They wait eagerly - some rehearsing lines, others taking a zen moment to appreciate the picturesque scene and breathe in the brisk mountain air - for their turn to be whisked up the mountain with an A-list investor. While soaring swiftly to their mountaintop destination, they give their best six-minute pitch before racing down the slope and back into the chair lift queue. And so go three of the quickest hours of their life.
This is Peak Pitch, the highly anticipated annual event that Primary has been fortunate to host for the past 11 years at Hunter Mountain, just 120 miles north of New York City. Distinct from the many pitch events that, by this point, have lost much of their luster, Peak Pitch is a unique community-building event for VCs and entrepreneurs alike. Our key goals for the event have always been to provide a fun and highly efficient venue for entrepreneurs to meet and mingle with leading East Coast investors, and to build a sense of camaraderie among the investment community - which, particularly at the seed stage, is a highly collaborative bunch.
It’s particularly satisfying hearing feedback from many VC attendees that they consider Peak Pitch their #1 must-attend event of the year. We attribute this sentiment largely to the quality of attendees, but also to the context of the event. By replacing participants’ daily New York grind with a hyper-casual, distraction-free atmosphere - nobody’s buried in their phones, nobody’s skipping out early to get to another event - we’re facilitating the types of connections that often blossom into meaningful relationships.
As first-time Peak Pitch attendee Matt Carey, Founder and CEO of Abaris Financial, explained, “As an early-stage founder, it’s always hard to justify taking an entire day and being out of the office. Peak Pitch is worth it because of the quantity and quality of investors I was able to speak with. The chair lift ride was just long enough to get a good sense if there was something there, without having to waste time in dead-end meetings.”
We kicked off the event Thursday night, as we do every year, with a VC-only reception, dinner and blackjack tournament that brought out the playful (and desperately competitive) side of 75 investors, representing a broad array of leading firms, including Greycroft, Lightbank, Bain Capital Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, RRE and others. After a long night of cards and camaraderie, investors sprang out of bed Friday morning to greet the 85-plus entrepreneurs who had boarded a bus at 5am with the collective goal of meeting their next investors, partners and customers.
This year’s entrepreneurs were an inspiring representation of the diverse canvas of the NYC Tech ecosystem. Ranging from AI, SaaS, healthcare, payments, food tech, hospitality, fit-tech and more, these talented founders provided ample opportunity for VCs to discover new opportunities that best matched their investment focus. But after the conclusion of the pitch period, as everyone retired to the lodge for lunch and VCs placed their votes, it was FinTech that won out bigly, with this year’s final three pitches representing the sector’s growing strength.
The two runners-up were surprisingly similar in focus: Dream Forward, a new 401(k) platform that uses AI to help employees save more, and Abaris Financial, which has created a digital, diversified and guaranteed “personal pension”. eCreditHero claimed the 2017 Peak Pitch crown with its automated system to help consumers fix errors on their credit report, and provides guidance on the credit-rebuilding process. Founded in 2013, and backed by Corigin Ventures, Financial Solutions Lab and Grand Central Tech, eCreditHero has a loyal following of nearly 50,000 users, who have increased their credit scores by an average of over 100 points in six months.
Having taught all attendees a thing or two about how to work a room, eCreditHero CEO Nicole Sanchez greeted the announcement of her win with a series of jumps and cheers. She later told us that, “as an entrepreneur, you're always looking for high-impact ways to engage with investors. Peak Pitch delivers on that.” Needless to say, Nicole left Peak Pitch with a number of connections and introductions in hot pursuit.
And finally, a few thank yous. Thank you to the early-stage VC community for being such collaborative and supportive partners. Thank you to New York’s most talented and intrepid entrepreneurs, who never fail to bring the positive energy and hustle that help make this such a productive and exciting event. And thank you to our amazing sponsors this year - Thrive TRM, 451 Research, Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt, Square 1 Bank, Amazon Web Services, The Cosine Group, Nixon Peabody, Betts Recruiting, Leverpoint, Newark Venture Partners and FundedBuy - without whom this event would not have been possible.
From the entire Primary team, thank you for your continued interest and support. We’re already counting down the days to Peak Pitch 2018!