Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Start-ups aim to run like Stark
And when you have just three minutes to pitch your idea, you have no time to crawl.
The founders of six New Hampshire start-ups took turns making their cases Tuesday as they vied for a prize package valued at more than $55,000.
And some wobbled and spun like Stark trying to get the kinks out of his new Iron Man suit.
"This ecosystem will be built by people putting themselves out there," abi CEO Jamie Coughlin told the group before they made their pitches. A couple of the evening's contestants made sure to invoke his fledgling catch-phrase for New Hampshire's small-business community: "Live free or start."
Before a crowd of about 75 people, the founders of Dreamy Paws, Regaalo, TechLok, New England Culinary Center, Ustablize and TestSoup made their public debut in a friendly environment. Call it "Shark Tank" without the sharks. That part will come on June 10 when the two finalists selected from the six will duke it out for the top prize before a judging panel at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
For Melissa Tagliamonte of Dreamy Paws, that meant creating a portable pet bed with a storage area that functions like a piece of luggage. Inside, there's room for leashes, pet bowls and chew toys. The Salem resident said she saw no such product when she researched pet beds online and in pet stores. "None of them had a storage component so I thought it was an opportunity to take advantage of this booming pet market," she said before presenting an example of the product available at dreamypaws.com, which features interchangeable pet bed covers.
Tom Puskarich, who closed Z Food & Drink restaurant on Elm Street last year after a five-year run and closed its catering operation six months ago, wants to create a business incubator for culinary entrepreneurs. The New England Culinary Center would help them prepare for the rigors of an industry that has high start-up costs and a myriad of regulations. "Passion isn't always good enough. ... A lot of food entrepreneurs lack a certain business acumen," Puskarich said. "A good chef can open a good restaurant, but if he can't balance his checkbook, he won't be in business very long."
Michael Muldoon, who co-founded Ustabilize with his wife, Monica Muldoon, said his company had a "game-changing product to increase your fitness and improve the way you move by turning your smartphone into a fitness game." The Hampton couple developed a gaming platform and a series of app-enabled devices that allow users to improve their stability through a series of movement challenges. The physical therapist made note of the high percentage of Granite State residents who are overweight or obese. He referred to the company's product as "Wii Fit on steroids."
Alex Hollis asked the audience to think back to the last time they took a standardized test: "You probably walked into that testing center with a feeling in your gut like you just ate a bunch of lead pellets. ... You probably felt underprepared and overwhelmed." Hollis of Manchester and Tom "TK" Kuegler of Litchfield founded TestSoup (www.testsoup.com) to provide online and mobile test-prep solutions for such exams as Wonderlic, a cognitive ability test used by employers. "A million people have to take that test every year in a corporate setting in order to get that new job or to get that raise," Hollis said.