Take the Interview, a video interviewing product, took the top spot followed by USeed, a crowdfunding platform, then Brooder, an invention seller, at Ultra Light startups’ Investor Feedback Forum and Pitch Showdown held late last week at Microsoft headquarters in midtown. Phineas Barnes of First Round Capital won audience choice for “Best Panelist”. David Carlos, Ultra Light’s host, kept the pitches to a strict three minutes, and all but one of the nine companies pitching that evening were able to lay out their business plan before the alarm went off.
Danielle Wineblatt, a former recruiter at Citigroup, said she created Take the Interview because of her own pain point: “You often know in the first few minutes of meeting a candidate that they are a ‘no’ for your organization, but you still need to interview them for ½ hour to an hour. We solved this problem by allowing employers to ask their most important questions prior to the in-person interview to multiple candidates and receive video responses back that they can review at their convenience. Basically, it’s more education at the earlier stages.”
Her startup launched in Sept. 2011 and has already received funding from several angel groups including Dreamit Ventures, a mentoring program. She talked about the key to ramping up her startup, “We really listen to our customers and never go into building anything or go into the development process without understanding what our customer wants in advance.”
Brian Sowards, the first runner-up, explained what he is trying to do with USeed, “We are empowering Gen Y to take who they naturally want to be and accelerate their ability to bring it to the world immediately. We are taking students who have passion, creativity, and bright ideas but who can’t find their way in the world; we show them how to instantly apply it and change the world.”
USeed officially launched the day of the event, and has raised money from both professional investors and friends and family, but it wasn’t that easy to get the product out. “Our biggest challenge was convincing a university to let us into their front door. I’m a big believer in game theory – we took the time to sit down with every administrator, faculty member and student and asked what mattered to them. Then we figured out how to create value for them in the way that we were approaching a university, and it’s working out real well for us now.”
Panelist Murat Aktihanoglu was on hand to find some companies for his summer Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator program. “I’m looking first for great teams, second for market size and third for the idea.”
Crowd favorite Barnes had this tip for entrepreneurs: “We see 3,000 deals a year and we invest in 20 of them. One of the frustrating things that we find with entrepreneurs that come in with great ideas and really smart themes but also come in trying to prove something that money can buy — instead of already having focused on creating the magic that will scale with a capital infusion.”
For more stories about Ultra Light’s disruptive technologists, go NYConvergence.com