By Sarah Kuper
According to the online service marketplace Thumbtack, Birmingham is the number one city for millennial entrepreneurs.
The Birmingham Venture Club is working to keep the city supportive of young entrepreneurs by hosting a tournament-style Spark Match pitch competition this year.
On May 26 at the Venture Club’s members meeting, eight applicants will have three minutes each to pitch their business ideas to club members. Members will then vote for those who get to advance to the next round.
After three rounds over the course of the next seven months, one winner will be announced and will receive $10,000 in cash prizes.
Paul Pless, treasurer for the Birmingham Venture Club, said the applicants are eager to win the prizes, but the real victory is exposure.
“The club brings together Birmingham investors and influencers,” Pless said. “Leaders from all industries are in the same room to hear these pitches.”
Pless said the applicants will bring ideas from many sectors, including technology, consumer products, education and health care.
Not unlike the television show “Shark Tank,” the three-minute time limit will force competitors to jump right into the specifics of their ideas in a concise but intriguing presentation.
Unlike the show, it will be the audience that decides who will move forward by casting votes on their smartphones.
“Many pitch competitions have a panel of judges, but this will put the crowd in the decisionmaker’s seat. Everyone is qualified,” Pless said.
The Birmingham Venture Club has hosted “3-minute pitch” events in the past, but this will be the first annual tournament competition.
The goal is to showcase emerging companies and pair them with the Birmingham Venture Club in a fun way.
Pless said he loves the energy he feels from participants.
“One of the most exciting things is hearing from the person who is the creator of the idea,” Pless said. “They are always inspired and passionate. It is personal to them.”
While participants look for their big break by attracting Birmingham investors, Pless said it is a great opportunity for the Birmingham Venture Club.
“If we can play even a small part in helping an early-stage company gain the momentum they need to make it, we will achieve our goal of helping advance entrepreneurship” he said.
According to the club’s mission statement, the Venture Club exists to help members exchange ideas and support best practices of venture capitalism.
The organization works to facilitate access to investment opportunities through events and programs.
In addition to capital investments, the club assists new businesses through business planning and growth management education.
The second round of the competition will be July 28 and Sept. 22. The final matchup will be Dec. 8.
To become a member of the Birmingham Venture Club or to learn more about the Spark Match competition, visit birminghamventure.com.