PitchBlack, startup competition for Black entrepreneurs, returns in new venue

When PitchBlack, the “Shark Tank” style competition where Black entrepreneurs pitch their businesses and compete for cash prizes, returns next week, it will be at its biggest venue yet.

About 70 people attended the 2015 inaugural pitch competition, held at the Village Ballroom in Northeast Portland. Seven entrepreneurs competed for a prize pool of $900 that was divided among the top three competitors.

This year, eleven Black-led companies will deliver a five-minute pitch of their ideas to a sold-out crowd of more than 500 at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton. The top three contestants will split a prize pool of up to $60,000, and organizer Stephen Green says that figure will continue to rise as the Feb. 7 competition approaches.

The contest has grown in popularity each year, drawing more participants, sponsors and attendees, with tickets selling out every time, said Green, who is also board chair of PitchBlack’s main sponsor, Built Oregon.

“It has been pretty amazing. The most important thing is that people in the Pacific Northwest startup ecosystem have gotten more aware of the amazing Black entrepreneurs and companies being built here,” Green said.

The event serves as a platform to connect Black entrepreneurs with the region’s startup ecosystem while also awarding cash prizes that they can put toward their businesses. Today, it is the biggest event of its kind on the West Coast.

Its success has also led Green to bring versions of PitchBlack to other cities, including Seattle, Austin and Philadelphia. Green’s work also inspired a similar annual event called Pitch Latinx.

Since its inception seven years ago, PitchBlack has been held every year — except in 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic — in Portland. But this year, the event heads to Beaverton.

The money comes from fundraising, sponsors and tickets sold for $29 apiece, but Green said he hopes to attract more sponsors until the event date to increase the prize pot. Some of this year’s major sponsors so far include Nike, Oregon Community Foundation, the city of Beaverton, Autodesk and the Port of Portland, he said.

Green said the goal of PitchBlack is to introduce people to new businesses or ideas they might not know about so they could back them financially. He said the event also serves as a way to increase the visibility, equality and awareness of Black entrepreneurs.

“This year we have pitches from a wide range of businesses. We’ve got a nonprofit pitching ideas, some people who are selling new product ideas, and some people have new ideas to provide a service,” Green said. “The point is to expose people to a really broad range of black businesses that are currently doing things here in the area.”

To date, 100 Black-led company founders have pitched their ideas through PitchBlack, and 1,000 people have attended across all the cities. The event has generated $100,000 that has been invested into winning ideas.

“In Portland alone, the companies that have pitched since the event started have gone on to raise over $45 million for their ideas,” Green said. “So it’s pretty pretty cool to see the people move forward with their ideas.”

The number of Black-owned businesses grew from 2017 to 2019 by 8% in all sectors of the U.S. economy, according to Census data released last year. One of the event’s first winners from 2015, Tyrone Poole of OneApp, an online property registry designed to streamline the rental application process, went on to win national and global pitch contests since PitchBlack.

Poole said although the prize money in PitchBlack’s very first event was only about $300, participating and winning the event helped raise the profile of the company now known as OneApp.

“PitchBlack got my name and my story out there,” Poole said. “It added value and credibility to my idea when it was in its early steps, and I went on to compete in other pitch competitions and win at them. That’s how I was able to raise money for my company when I couldn’t get any Oregon funding firms to invest.”

Poole said the Black community needs more platforms like PitchBlack that connect equity-focused investors with minority-owned businesses that they would otherwise not know about.

“It’s events like PitchBlack that help normalize Black entrepreneurship and ownership of all types of businesses,” Poole said.

Last year’s top winner was Adre, a sustainability and BIPOC-focused real estate development company founded and led by Anyeley Hallová. Adre won $40,000 from the competition plus another $10,000 from a donation from lntel’s RISE Technology Initiative.

“At the time, my company was just a year old, so I was just getting started and doing everything myself,” Hallová said. “The money from PitchBlack was greatly helpful since it allowed me to hire an employee and pursue more projects.”

Green said that this year’s change in venue reflects a larger focus on Black-led businesses on the Portland metro area’s west side.

The organizations pitching at this year’s event include:

  • Albina Vision Trust, a nonprofit aimed at stewarding a plan for future redevelopment of lower Albina, Portland’s once-thriving Black neighborhood.
  • Heart & Hustle Productions, a film and photography branding agency.
  • Fridie Outdoors, a company dedicated to empowering people with the skills and knowledge to camp outdoors.
  • Creative Homies, a creative services center in Old Town Portland with a makerspace, event space and music bar.
  • Black Earth United, an outdoor clothing company focusing on eliminating barriers to the outdoors through design.
  • CardCraft, a greeting card company.
  • The Corporate Strategist, a diversity-, equity- and inclusion-based consulting firm.
  • Epilogue Kitchen, a Salem-based restaurant decorated with handmade and printed signs supporting racial justice movements.
  • Kapwa Consulting, an advising and leadership coaching firm for other businesses that focuses on racial equity, environmental sustainability and community.
  • Metalete, a recruiting firm designed to provide an innovative and immersive experience for both prospective athletes and universities.
  • Black in Beaverton, a clothing and apparel company

–Kristine de Leon,

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button