Pitching contest returns to LU

LaunchLU took place in the Wriston Art Center auditorium. The event was a chance for students to pitch their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs for advice and the chance to win prize seed money of up to $30,000. The Lawrence University Club of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (LUCIE) organized the event as part of their effort to promote creativity and entrepreneurship on campus. This is the third year LaunchLU has been a chance for budding innovators and entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and have their voices heard.

Freshman Savvas Sfairopoulos, who is involved with LUCIE, was the emcee at the event. His role was introducing the judges, speakers and presenters in order, and providing commentary on each of the pitches. One of the pitches he remembers quite vividly he described as “similar to Tinder, but for artists and entrepreneurs.” It is a collaboration that connects artists and entrepreneurs with the same interests.

The event has been set up for the past two months, but the interest for it was not fueled until about a month ago. Next year, LaunchLU hopes to have more attention and participants. Sfairopoulos says that LaunchLU gives Lawrentians “the opportunity to voice out their entrepreneurial ideas and get a hands on experience of what pitching feels like and getting professional feedback from experts who have been working in entrepreneurship for a good amount of years.”

Seniors Chelsey Choy and Zach Martin are the co-presidents of LUCIE and were in charge of setting up the event along with Coordinator of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and Lecturer of Economics Gary Vaughan. The contestants were divided into groups of two to

On Saturday May 21 from 8 a.m. to noon, three people as well as individual participants spoke. “We had six pitches this year, with a total of nine contestants and a wide range of ideas. Some of the ideas have been worked on for two years while others have been done within 45 hours,” Martin explained.

The projects varied in diversity and target. Some ideas presented were a protein ice cream concoction, a mechanical star that sat in aquariums and stirred up nutrients in the sand and different apps that function to collaborate between different groups such as music artists and people looking for something fun to do.

This year the judging criteria included quality of presentation, viability and feasibility, originality and creativity, innovation and budget and timeline. Contestants had to prove that the idea could succeed based on the proposed model and explain where they were at in their vision and what they needed to implement to make the product a reality. “This year all the seed money went out and to see the judges using their whole pool of money was very exciting” exclaimed Martin.

This year Choy is involved in outreach, recruiting and guiding the participants through what to expect and what they will be judged on. Her first pitch was based on a model of an incubator or a workspace. Choy said, “LUCIE is focused on brainstorming ways to solve problems around campus as well as promote leadership.” Choy believed LaunchLU was great for pitching and networking in general. She said, “I think a lot of emphasis lately has been about finding connections in the community and bridging that gap, and LaunchLU is a really good way to do that.”

Martin is an economics major and has been involved with the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program for three years. However, the club itself had not started until earlier this year. “For the past two years, I have been working on LaunchLU very closely with Chelsey [Choy] and Professor Gary Vaughan to do everything necessary—from contacting the judges, to gathering material, and over all organization,” he said. Martin was introduced to LaunchLU doing a pitch three years ago, but did not participate as a contestant this year because he said, “I was the film guy this year.”

Sfairopoulos said his favorite part of the event was “the closing ceremony where the judges explained to the general audience the values of pursuing innovation and entrepreneurship and how creativity was used in the ideas and how the contestants could further develop their ideas.” After the event, the judges and emcees spent some time talking with the contestants about their pitches and future ideas. Martin believed Lawrentians should be aware of LaunchLU because, “business is kind of a dirty word around here. The truth is, at the heart of the business world is innovation and entrepreneurial tactics, and that itself fits so well in the liberal arts of coming up with new ideas and creative construction. Events like this are special and highlight the opportunities offered at Lawrence.”

It does not matter whether you are a physics, economics or arts major to have the mind of an innovator and entrepreneur. With an event like LaunchLU, your ideas can be heard and you have the chance to be rewarded for your hard work.