Road Pitch is an annual event sponsored by Freshtracks Capital, aimed at helping startups find not only investors, but also the mentoring and advice that frequently proves to be so invaluable to entrepreneurs and startup ventures. Here’s how it works, over the course of several days, a group of riders consisting of local business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurial advisors ride across Vermont, and hold pitch competitions in key locations around the state. The winners from each of these regional competitions then meet for an evening in Burlington where the final pitch off is hosted.
It’s no secret that the state of Vermont is rich with entrepreneurial energy. There have been a number of breakout companies over the years that brought their business ideas to fruition here in the green mountains. For such a small economy, we see quite a bit of economic activity, and more importantly, opportunity. Road Pitch certainly plays a very important role in the state’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, providing valuable resources to some of the most promising ventures in the state, in addition to great public exposure to all the startups involved. Without events like this, Vermont’s startups and small businesses would have a much harder time facilitating growth and local economic development.
This was incredibly evident upon arriving at the 2017 road pitch finals. The room, as it began to fill with spectators and entrepreneurs alike, was buzzing with energy. The 2017 Road Pitch doubled as a fantastic networking opportunity, among attendees were students from UVM and Champlain College looking to make meaningful connections, they had come to the right place. The group of riders assembled by Freshtracks are some of the most successful and confidence inspiring business people in the state. Such as serial entrepreneur Alan Newman, co-founder of Gardeners Supply Company, Seventh Generation Inc. & Magic Hat Brewing.
Among the pitchers were some already proven ventures such as Majorwise, the 2017 Launch VT winner, who created a digital platform designed to help connect students with career and internship opportunities. Valt, a tech sector startup that designed an online password management system. And Edgeworks Creative, yet another tech startup that specializes in developing eLearning solutions for large corporations. With such exciting and interesting entrepreneurs, the competitive environment at the Road Pitch was bound to be at an all-time high.
As everyone took their seats and the pitches went underway, it became very clear that the atmosphere at this event was one that embodied support and constructive criticism above all else. While the riders were tasked with asking questions to help better understand each pitch for evaluation purposes, many would frequently raise their hand, just to provide industry insights and advice to the entrepreneurs. These were the actions that set the tone for the whole evening.
With each pitch came many pointers and tips from industry pros and novices alike. So much so, that at one point in the evening, Cairn Cross, Director of Freshtracks Capital, and the Road Pitch event coordinator, took the podium just to proclaim “All questions/pointers that begin with "I don’t know anything about this, but... are prohibited”. It was a moment that poked fun at the judges and stirred up a laugh in the crowd, but also spoke volumes about the supportive and encouraging environment that is the Road Pitch. Even if not entirely informed on the subject, the riders speak up and provide their insightful perspectives to these flourishing startups, helping them better understand their own position as businesses.
The big takeaway here is that events and programs like Road Pitch are what allows Vermont’s startups and small businesses to thrive. In fact, one could even argue that the current entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region would not be possible without the opportunities and support provided by events and programs like this. They are truly a treasure of the green mountains, and part of what makes Vermont such a great place to start a business.
Author: Isaac Merritt