Department of Economic Development, VCET, People’s United Bank, New England Federal Credit Union, Vermont Works, Vermont Innovation Commons, Dinse, Qwerkal, Seven Days, Dunkiel Saunders, Paul Frank & Collins, FreshTracks Capital, Leonardo's, Gallagher Flynn & Company, Merritt & Merritt, Vermont Community Foundation, Waitsfield & Champlain Valley Telecom, TD Bank, Encore Renewable Energy, Oxbow, Hark, Hen House Media, BTV Ignite, University of Vermont - OVPR, VEDA, North Country Angels, Redstone, Dale Carnegie Training, Reconciledit, VT Center for Women & Enterprise, DRM, Renaissance Information Systems, Moulton Law Group, IOT Conduit, Forecast LLC, and Main Street Landing.

LaunchVT Collegiate 2018 Highlights

Launch VT Collegiate is a pitch competition for student entrepreneurs from Vermont’s Colleges and Universities. After participating in pitch competitions at their respective schools, the winning teams of Vermont student entrepreneurs converged on the University of Vermont’s Dudley H. Davis student center to battle it out for a total of $7,000 in cash prizes and a coveted spot in the 2018 Launch VT cohort. The Collegiate competitors were judged by a panel of local entrepreneurs & investors on their market opportunity, business plan, and overall presentation.

This year’s Launch VT Collegiate pitch competition featured a panel of all-star judges from various local organizations and businesses. Between the four judges are years of experience in financial services, marketing, tech, angel investing, and entrepreneurship.

The judging line-up begins with Sam Roach-Gerber, Sam is the director of innovation at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET). She created the Female Founders Speaker Series and co-hosts VCET’s podcast series “Start Here”. Next on the panel was Scott Gale, for 20 years, Scott has been leading teams that build software to solve acute business problems. Today, Scott is a founding member and VP of Engineering at Fluency Incorporated as well as an active angel investor, sitting on the board of directors for the North Country Angels. Then there was Sivan Cotel, Sivan is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Stonecutter Spirits in addition to the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Porter Medical Center, a non-profit hospital and health care system in Middlebury, Vermont, as well as a board member of numerous other non-profit institutions. Last on the panel but certainly not least was Louisa Schibli. Louisa Co-founded Milk Money VT, Vermont’s first “invest local” equity crowd-investing platform. She brings her energy and enthusiasm to her many passions whether it's volunteering, technology, photography, Vermont, or judging pitches from teams of student entrepreneurs!

Even for a panel of all-stars, picking the top three teams out of the six total competitors was a tall order! And this year’s teams certainly didn’t make the job any easier!

kicking things off was Better Days Therapeutic Riding Program, an equine assisted therapy program founded by Anna Willenbaker of St. Michael’s College. Better Days’ focus was on treating victims of psychological trauma through equestrian riding therapy.

Next to pitch was Voltre Liquid Biomethane: an Innovative bio methane heating fuel technology. Volte Liquid Biomethane is a team from Norwich University made up entirely of international students from the likes of Kenya & Afghanistan. Voltre aimed to reinvent the way we heat our homes with environmentally sustainable bio methane solutions.

Then there was TOMO from the University of Vermont, an integrated storage and tracking system that holds and charges customer’s phones during meals in order to decrease mobile device use in restaurants. TOMO hopes to change the way we interact with our devices while out at dinner, by using an innovative and aesthetically pleasing container to help people put the phones away while out to dinner with friends.

Taking 3rd place and $1,000 cash for their business was Pure Investments from Champlain College. Pure Investments is a cryptocurrency trading information and education platform that works to demystify the complex nature of cryptos. Pure demands recognition in the local ecosystem by providing a service that is currently in high demand among all sorts of investors. They are currently one of the only services like this operating in the market for cryptocurrency.

Taking 2nd place and $2,000 cash was Beach It Parking App from Middlebury College, an Air BnB inspired parking application that would allow property owners near public beaches to rent out extra spaces in their driveways to app users. The concept is still fresh with only a handful of similar services operating nationwide, most of them regionally restricted.

And in 1st place taking the grand prize of $4,000 cash & the coveted spot in the 2018 Launch VT cohort was Green Mountain Maple Innovations from the Vermont Technical College. Green Mountain Maple Innovations is a product based company creating innovative solutions for the maple industry. They aim to create value for the sugaring industry with their tree tapping multi-tool. Their tool is not only cheaper, lighter, and easier to use than what is already on the market, but it is also the first multi-tool. Typically, sugar workers would have to carry around an entire kit of tools for tree tapping, so this innovation is positioned to save the industry as a whole valuable time and resources.

Another round of thanks are in order for our amazing 2018 Launch VT Collegiate sponsors:                                             North Country Federal Credit Union & University of Vermont

Looking forward, the Flagship Launch VT program is right around the corner! LaunchVT is our annual early stage acceleration program. We accept Eight Vermont startups each year for a six week intensive program that culminates with a final pitch competition. Entrepreneurs in the LaunchVT cohort work with a dedicated mentor, strategic advisors and each other to refine their business models and hone their pitches. The final pitch competition provides investor exposure and the opportunity to win over $100,000 in cash and in-kind services. In selecting our cohort and awarding prizes we look for 1. Likelihood of building a successful business, 2. Scalability: Potential to grow a sizable & meaningful company over time, and 3. Potential to generate significant employment in Vermont. Please join us at the Final Pitch Competition on May 17th at Main Street Landing. To learn more and register visit

Author: Isaac Merritt