Celebrating 20 Years of Rocket Pitch with 20 Entrepreneurs, Part I
Presented by The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, Rocket Pitch celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. While the event has evolved over the years, now including a dynamic audience feedback component, Rocket Pitch remains the same in spirit. It is an opportunity for Babson’s entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to the community and to take a step against their goals—with one catch. They have only three minutes and three slides to communicate the most important points of their ventures.
In honor of its 20 years, here is part one of our list of 20 Babson entrepreneurs and innovators who have pitched at Rocket Pitch since its inception. They shared their insights, their best pitching advice, and their plans for the future.
Dan Marques ’07, managing director and co-founder of Trident Growth Partners
Marques pitched his online advertising platform ProfileAds.com to a very warm reception in 2004 and 2005, and the connections he made energized him: “I remember walking out of the Rocket Pitch in Olin Hall and immediately calling my internship I had at the time, and quitting because I had so much energy and validation for ProfileAds coming out of Rocket Pitch.” Marques and his team would go on to launch and grow the business, landing several advertisers, before going on to other ventures.
Encouraged by her Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) professors to participate, Kan pitched her venture, Integrate, which provides training for cross-cultural communication and collaboration, at the 2018 Rocket Pitch. One year later, with the Summer Venture Program under her belt, Kan is returning to Rocket Pitch, hoping to find a co-founder in the Babson MBA community.
Courtney Wilson MBA’17, senior consultant analyst at Accenture and founder and CEO of DropZone for Veterans
As a Babson MBA student, Wilson knew she wanted to pitch at Rocket Pitch: “Because it’s such an integral part of the Babson experience, I couldn’t call myself a Babson entrepreneur without having done Rocket Pitch.” She checked the box twice, pitching her business DropZone for Veterans, which connects veterans with resources and benefits from private businesses and organizations, in 2015 and 2016.
Fan Bi, CEO and founder of Blank Label
Bi came up with the idea for Blank Label while studying abroad at Babson in 2009. He took advantage of the Rocket Pitch opportunity to get feedback from entrepreneurs and investors and he actually met his co-founder Danny Wong through a series of introductions from the event. Ten years later, Blank Label has five stores across the country and has shipped over 300,000 custom garments.
Mike Carlson MS’19, co-founder and CEO of TopForm
In 2018, Carlson pitched Zelos, a venture that centered on the idea of leasing sneakers to bring down cost. At the time, he was working on both Zelos and TopForm, which produces wearable technology for youth basketball players. Rocket Pitch helped him to clarify which of the two ventures to move forward with: “All ideas sound great in our heads, but you really know how good or bad they are when you pitch them in front of a room of people.” With the help of the Blank Center’s Summer Venture Program, Carlson moved TopForm forward and will be launching a pilot test by the end of the year.
Carl Sanders-Edwards MBA’12, CEO and founder of Adeption
As an MBA student, Sanders-Edwards jumped at the opportunity to pitch at Rocket Pitch: “Professor Heidi Neck’s class and the principles of ET&A™ were the logic that made it a no brainer.” He pitched four ventures, and two of these ventures—JumpShift and Venture Nest—were nascent versions of Adeption, a leadership development app. Today, Sanders-Edwards and his co-founder and wife, Emma, are driving Adeption forward, rolling out the app globally, tripling user sign-ups, and continuing to advance the tech behind it.
Dhairya Gupta MBA’08, founder and chief environment officer of Earth Ride and co-founder of AllizHeath, which was acquired in 2018
Gupta, who was honored by Babson as a Rising Star at the 2018 Alumni Entrepreneur Awards, pitched at Rocket Pitch in 2006 as an MBA student. He encourages entrepreneurs to focus on communicating the benefits and “not necessarily the features” of their product or service when pitching. He adds, “Many entrepreneurs fall in love with the features of a product. Customers buy a product for its benefits not (its) features.”
James Cantoni ’17, co-founder of PerkZilla
Cantoni is no stranger to the stage. Members of the Babson community might remember that he won the alumni track of the 2019 B.E.T.A. Challenge, taking home the $20,000 grand prize for referral marketing platform PerkZilla. In fact, he has taken advantage of countless opportunities to pitch, pitching at Rocket Pitch no less than three times. While it can be “extremely difficult, when in the moment, to know what is a winner and what will simply be a footnote,” Cantoni credits the process of pitching and pursuing different ventures for his growth as an entrepreneur.
Angela Sanchez MBA’11, co-founder and CEO at Artyfactos and Merge-Tek
Sanchez has leveraged many Babson resources, programs, and opportunities in her journey to build Artyfactos, which offers eco-friendly, organic jewelry made by entrepreneurial women in Colombia. Participating in the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab®, pitching at Rocket Pitch, and competing as a finalist in the 2019 B.E.T.A Challenge have helped Sanchez polish her pitch and share her message. Today, Artyfactos is sold in 80 boutiques in nine states.
Daquan Oliver ’14, CEO and founder of WeThrive
Oliver pitched at Rocket Pitch three times in two years. One of these ventures, Recesspreneurs, evolved into WeThrive, a national edtech nonprofit that equips low-income youth to become entrepreneurial leaders. WeThrive works in over 20 major cities, has been selected to the Forbes 30 under 30 List for Social Entrepreneurship and as an Echoing Green Fellow, and has partnered with such corporations as AT&T, Microsoft, and more.
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