At the Ultra Light Startup’s Investor Feedback Forum and Pitch Showdown in January at Microsoft in midtown, the room was packed. At about 240 attendees, it was probably the largest audience yet. Graham Lawlor, the founder of Ultra Light, said that they are receiving more applications from startups that want to pitch at their event so his organization has become more selective in choosing the entrepreneurs they want to feature. He even pitched his own startup, BrightMap, a lead-generation service for business networking communities and professional service providers, at a previous Ultra Light event. “If you’re a hot startup, this is the where you want to be,” he said.
Several startups presented their three-minute pitches to four investors and followed with actionable advice. One of the panelists was Gil Beyda, founder of Genacast Ventures, was there to help entrepreneurs hone their pitching skills. He was also checking out the startups in hopes of finding ones that his company might invest in. “The number one thing I am looking for are great teams and defensibility. A good startup is 1% a good idea and 99% perspiration or execution and has some defensibility–competitive advantage, the ability to cheat in the marketplace or unlevel that playing field,” he said.
Another panelist was Art Chang of Tipping Point Partners, a firm that works on projects “where technology can address societal or industry needs, solve meaty problems, or satisfy deep cravings.” “There is so much opportunity in the market right now because there are such huge pain points that have significant immediate revenue attached to them, and very few people are addressing them,” Chang said.
All of the entrepreneurs pitching their startups were fixing real world problems. One of the more interesting founders at the event was Francisco Prat of LifeWellth, an investment management platform that is based around users’ goals like retirement, buying a home and paying for college. It was founded in June of 2011, launched in October through an iPad app and already has traction – the company now oversees $30M in assets. Essentially what the company does is provide financial advice and financial products around each of those goals. “Typically the approach is that you pool your assets and all your assets are invested in a certain way. And that’s not very intuitive for people,” he said. “What we do is we actually separate that out into each goal and you find the best investment for each of those goals. It’s free, but once people choose to invest for each of their goals, we charge a percentage of those assets as a management fee.”
Prat, 32, said that he came up with the idea because he always wanted to have a bank. “At one point I thought it wouldn’t really happen, and so I guess this is a roundabout way of doing it.”
Disruptive Technologists are people that interrupt the normal course or unity with technology. They are the game-changers, the brilliant thinkers, the hackers, and the people that finance them.