If you’ve seen ABC’s “Shark Tank,” then you’re probably familiar with the format of a pitching competition. There’s an audience of likely investors, and an entrepreneur pitching a business idea.
A similar competition is currently underway all over the world, and Texas plays a role in it. The competition is called 30 in 30 in 30, the idea being 30 pitching events taking place in 30 different cities in a span of 30 days. It’s put together in part by Google for Entrepreneurs.
The goal is to find innovative products for an aging market.
Jean-Anne Booth and her mother are fiercely independent women. Booth’s mom will soon be 83.
“You know? She lives independently but she just got a little vulnerable,” says the daughter.
Booth is an engineer. And she believes technology can help her mother stay independent and safe at the same time. The two agreed to research existing products that might fit the bill.
“I’d show them to mom and she’d say, ‘Don’t you get that for me – I’m not wearing it!’ And, I really couldn’t blame her because my mother was a model most of her life.”
All her life, Booth’s mother would rather have been caught dead than wear something unfashionable. Unfortunately most medical devices in the market are not pretty.
So Booth – who previously helped create two companies that were sold to Apple and Texas Instruments – thought “I can do this. I can create something functional and good looking that also can help people like my mom.” She came up with a watch.
“You talk to it and it talks to you. So you name your watch – and that gives it the words that say, I need to listen to what you say. So, my mom named her watch Fred Astaire. And so, she can talk to her watch and say: ‘Fred Astaire get help. Fred Astaire call 911.’ And her watch will respond to her depending on what it is she’s asked.”
Inside the watch there’s cellular technology – wifi, GPS and something that monitors whether the wearer makes a sudden move, say if they slip and fall.
So she decided to take her product to Google for Entrepreneurs tomorrow — she’s going to pitch it at the 30 in 30 in 30 event in Austin.
Like Booth, dozens of entrepreneurs have signed up to pitch products for a market of seniors that in the next 35 years is projected to grow to about 84 million people.
That’s a big slice of the American public. But say her watch gets picked by Google to develop. Can winning a competition guarantee a company’s success? Harlan Beverly is with Texas Venture Labs at UT Austin’s McComb School of Business. He says they can be a waste of time
“Well, there are two parts. On one side – are these companies real? Are they gonna take themselves to the next level whether or not there was a competition? Or are they only going to start if they win? And if it’s only that they’ll start if they win, then really you are investing a lot of time in people who will not start a business – time you could spend with people who will start a business.”
Beverly says the best route for people with strong ideas but a weak business model is to approach an incubator. Most large cities in Texas have them, and they sort of hold a young business by the hand until it’s ready to be on its own.
Grace Andruszkiewicz is one of the 30 in 30 in 30 organizers. She says that unlike in other pitching competitions, 30 in 30 in 30 winners are not promised any venture capital.
“This is just a really interesting and crazy way to identify all the new companies that are starting to pop up all around the world and hopefully give them a nice global platform where they can make partnerships and hopefully improve the aging experience and innovate in the industry.”
A handful of winners will get to attend the Age Tech Expo in San Francisco in November. Who knows? Maybe they can drum up some backers there.