We didn’t have Pitch Practice this past Friday because I was invited to be a judge for a middle-school startup event put on by the Audacious Institute at Chick-Fil-A’s HQ down south of town. We’re back on for Pitch Practice this coming Friday the 17th, and may have something special going on that day, too, so stay tuned!


Judging middle schoolers’ pitch presentations was fun and very different, and some of the ideas have some real merit. The most interesting thing about these kids and their ideas and presentations was that, before Monday of last week, none of these kids knew each other. In 5 days, they had to get to know each other, find a problem that interested them, figure out a solution to that problem, and then create a product around that solution and come up with a creative way to present that solution to a group of 50+ people.

Remember, these are middle schoolers.

The presentations were pretty good. Some parts of each of them were great. I addressed the group prior to announcing the winner and honorable mentions by telling them that most adults would be scared to death to get up in front of a big group of people and present and defend a new idea. These kids have guts!

Here are the 7 presentations from teams with 2 – 5 members.

  • Carpool Happy – Plugin to your Facebook friends to find someone you know going where you’re going so you can easily arrange a carpool. They also want to gamefy carpooling to certain destinations to create an incentive to carpool.
  • Fourth Light – Thousands of pedestrians are killed in busy city intersections by car drivers who don’t know there are pedestrians present in the intersection. Fourth Light is – literally – a 4th light on your standard traffic light. When a pedestrian is present  in an intersection and hits the “Cross” button, the 4th light will turn on so drivers approaching the intersection will be aware that there are pedestrians present.
  • Hey Driver – Millennials are the most notorious for texting and driving. Hey Driver is a mobile app that (a) automatically texts back “I’m driving, HMU later” (or some such custom message) and (b) searches your friends who are also driving so you can call a friend and have a meaningful conversation, rather than texting while driving.
  • Finger Security – A simple bolt-on module to require fingerprint authentication before you can open your car doors to prevent vehicle theft.
  • The Beginning – A food festival that employs only homeless individuals to serve the food. Prior to each festival, homeless individuals are given food, clothing, shelter, and training for serving food at the festival. After each festival, the homeless individuals would be eligible for employment by one of the food service providers based on their performance at the festival.
  • TheftCam – a home security camera for your car. The camera turns on when someone gets a certain distance from your car, and sends you an alert with video of the person. Powered by solar and alerted by motion detection, the camera uses very little power and only sends data when there is an alert.
  • IHS – An app for identifying and supporting one homeless person at a time via anonymous crowdsourcing. If you meet a homeless individual and they want help, you become the power to promote them via the social app to get your social network to donate any amount to support that homeless person.

The winner was Carpool Happy because they had the best presentation. In fact, their team leader (again, a middle schooler!) is a phenomenal talent. She undoubtedly has a future in entertainment, broadcasting, or public speaking…something with a microphone. And that took us back to the lesson of the day, which is also a huge lesson from Pitch Practice:

You can have the best idea in the galaxy, but if you can’t articulate that idea, it’ll never see the first dollar in revenue.

Thanks to Lindsey Mangone and the Audacious Institute for inviting me to be a judge of this fun and insightful event. I’m always amazed at how much talent our young kids display when we push them to do their best and put them in the spotlight. Well done, middle schoolers!

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