Thursday night was what I think will be the first of many PitchCrawls in downtown San Jose. Created by the energetic Tracy Lee of Dishcrawl fame, the event brought together investors and startups in a crawl through some of downtown’s innovation centers, with a break at each for startups to pitch their ideas in 3 minute sessions to investors who offer everything from funds to technology for the companies they invest in. We heard ideas for everything from affordable tech support and iphone apps to the next hot sports drink company founded by a scientist and a well known athlete and an outsourced HR company. Ideas were flowing and so was the banter as we moved from place to place.
This is a refreshing change from the usual pitch events, that’s for sure. Instead of gathering in a room to hear elevator pitch after pitch and then the frantic rush to speak to “the” investor, startups and investors had a chance to mingle and talk more casually, eat some great food and tour some of San Jose’s downtown innovation centers at the same time. Everyone I asked was delighted with the format, even in the chilly winter weather as we worked our way from venue to venue.
The first stop was at the San Jose Tech Shop. I’ve been wanting to venture in here for months. They soft-opened in July and the place is amazing. If you’re wanting to do anything requiring very cool and expensive toys, this is your place. They offer classes to expand your knowledge for using everything from CAD programs and 3-D modeling to a sophisticated machine shop, industrial sewing equipment, a powder coating booth and a huge water cutting table that can slice through marble or steel like a hot knife through butter. Very impressive. We noshed on tacos from Juanita’s and had a tour of the facilities, then stopped for round 1 of the pitches.
Stop 2 was at the home of DishCrawl and several other burgeoning startups housed in Next Space, a co-working space on 2nd St. While we sampled the amazing concoctions provided by Raw Daddy (find him at the Sunday Campbell and Palo Alto farmer’s markets) we met more founders and toured the space with manager Gretchen Baisa. If you’re looking for a drop-in space to work or a friendly office environment that’s not in your garage, you should be checking this space out right in the heart of downtown San Jose.
The 3rd stop was–in classic DishCrawl style–a food truck. This time from House of Siam for some yummy roti wrapped around satay pork with peanut sauce. It was a quick stop but gave us more energy for the busy networking scene going on at our last stop, the Irish Innovation Center. The Innovation Center had a full-on networking event going on already in the Silicon Valley Holiday Mixer, complete with a mini trade show and music, and the place was packed. Add a pile of Pichcrawlers and you’ve got a fantastic networking opportunity. The center partners with the Kauffman Foundation, Microsoft Bizspark, IDA Ireland. and Price Waterhouse Coopers to name a few, and offers members office space, mentoring, education and the opportunity to connect with potential funders.
All in all, the event was a huge success and I heard quite a few meetings being scheduled. What a unique and fun way to get in front of some interesting investors with your startup or find the next startup before anyone else! The next PitchCrawl is to be held in San Francisco on January 10. At last check there were just a few tickets left, but I expect they will be back in Silicon Valley soon. Big congrats to the DishCrawl team for another well executed concept!