As traditions go, this time of the year marks winter’s halfway point and, more importantly, a highly anticipated annual event the Primary team has been fortunate enough to host for ten years strong at picturesque Hunter Mountain. Peak Pitch X brought the best of Silicon Alley’s early stage entrepreneurs and investors approximately 130 miles north of the city for a day of hitting the slopes and the opportunity to pitch in a casual (albeit cold) setting. This year a record number 100 founders woke up at the crack of dawn to head upstate, where some of New York’s top VC firms - Bain Capital Ventures, Greycroft, RRE and others - awaited them.
The day kicked off with the first test for the Founders - get yourself to the Flatiron District for a 5:30am bus departure. After checking in and grabbing rental gear, the festivities began with a welcome breakfast at the Main Lodge where entrepreneurs scoped out potential strategic investors to pitch.
After a few logistical instructions, investors donned gold ski bibs and entrepreneurs blue and it was off to the slopes, where bibs paired off in the lift line for a 6 minute ride to the top. This is where the magic of the event happens and the competition begins. The entrepreneur gives it their best shot and the investors dig in with questions. As the chair approaches the top of the hill the entrepreneurs scramble to close the sale before the investor hops off and races to the bottom to pair off again and repeat.
For entrepreneurs used to pitching investors over coffee or in board rooms, the format proves a unique and exciting experience. With guards down-and ski tips up - an entirely different dynamic emerges. As Tommy Nicholas, founder of fintech startup and TechStars alum Alloy put it, “everyone is so out of their ‘New York mode,’ it’s just perfect. It’s a way better way to really connect with each other.”
In fact, the format was so compelling, and the opportunity to meet dozens of prospective investors in one jam-packed day was so hard to pass up, that several founders who had never before skied went out in the weeks before the event and took their first lessons so they could come out and participate. Now that’s entrepreneurial hustle if we’ve ever seen it!
For the investors, the change in format and rapidfire approach provided a welcome change and a chance to have more fun while meeting a huge number of founders in one packed day. Comcast Ventures Managing Director Andrew Cleland said “It’s a really special event. Totally distinctive, fun, and productive. I won’t miss it again.” Bain Capital Ventures’ Stephanie Weiner, a first-timer this year, praised the change of format, “Traditional networking events often feel transactional. Getting out of Manhattan and letting loose on the slopes was the best way to actually build friendships with founders and other investors.”
After three hours of rapidfire skiing and pitching the investors convened in the lodge to vote for their top pitches. Then as the crowd warms up with hot coffee and lunch, the top three founders pitched the entire room. This year’s winners represented a broad swath of what’s hot in NYC Tech these days - machine learning, artificial intelligence, beacons, mobile SaaS and fashion tech. It was a deserving bunch of winners, but there were genuinely many more equally deserving companies than spots on the podium. The final winner, TextIQ, is a Columbia comp sci spinout using artificial intelligence to bring newfound efficiency to the legal discovery and other document and text-intensive markets. Co-founder Omar Haroun, basking in the glow of his win, offered this assessment of the day, “There is a self-selecting filter of people who are willing to wake up at 4:30am to spend the day charging down a mountain and meeting like-minded people, which makes the event really special. I am almost certain that our next round of funding will include many of the people I met at Peak Pitch.”
After a final hour of beers and networking in the lodge, the buses pulled out of the lot and headed back to NYC. We at Primary made a bunch of new friends this year, met a number of companies we look forward to getting to know better, and reconnected with some of our favorite investors from the NYC community.
And now we’re only 51 weeks away from Peak Pitch 2017 - we can’t wait!
This Year's Top 5:
4th Place (tie): Nineteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment is bringing a new business model to retail by creating the first vertical, digital retailer for consumers to discover emerging fashion from tomorrow’s next big designers, first. For emerging brands, Nineteenth Amendment is a platform for launching lean into the fashion industry through a set of tools, including visualized consumer data, and scalable US manufacturing as a service through a proprietary production management system.
4th Place (tie): BentoBox
BentoBox (getbento.com) is a saas platform that provides restaurants with the tools to connect with guests and drive revenue online. The platform is used internationally by over 300 restaurants and has a nearly 100% retention rate among them.
3rd Place: Wade & Wendy
Artificial Intelligence to making hiring more human.
2nd Place: Lighthouse.io
Lighthouse.io is an enterprise software platform that makes it simple for businesses to find, interact with, and optimize their people and assets in the physical word. Using mobile phones and bluetooth, Lighthouse.io enables management to live monitor staff movement, track activity completion and maintain a safe and secure workplace.
1st Place: Text IQ
Text IQ is building AI that can take a corpus of unstructured text and automatically detect “who talks to whom, about what”. We’re using this technology to solve enterprise problems, starting with a solution for privilege review -- one of the costliest parts of litigation.