(Photo by Daniel Swartz)
Lyft‘s first pitch competition drew more than 200 attendees to watch eight finalists pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win $30,000 in cash prizes to help scale their businesses.
Lyft Pitch was hosted at the Blind Whino SW Arts Club in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 and featured cocktails, mingling, 12 vendors who are also entrepreneurial Lyft drivers and lots of donuts and food trucks from The Big Cheese, DC Slices, DC Empanada, and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.
Technical.ly DC previously reported on the eight entrepreneurial Lyft drivers who are working with the rideshare company to fuel their own separate businesses. The expert panel of judges included Woody Hartman, VP of global operations at Lyft, Steven Scebelo, VP of business development and licensing at the NFL Players Association, Stephanie Thomas, executive director at the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Cullen Gilchrist, founder of Union Kitchen and Eileen Fagan, VP, solutions development and operations at Intuit.
Each entrepreneur had three minutes to pitch and three minutes of questioning from the judges.
Joe Himpelmann of Aspen Hill, Md., took home the grand prize of $15,000. His company, Assault Forward, sells pride of service accessories (lapel pins, cuff-links, tie-bars, etc) for veterans and patriotic Americans. Himpelmann said Assault Forward was just being conceptualized a year ago and now the company is taking home first place in its first pitch competition.
“Veterans are a valuable part of our community,” Himpelmann said. “We bring experience and skills that may be unique to the general civilian population. Hire veterans, that’s the best way to honor them.”
The reverse American lapel pin was Assault Forward’s first product when the company launched its site in March 2018. Himpelmann and Assault Forward are currently participating in WeWork‘s Veterans in Residence program in partnership with Bunker Labs, which provides space, services, business mentorship and community to help veterans and military family members starting a business, as previously reported by Technical.ly DC.
Himpelmann told Technical.ly that the funds will be put toward meeting more veterans face-to-face and online.
Ricky Organek of Fairfax Station, Va., whose company 2ndLyfe Waste Solutions diverts and repurposes 75 percent of the garbage destined for the landfill and gives it a second life, won second place and a cash prize of $10,000. Organek said he spent about 10 years altogether building his company to what it is today.
“It’s a combination of persistence and not giving up. You’re balancing on the edge of a sword and it’s not whether or not you fall off, it’s about how much pain and how much rejection you can endure, and still stay on the course to fulfill your dreams,” Organek said. “You’re either building your dream or building someone else’s,”
Organek told Technical.ly that he will use the funds to buy a 28 acre lot of land so he can scale what he’s already doing with his business on a quarter of an acre of land.
Chris Cooke of Virginia Beach, Va., won over the crowd and received a cash prize of $5,000, sponsored by Intuit. He created Trucket, a mobile app offering users the ability to request a truck on demand for moving and hauling needs. It also provides a local marketplace to buy and sell furniture. Cooke told Technical.ly that this was Trucket’s first try at a pitch competition and that the winning funds will go toward marketing for the launch of the Trucket app at end of the year.
All of the winners said they will continue to drive for Lyft as they continue to grow their companies.