Representatives from six regional start-up businesses pitched their brands to a panel of entrepreneurs at the Willamette Innovators Network’s (WIN) Shark Tank event this year.
WIN organizers indicated the 2019 Shark Tank is their biggest yet. Previously, they held the event at The Vue and sold out, so for 2019 they moved to the Majestic where they sold over 100 tickets.
“This is probably our best Shark Tank event. It’s twice as big as our event last year, with twice as many teams, and the energy in the room was really good. This couldn’t have gone any better, we will be even bigger next year and we’ll keep feeding the sharks,” said WIN board president Aaron Oki Moore.
What is a shark tank?
Three judges, referred to as sharks, questioned the “bait” and selected three winners. Audience members also asked questions from the presenters then chose a People’s Choice award winner via text message vote.
This year’s panel of sharks included Greta Geankoplis, Scott Sandler, and Dan Whitaker. All three have extensive experience as CEO’s, investors, or fund managers. As judges, they evaluated pitches based on their assessment of the start-up’s pitch, business model, defensibility, scalability and whether they would consider the idea as an investment.
And the awards go to…
Family-run Willamette Valley cider maker La Familia won first place for their Mexican-style hard cider featuring flavors like guava, tamarind, and hibiscus. The flavors were inspired by original family recipes including Aguas Frescas. Representatives of La Familia describe their target market as Mexican-American millennials and others who love Mexican food and culture.
“The inspiration (behind La Familia) has always been my parents and [to] show appreciation for their efforts combined with love of this country,” said Jose Gonzales who pitched representing La Familia.
WIN awarded the first place winner a package of prizes including trademark search and filing support from Bell Weather Legal, three months team coworking space at the Corvallis Foundry, video from Silverman Studios, four hours of talent acquisition consulting from Talent Driven consulting.
Corvallis-based smart climbing wall creators Halo Holds won second place. Oregon State University students originally from OSU’s Sports Engineering Club are developing a system for climbing gyms to offer unlimited climbing routes in a limited space through a smart wall and partnered mobile app. The product is tailored to novice climbers but more experienced climbers may enjoy the ability to create custom routes and the social competition aspect of the app. Halo Holds is partnering with Dixon Recreation Center to house their prototype wall at the climbing gym.
Shoe Bio won third place for their sneaker search app. Users will be able to search authentic retailers for the sneaker of their choice, in their size, and compare prices. Shoe Bio is an Accelerate 2018 Cohort with OSU’s Advantage Accelerator program.
Second and third place winners received a talent acquisition consulting session from Talent Driven Consulting
Another Accelerate 2018 Cohort, Pour Soul Systems, won the People’s Choice Award. This Corvallis company is bringing the Internet of Things to the bar tap market with smart, wifi-capable tap handles. The handles use accelerometers to track tap use and offer more accurate information than the point of sale systems currently used to track units sold or poured. In addition, Pour Souls System offers other features they believe will benefit distributors, bar owners, and patrons.
“This was my first pitch event and I learned a lot going through the process,” said Tim Armstrong founder of Pour Soul Systems. “I was glad to see a bunch of people show up to support us tonight. I could feel the love from the crowd for sure.”
The People’s Choice winner was selected by audience members and won $500 from WIN.
Win also produces a monthly business pub talk series where regional start-ups sometimes pitch and present their product or business ideas.
-By Samantha Sied