Editor's note: The following article is written by our partner.
Social Venture Partners' Fast Pitch competition accelerates social innovation in the Puget Sound by providing training, connections, community support, and investor support to the best innovators around. SVP's competition process starts each May when eager innovators begin submitting applications. Then, over the course of the program, competitors meet with mentors and attend training sessions to develop their pitching and other skills. It’s a long process—with two rounds of eliminations along the way—but at the end of that journey awaits the chance to pitch to up to 1,000 people and compete for over $250,000 in investments and grants.
More than 100 applicants entered the competition this year, but only 20 of the remaining semifinalists (plus eight Ashoka Youth Venture teams) will make it to the Final Showdown on Nov. 13 at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall. The Oct. 29 semifinals will determine the 14 finalists who will compete on-stage. Still, lead partner at SVP Patricia Friel explains, even those who don’t make it to the finals walk away winners, “We teach the applicants how to tell their stories, connect them to others in their space and to mentors, provide them support, and introduce them to the Puget Sound community at large," Friel says. "Not only do the best pitchers win — everyone wins. Fast Pitch participants gain invaluable resources to further the good they are committed to doing, regardless of the actual funding secured, and that means a better, more sustainable tomorrow for us all.”
To that end, Fast Pitch is organized by SVP and powered by the community. Every year, dozens of volunteers and local organizations donate their professional skills and make in-kind contributions for six and a half months to support participants and promote the event. Furthermore, because corporate sponsorships cover the costs of hosting Fast Pitch, 100 percent of proceeds from ticket sales go to the participants in the forms of funding and prizes. (Tickets are available on Eventbrite and are largely tax deductible.)
Attendees can expect a highly participatory experience on the day of the Final Showdown. All 28 semifinalists and finalists will host meet-and-greet booths. Attendees are encouraged to arrive at 4:30 p.m. so they can learn about the various for-profit, non-profit, and youth competitors before the final pitches. Immediately after the pitches, attendees will be asked to cast their votes for the Audience’s Choice Award winners.
The 2012 Audience’s Choice first place award went to Express Advantage: “a non-profit, social justice organization committed to developing and implementing strategies to reduce the ‘high cost of being poor’ and increasing wealth building opportunities for underrepresented and underserved populations.”
Select audience members will also be back to grant “Audience Angel” Awards to their favorite semifinalists. Moving Worlds won a $1,000 Audience Angel Award in 2012 and will be back again this year to share their progress and close their second round of seed funding. As co-founder Mark Horoszowski explains, “Fast Pitch was and is an invaluable experience. Beyond our Audience Angel Award, we connected with other innovators and supporters who catalyzed our business and empowered us to launch our beta site...I'm honored to be a part of the SVP community.”
Mark Horoszowski of Moving Worlds asks the audience to help make Experteering sexy. Moving Worlds matches volunteers with organizations abroad that need their professional and technical skills.
The diversity of problems that Fast Pitch participants try to solve provides an honest insight into the needs of the Puget Sound community. Last year’s winners included Scope 5 (a sustainability management system that helps businesses measure and reduce their environmental impact), Young Women Empowered (a non-profit that provides mentorship and empowerment programs to young women in the Seattle area), and the CityClub Living Voters Guide (an online community-sourced guide that empowers voters to make informed ballot casting decisions).
The Living Voters Guide, established in 2010 by CityClub, won the $25,000 SVP Award for an Established Non-Profit. In his pitch, co-creator Travis Kriplean, Ph.D., shared how the Living Voters Guide was proving that “democratic dialogue doesn’t have to collapse when many citizens choose to raise their voice … thousands of voters have crossed the bridge that we’ve created and met their virtual neighbors. ... They’ve been inspired when they hear the other side and can see common ground.”
The Living Voters Guide lets voters identify the pros and cons that resonate with them — not just those provided in the typical election voter’s pamphlet.
Once again, the SVP Fast Pitch participants are offering solutions to a diverse array of problems, including job training, human trafficking, student engagement, health advocacy, access to clean water, and community-sourced ecosystems, and it’s up to the community and investors to decide which solutions best serve our needs.
SVP is the world’s largest network of engaged philanthropists; SVP-Seattle is the largest chapter in the network with over 500 partners. To learn more, go to www.sifp.net.