Pitch In

Originally posted on BrooklineHub.com
by Vekonda Luangaphay

Five entrepreneurs will take the stage on May 11 at the Revere Hotel in Boston to propose ideas for bringing social change and making the world a better place. These entrepreneurs will be participating in Pitch In, a competition where eight judges will listen, observe, and scratch their heads to decide which idea from the entrepreneurs is worth their investment. But that’s not all; the audience will also get to vote and award an additional $10,000 grant to their favorite pitch.

The event is hosted by Power Launch, an organization that helps other nonprofits by providing access to leadership and organizational development training, among many things, including money.

“Power Launch is an accelerator where not-for-profits learn how to quantify and articulate the social impact that they are going to create,” said Todd Dagres, co-founder of Power Launch, in a podcast interview published and produced by the nonprofit. “It was part of my journey to find organizations where I could make a difference.”

After 20 years working in the venture capital business, Dagres had met many people who wanted to help make a difference, especially those who were investors. In our interview Dagres said that he doesn’t see a big difference between a for-profit organization and a nonprofit organization, explaining that both entities have to be well organized, know how to raise money, recruit talented people, be persistent, quantify and explain their results, as well as deliver their results.

“I look at loads and loads of companies every year that are looking for money and very few of them end up getting the money, and it’s because they don’t have the same combination of what it takes to be successful,” he said.

Dagres wanted to help nonprofit start-ups learn how to organize, build a board, fund raise, and market themselves. About a year and half ago, he had an idea for a competition to help start-ups obtain the right tools to be successful in making social change, where investors can help.

“There they would potentially fall in love with a cause, fall in love with one of these not-for-profits and help them get to the next level, help them build a sustainable organization,” Dagres said.

Dagres partnered with Saskia Epstein, co-founder and CEO of Power Launch. Epstein was developing a concept for a non-profit accelerator program where organizations get put on a fast track toward success, and consisting of workshops, meetings with peers, and mentors. The result was a program where nonprofit leaders could learn critical skills like how to convince and influence people with performance information obtained from measuring their progress. The program includes the Pitch In event, for which five out of the first 11 entrepreneurs were chosen to compete in front of a panel of judges and audience.

“The investments will be made based upon how compelling each organization’s pitch is, combined with each judge’s personal passions,” Epstein said.

On the spot and checkbooks in hand, the judges will decide how much they want to invest, and the audience will participate by voting on their phones.

“It is a bit unpredictable, including how much will be awarded,” Epstein said, “We expect to award over $100,000 in funds.”

The five nonprofits that are pitching their visionary ideas to solve social problems were selected with input from Power Launch’s Executives in Residence, event guests, the nonprofits in the accelerator program, and the eight judges on the Pitch In panel.

“Selecting the five nonprofits among our spring accelerator cohort of eleven was incredibly difficult,” Epstein said. “The results could easily have been different. The six organizations who will not take the stage on May 11 deserve public recognition, our applause, and interest as much as their peers.”

Of course, a great event comes with great food. Power Launch gathers Boston A-list chefs to whip up tasty food for all guests to devour so no one has to think and vote on an empty stomach.

“Even better than the incredible abundance of top-notch dining that we have in Boston is the generosity of the restaurant community,” Epstein said. “I have never encountered an industry so full of generous, committed individuals.” Participating in this year’s event are Chef Jody Adams, Trade, Chef Mitch Randall, Ostra, Chef Jim Solomon, The Fireplace, Chef Jason Tom, Night Market, Chef Stephen Coe, Square Cafe, Chef Doug Rodrigues, Liquid Art House. with wine pairings by Frank Stamos, The Cork Stop.

“It’s really exciting to see an entrepreneur realize that others share and believe in their vision,” Epstein continued. “We’ll all get to witness that incredible moment for them. Startup life can be isolating and full of uncertainty. I’m thrilled that we get to be a part of shining the spotlight on these organizations as they gain momentum and gear up to do incredible things.”

Five years from now Dagres and Epstein say they hope to see the organizations that have gone through Power Launch’s program make significant social impact.

“When you’re dealing with early stage organizations, you really have to have a gut instinct around the people themselves, and around what they’re trying to accomplish,” Dagres said. “Every once in a while you come across something that just seems to jive.”

The five entrepreneurs pitching their nonprofits at Pitch In on May 11 are the following:

1. Josh Trautwein of Fresh Truck – a mobile food market that supports food accessibility and healthy communities in Boston.

2. Michelle Cove of MEDIAGIRLS – a mission to teach middle school girls to challenge and change media’s message that their self-worth is based on beauty and sex-appeal.

3. Julie Joyal of Med Science – brings STEM education to high school students, exciting their learning with hands-on experience.

4. Emily Cherniack of New Politics Leadership Academy –  has a mission to create an opportunity pipeline for service veterans who want to engage with policy and politics.

5. Dean Bragonier of NoticeAbility – has a mission to improve the educational experience for dyslexic students by providing training and curricula for professionals who work with the dyslexic population.