When I think about Portland, a couple of things come to mind – rainy days, craft coffee, and eccentric people. An intense 3 day pitch competition would definitely not have been on that list, but after competing in the University of Oregon’s New Venture Championship (NVC) I can confidently say that the entrepreneurial spirit runs through the heart of the University of Oregon and the city of Portland, Oregon.
My name is Nisar and I am a co-founder for Hubly. A medical device startup developing a neurosurgical drill designed to improve accuracy and safety, while also decreasing costs and complications, associated with performing one of the most common neurosurgical procedures, the Ventriculostomy. The Hubly team has been traveling around the country to various pitch competitions to raise funding and incorporate feedback from judges and potential investors. Most recently we travelled to Portland, joining graduate students from around the world to compete in the New Venture Championship (NVC). The NVC experience was a journey unlike any other—the chance to pitch our venture and compete for cash prizes, receive one-on-one feedback from world class business professionals, and gain attention from angel investors.
The NVC schedule included a 1 minute elevator pitch, a trade show, 30 minute running clock pitch with interruptions for judge questions, and a “lightning round”, which consisted of a 1 hour discussion of the business without any props or presentations. The event was very well coordinated by The University of Oregon’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.
The first day consisted of practice pitches with judge feedback, followed by the trade show. We received great feedback from the judges on updating our business plan, reworking some of our presentation, and changing our pricing models. Hubly was then given a booth where we presented our initial proof of concept prototype, as well as a scaled down 3D printed version of our drill. This was an excellent opportunity to showcase the progress we have made on our device while also networking and getting to see the various innovations of the other competitors. The other ventures at the event ranged from bone tape to mend fractures, an algae-based air purifier, beehive monitoring technology, coordination of supply chain operations for local grocers, load bearing stabilization for rescue operations, and many more.
The second day of NVC consisted of the reworked presentation to panel of expert judges. After incorporating much of the feedback we received from the practice pitch, we were able to more concisely present the problems associated with the Ventriculostomy and how our product is the solution to these challenges. Ultimately, Hubly came in second place in our track as we were beaten by BoneTape, the team that ultimately won the competition. This meant that we would be competing in a consolidation “lightning round” the following day.
On the final day, Hubly presented our company to a panel of executives in a casual, lunch-like setting. We were not allowed to use any props or presentations other than the pens and napkins provided on the table. The hour long conversation consisted of a 10 minute initial pitch with 5 minutes for Q&A and feedback, followed by 15 minutes to rework the pitch, then we had another 15 minutes to re-present to the judges incorporating the feedback we received, finally the judges spent the last 15 minutes for final Q&A and feedback. Hubly won our lightning round track, receiving a consolation prize of $1500.
Although Hubly didn’t make it to the finals, we came out of NVC with a much better understanding of how to effectively present a medical device company to investors who may not be as knowledgeable about the space. I would like to leave you with a list of general tips for any future garage teams that make the trek out to Portland to compete at NVC…
- The elevator pitch should really be about the “sizzle” of the company. Try to make the business sound as sexy as possible and keep it high-level.
- This is above all else an amazing networking opportunity, make sure to talk to as many people as possible. We were able to connect with a Med Tech VC randomly in the hotel lobby.
- In the 30 minute pitches, you should leave at least 10 minutes for the judges to interrupt and their questions.
- Use as many napkins as possible in the lightning round, just because you can’t use outside props doesn’t mean you can’t show visuals of your product.
- Don’t try to incorporate every single piece of feedback you receive. Everyone has a different viewpoint and ultimately you are the one that has to present the information. We were criticized for some of the changes we made that were a direct result of prior feedback we received.
- Bring as much to the trade show as possible. Posters, printouts, goodie-bags, food, or anything else that will attract people to come talk to you. There was a prize for best trade show booth that was a literal popularity contest.
- Make sure your business plan can be understood by judges and investors that are not in your field.
- Bring business cards! You will be constantly exchanging contact information to set up future networking opportunities.
- There is a decent amount of free time between events over the 3 day period so explore Portland. The coffee really is amazing!
- Have fun!