On Wednesday, August 28, The Garage was packed with more than 150 staff, faculty, mentors, community members, and guests for our annual Demo Day – the culmination of the Wildfire Pre-Accelerator Program and for us, one of the most exciting days of the year.
The Wildfire program is without doubt, a full time job for participating students. For the last 10 weeks, while most of the campus is quiet and many Northwestern students have taken internships around the country or traveling abroad, 9 dedicated teams of entrepreneurs convened every day at The Garage to hustle and grow their ventures. The program kicked off with a field trip to Groupon and Tempus, and between weekly pitch practices, an improv workshop and a trip down to Wrigley for a Cubs game (we know how to work hard and play hard), our group of students bonded and thrived for 10 weeks together.
It all leads to Demo Day, where we give away $10,000 in non-dilutive prize money disbursed among first, second, and third places – plus a live audience vote! And while Demo Day is a ton of fun, it’s one of the biggest days of the summer for the students pitching. Early in the day, we welcomed six esteemed judges with varied backgrounds – from experienced founders and entrepreneurs to alumni of Northwestern and The Garage.
They listened to nine pitches in the morning behind closed doors, allowing ample time for Q&A and for students to get valuable feedback. This year, our judges included Scott Kitun (SoC ’12, Medill ’13), CEO of Technori and host of the Startup Showcase on WGN; Eric Ong (Weinberg ’14), Vice President of Lightbank; Blair Pircon (Kellogg ’16), CEO and co-founder of The Graide Network (a startup incubated at The Garage); Jason Rowley, a Chicago based tech and venture capital reporter; Scott Schonfeld, associate at Fox Swibel focusing on mergers and acquisitions; and Adrienne Weissman, angel investor and executive advisor at G2 Crowd. Judges then deliberated privately to choose first, second, and third place. But this year, something new happened. Judges were so impressed by our cohort of students, they opted to give away an additional $1,000 check to a fourth place!
In total, we had nine teams pitch at Demo Day.
alula: alula is a smart lamp that helps you reclaim your time in the mornings by waking you up with a sunrise.
CatsWork: CatsWork: We turn college students into networking experts.
City Health Tech: Improving community health through education, engineering, and design.
CurtoTech: CurtoTech makes endoscopic procedures safer and more efficient.
eo: eo is a student-centered dockless bikeshare for universities focused on maximizing bike ridership, engaging our community, and creating sustainable life habits.
Jampack: Jampack helps people fall in love with music all over again by curating music on an individual level.
Powder Blue Media: Powder Blue Media is a multimedia publication dedicated to giving a voice to Generation Z and initiating real conversations in an increasingly divided and hostile media landscape.
Ribbon: Ribbon helps managers show their appreciation to their teams by providing curated recognition recommendations that are specifically tailored to each individual employee.
Tilt: Tilt is a technology platform helping under-resourced students navigate and succeed in the college admissions process.
After the back to back pitches wrapped, we let the audience vote for their favorite and handed out FIVE big checks! Here’s what happened:
Taking fourth place, and a check for $1,000 was CurtoTech, led by Denise Reynish, Pritzker ’21. One of the judges said, “The market opportunity for this team is compelling. I’m excited to see this technology brought to market.”
Taking third place and a check for $2,000 was Jampack, led by Nissim Senfeld, McCormick ’21. One judge said, “I’m thinking to myself, I know exactly who needs this right now.”
In second, with a check for $3,000 was City Health Tech, led by Ibraheem Alinur, McCormick ’19. According to the judges, “This is a super meaningful problem space backed by strong research.”
Finally, taking first place and a check for $4,000 was Powder Blue Media, led by Nathan Graber-Lipperman, Medill ’21. What did the judges say about the winning startup? “There’s an authentic commitment to high quality content and engagement. This needs to exist!”
Next, we handed out the check for $1,000 to the audience favorite: City Health Tech! That means in total, we gave away a record $11,000 in prize money to four teams!
Congratulations to ALL the teams that pitched at Demo Day. We can’t wait to see what’s next for you! To stay in touch with everything at The Garage and keep up with events like Demo Day, sign up for our monthly newsletter here!