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Aggie PITCH returns with expanded competition giving more opportunities to startups than ever before

Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 11:15 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - It was the first university event canceled due to the pandemic last year, but Aggie PITCH was back Sunday with more opportunities than ever for developing startups.

It’s a chance to share how an innovative idea and business plan can change the world. Aggie PITCH gives competitors not only that opportunity but also extra tools to help them be successful on that path.

“They’re getting introduced to a roomful of Aggie mentors, advisors, perhaps investors, and other participants who are going to help them along the way,” McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship Executive Director Blake Petty said. “We’re also getting them introduced to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, where we have lots of resources and a support network to help them grow those businesses. A lot of the folks you will see in our audience today are looking for great Aggie companies that they can get involved in, in a variety of ways.”

Competitors have five minutes to pitch their business followed by a five-minute Q&A session with the audience. Most pitchers like Luke Raglin, a junior at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Logan Dubose, a medical school senior, have been working on their products for years.

Raglin is the founder of SimpleSeat, which is the combination of a bleacher and full sports chair. He says it offers better stability, comfort, and versatility than other products like it currently on the market. Dubose is the co-founder of Olera, Inc., which is developing an online platform and app that helps seniors and their families connect to the senior care services that are most important to them. He says it’s an elder care platform that helps simplify that decision-making process.

“Even if I weren’t to win any prize money, definitely networking with anybody to potentially find investors is definitely going to be a great help,” Raglin said. “My goals right now are to get the SimpleSeat into production as fast as I can, and this definitely helps me do that a little bit quicker.”

“It gives all of us reason to be at our best game,” Dubose said. “When you as a student learn how to do something excellent, and are pushed to do something excellent, it travels for the rest of your life.”

Dubose says it took every bit of the interdisciplinary expertise of his entire team to get his startup and product to the point where it is now.

“We’re proposing a very big endeavor. It’s to map the entirety of the eldercare system, and then help you guide through it,” Dubose said. “In order to do that, we need people from public health, social sciences, medicine, engineering, computer science, and it goes on and on. There are so many different experts that you need for something like this.”

The competition was expanded this year partly due to last year’s cancelation. For the first time ever, former students were allowed to participate, giving last year’s finalists the chance they thought they lost. They had the opportunity to compete in their own separate competition and the all-new Elevator Pitch round, which gives startups just one minute to pitch their business to the audience.

Daniel De Clute-Melancon is the co-founder of SkyStations, which is working on a platform to connect electric air taxis with places to take off and land. He graduated from Mays Business School last year but was set to compete in Aggie PITCH while he was still a student.

“Being brought back in for this opportunity has been terrific to again get more publicity for the company, and I’m really looking forward to the networking that takes place face-to-face at the end of this,” De Clute-Melancon said.

The top three finishers in each of the three events earned $35,000 in prize money, which was split up between the nine startups that placed in those spots.

“We know that there are innovative, fantastically entrepreneurial students out there who are doing things that we want to be able to help them. We want to get introduced to them. We want to understand what their business is, and we want to align them with the resources that the McFerrin Center has to offer to make them successful,” Petty said. “We’ve seen a lot of these teams actually grow into companies and go ahead and launch their business, hire employees, and develop these technologies that they’re sharing with us today.”

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