Startups battle in pitch competition at VERGE Accelerate

Startups battle in pitch competition at VERGE Accelerate

Nine young companies building disruptive products in digital transportation, smart energy systems and collaborative consumption were put to the test as part of this week's VERGE Accelerate’s pitch competition. The CEOs went head-to-head in a crowd-sourced pitch battle, where only one could walk away the winner.

The competition was fast and furious, with pitches required to follow strict parameters: Three minutes to answer three questions:

  • Why does your company exist?
  • What market opportunity are you tackling?
  • How does your product disrupt this market?

A shorter pitch might seem easier, but distilling your company’s message into a tight story and delivering it with energy and speed can be much tougher than a 20-minute walk-through of a PowerPoint deck in an investor’s boardroom.

Using only a short visual slide deck, these CEOs had to sell their technology and approach as the most groundbreaking and capable of changing the world. But rather than win over a few investors or expert judges, they had to win the hearts of the InterContinental Ballroom audience.

Each of the startups that battled had one thing in common: they are "digital cleantech" companies. At Greenstart, we describe digital cleantech as a product or service that “uses software to either reduce dirty energy or expand clean energy.” This wide intersection where information technology meets clean technology has created abundant opportunities to change how buildings, transportation, the grid, and everyday consumer products work and use energy.

Meet the competition … and the winner.

Let's breakdown the competition of the startups pitted in the battle:

GELI is a software company for large-scale batteries that can turn any energy-storage system into a smart, networked system capable of communicating with the grid. These communications and controls allow batteries to become “intelligent,” choosing when to store energy, when to sell that energy to the utilities, etc. This has huge implications for bringing renewables onto the grid, allowing intermittent sources like wind and solar to be intelligently stored and distributed when we need them.

Mosaic is building an online platform to enable everyday people to invest in clean energy – and get a financial return. They could unleash more capital into solar markets than any other financial institution – a juicy and exciting goal. The beauty of their model its ability to help entire communities come together to fund solar energy projects, and reap the financial benefits of those investments.

RidePal, or “the Google bus for the rest of us”, is a shared commute-bus service that takes employees to work and back home in comfortable, wifi-enabled shuttles. Their service does 3 things: gives companies the ability to recruit top talent, makes employees happy, and takes single-occupancy vehicles off the road during commute times. RidePal is a digital cleantech that doesn’t need to sell its “green” value for customers to rave about it.

Kiwi is the maker of JuiceBox, the most valuable way for homeowners to go solar. JuiceBox is a complete solar system ordered online and delivered to the home, and installed by a local contractor. The big difference between a JuiceBox vs. a leased system is the lifetime value provided to the homeowner: $80,000 in lifetime value generated by the JuiceBox, vs. $12,000 on a leased system.

Genability empowers consumers and producers to choose cleaner, cheaper power. Their suite of powerful web tools and APIs allow users to calculate costs, manipulate usage data and integrate pricing of electricity at any location. In short, they provide the precise answer to the question, “How much will my energy cost?”

Social Bicycles has built a GPS-enabled bike that you can find and unlock using your mobile phone. These bikes will be used to create an affordable and scalable bike share system that makes cycling more accessible and interactive. Social Bicycles cost 75% less to implement than traditional bike-sharing programs.

Liquid is an online marketplace enabling peer-to-peer bicycle rentals. The service allows anyone to rent a bike from a neighbor or stranger, and helps bike owners make revenue off their existing asset — an unused bicycle. Better utilizing idle goods is a key value created by this type of “collaborative consumption” company. Liquid’s marketplace for rentals may soon expand beyond bikes.

WegoWise is the simplest, most powerful way to understand the performance of your portfolio of properties. Their software performs advanced analysis on a building’s physical characteristics and utility data to provide you with the answers you need.

Scoot Networks is “Zipcar for electric scooters” – a digital transportation startup offering a fleet of $5-an-hour electric scooter rentals you can unlock with your smartphone. Their software helps you find your scooter, determine its battery charge, even turn your phone into the dashboard while you’re riding. The scooters get 850 mpg equivalent and use 18 cents of electricity to charge, making them the cleanest, cheapest motorized transportation option available.

After the pitches ended, it was time for the CEOs to come back on stage for the much-anticipated “clap-o-meter” judging. One by one the strength of cheers indicated the success of the pitches until a winner was determined.

And the winner is…Scoot Networks. Michael Keating, CEO of Scoot, was the clear audience choice and walked away with the prize. Their sexy red electric scooters have captivated nearly everyone who encounters them, including Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco.

Our sincere thanks and congratulations goes out to each and every startup who participated in the thrilling showdown. You’re all changing the world in inspiring ways – keep up the great work!