On March 5-7, 234 investors, inventors and startup fans converged on Talking Stick Resort for the inaugural Venture Madness Conference. They watched the final 16 live pitch before panels of judges, as the competitors were narrowed to eight, then four, then two and a champion was crowned. Pinnacle Transplant Technologies emerged victorious late Friday, and took home $30,000 in prize money.
Gabriel Hyams, president and executive director of Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, said the competition and win were timed perfectly with where the business is. “It’s really the first time we’re getting our name out, and I think that was by design,” he said. “As a developing company we wanted to get our get ducks in a row before we took it to the public.”
Venture Madness kicked off Wednesday evening with a well-attended networking cocktail party. Thursday’s keynote speaker Geoffrey Moore spoke about his recently updated book, “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers.” (Download Moore’s slide presentation here.)
The Top 16 were narrowed to the final eight, which were announced during a Spring Training game at Salt River Fields. Conference attendees networked and watched the Arizona Diamondbacks tie the Oakland Athletics 8-8.
Friday’s pitching events narrowed the field from eight to four to two:
Pinnacle Transplant Technologies – Champion
Contatta – Runner up and winner of $10,000
Clear Demand – Final four and winner of $5,000
ReplyBuy – Final four and winner of $5,000
Second-place winner Pat Sullivan of Contatta, said he enjoyed the Venture Madness Conference format and environment.
“I’ve been to some (startup conferences) before and they are rather boring,” he says. “This was really, really fun and challenging.”
Startup Competitions Mean Great Exposure
More than the cash award, Hyams said, the win means exposure and awareness for his company. Pinnacle Transplant will use the money to develop its demineralized bone matrix putty, which processes human cadaver-donated tissue into a pliable material that surgeons use to mold into any shape or size. It’s used for patients who need spinal, dental, joint and other types of surgeries that require grafts.
Arizona’s Startup Environment is Strong
The team from ReplyBuy added that the event made them more aware of the startup-friendly environment in Arizona.
“Collecting all of the most compelling startups in the state and putting them into one venue has been really eye opening for me,” said ReplyBuy CEO and founder Josh Manley. “It’s also so interesting to see so many industries competing. That was really interesting. We went up against a mining company, which I never would have expected, nor did I know they existed before.”
Randy Gustafson of the Arizona Commerce Authority said the brackets were lined up similarly to the way the NCAA seeds collegiate basketball. The top seeds were those that performed well in the application and pitching processes. That is why attendees saw a parking meter technology startup go up against a site that teaches kids about STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math).