Three minutes: That’s the time aspiring student entrepreneurs will get to pitch their startup ideas during CSUN’s sixth-annual Fast Pitch event on Nov. 19.
The popular elevator-pitch competition, hosted by CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics and generously supported by CSUN alumnus Jeff Marine and his family, will have a virtual format for the first time in 2020.
Ryan Holbrook, director of the Nazarian College’s Entrepreneurship Program said the online platform creates new opportunities.
“We are able to attract audience members and speakers that otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to access because of the physical commute,” Holbrook said. “It’ll give [students] a crash course in thriving in this online environment and getting comfortable speaking and pitching ideas virtually.”
Fast Pitch receives nearly 40 applications each semester, across a multitude of majors. The applications are narrowed down to six to eight finalists who get the chance to present their ideas before a distinguished panel of judges.
CSUN alumni Danny Stein ’87 (Marketing), co-owner and CFO of Cinema Secrets, and Emily Serebryany ’94 (Accounting Theory and Practice), co-founder and president of Mediscan; as well as Rick Friedman, CEO and founder of NovusGC; and Smita Bagla, CEO of Aligned Strategies will help determine this year’s winners.
Competitors will have the chance to win one of four prizes. The grand-prize winner will receive $2,000, second place $1,000, third $500, and the audience choice winner will go home with $500.
Winning the money is rewarding, but Holbrook said the competition is so much more than that.
“There are a ton of benefits beyond the prize money,” said Holbrook. “I always think of the prize money as secondary to the experience in terms of learning about the startup process, receiving critical early-stage feedback, and getting more comfortable talking about new business ideas.”
According to Holbrook, this year’s pitches are expected to be a diverse mix of ideas and there is no limit to what we could see.
For the students, presenting their ideas can be a nerve-racking experience. Some tips Holbrook offered students for competition prep included: practicing their pitch in front of friends and family, anticipating questions that might be asked, and conducting market research for their business.
“Don’t feel like you’re not ready,” said Holbrook. “Just go into it with an open mind, expecting to learn and be open to the feedback, open to the experience, open to knowing that you don’t have all the answers. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very low-risk environment to pursue your idea. You have nothing to lose [and] everything to learn.”
Any student interested in participating this year can register until Nov. 1.