Ten tech startups will vie to impress a panel of six judges and hundreds of attendees at San Diego’s biggest pitch contest later this month. Three of the 10 slated to pitch at the Oct. 24 event will get a cut of $75,000 to advance their businesses.
Launched in 2006 by San Diego’s Tech Coast Angels, the annual John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition this year is being co-hosted by San Diego Venture Group and Cox Business—the commercial division of Cox Communications, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based telecom giant Cox Enterprises—in an arrangement that has increased the pot of prize money to a historic high. As recently as 2015 only the top company received winnings.
This year a judging panel and the audience will determine which trio of companies should be awarded cash plus services from the event’s sponsors. Here are the six judges:
—GV alum Jenn Kercher, chief operating officer and general counsel at venture capital firm Section 32. The fund’s CEO, Bill Maris, the founder of GV (then Google Ventures), launched Section 32 in the seaside town of Cardiff by the Sea, CA, near San Diego, in 2017. Kercher, who worked with Maris at GV, is based in the Bay Area.
—Carlos Kokron, a San Diego-based Qualcomm executive who sits on its corporate venture arm’s investment team. Qualcomm Ventures, formed in 2000, invests often in San Diego companies; in August it added two local firms—AttackIQ and Airspace Technologies—to its portfolio of more than 120 active investments.
—Kim Shriver, who is based at Cox Enterprises headquarters in Atlanta. Shriver is part of Cox Enterprises’ strategy and corporate development team.
—Susie Harborth, general partner and chief financial officer at Cambridge, MA-based BioInnovation Capital, an early-stage life sciences venture firm that invests in companies in its network of lab spaces. Harborth oversees the firm’s San Diego facility, BioLabs.
—Andy Wilson, executive director of the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. The SoCal Alliance was started in 2017 by Steve Poizner to accelerate the creation of tech and life science companies throughout Southern California. Previously Wilson founded Momentum Ventures, where he led and invested in startups.
—Steve Beck, a managing partner at Serra Ventures, an early-stage VC firm that is headquartered in Champaign, IL, and has additional offices in Chicago and San Diego. Local companies in which it has invested include digital health company CureMatch and HomeBay, a real estate platform for home sellers.
Quick Pitch’s finalists—selected from some 280 applicants—represent software as a service (SaaS), biotech, medical devices, consumer Internet, and other fields. Each will have two minutes to pitch.
Some of the startups selected as finalists in previous years have been subsequently backed by TCA and other investors that keep an eye on the top participants. According to TCA, Quick Pitch finalists in the past two years have collectively raised more than $3 million from the angel group.
Here are the companies that were selected:
CB Therapeutics: Biotech company making biosynthetic cannabinoids
CEO Sher Butt
DoWhop: Peer-to-peer marketplace for activities
CEO Rae Lietzau
Evasyst: E-sports social gaming app
CEO Justin Weissberg
Galley Solutions: SaaS for improving large-scale food operation workflows
CEO Benji Koltai
Left: SaaS for group travel organizations
CEO Shayanne Wright
NeuraLace Medical: Non-opioid alternative for managing chronic pain
CEO Shiv Shukla
OnePitch: SaaS for PR professionals
CEO Beck Bamberger
The Atlas Marketplace: Online community for city officials
CEO Elle Hempen
Yembo: Computer vision and AI technology for managing moving services
CEO Siddharth Mohan