Pitching to Win

Teams competing in InnoVention, the prototyping contest that challenges participants to validate, prototype, and pitch commercially viable tech solutions to pressing global problems, could end up with cash prizes that will help them take their products and services to market. There, are, however, other non-monetary rewards to be had.

As they progress through the stages of the competition, team members have access to a range of mentors and workshops on a variety of topics — including the art of the pitch.

On March 30, Joaquin Roca, the founder & CEO of Scaffold, a management and team-building platform, moderated a session aimed at helping teams hone their five-minute pitches in preparation for the InnoVention semi-finals. With the help of InnoVention organizers Tim Nugmanov and Nannan Yao, all participants got advice and guidance tailor-made for them.

Jesal Trivedi, a master’s student in NYU’s ITP program, is one of the creators of Aduri, whose goal is to make meditation far easier to learn and practice in any environment with a multi-sensory physical pod. (As the user chants, the platform gently vibrates along with their voice, enhancing the meditative experience. Augmented by scents, sounds, and lights, the pod also helps track vital health data such as heart and pulse rates.) As perhaps any innovator with admittedly ambitious goals, Trivedi’s market numbers and user story struck organizers as somewhat too aspirational. “I learned in the workshop that I have to work on the market numbers that I present, and not make them so lofty,” he said. “I also discovered that my user story was more appropriate for a business-to-consumer pitch rather than the B2B pitch I want to present to possible investors.”

The developers of Accumulab, a software solution that allows researchers to share and replicate results, also found the workshop useful. “We learned that we had to simplify our pitch for a non-technical audience, but that we still had to be very concise,” Shadab Hassan, a Tandon student earning a degree in biomedical engineering, explained. Accumulab, whose other principals include Tandon students Syed Aman, Mohammed Yaseen, and Zishan Iqbal, as well as Stern’s Matt Swulinski, has utility for individual researchers, but at the workshop the team was instructed to hone in on their platform’s possible purchaser: universities and other large institutions where collaborative research is being conducted. “We now know we need to take a more macro view,” he said, “and that we should be thinking of the pitch as a dialogue, not a monologue.”

Because they have created a medical solution, Tandon alum Gohar Uppal and current student Abdullah Sayed were advised to take a more personal approach when pitching. Their product, the Medadermal Patch, a bandage-like device that delivers pain medication quickly and efficiently into the bloodstream, could one day be found on drugstore shelves, and its utility is seemingly universal. “Everyone at some point feels pain, including the people we are pitching to,” they say. “It is clear that there is a need for a product like this and for anyone to understand that it can directly impact lives.”

The creators of LIADS, a lightweight, intelligent anti-drone system that can detect, identify, track, and neutralize malicious drones in war zones, airports, or any other sensitive locations they may be deployed, are looking forward to the semi-finals, when they will demonstrate a rough prototype. “We want the focus to be on the product and the solution it represents, rather than over-explaining the problem,” SPS student Stanford Sequeira, says. He and his teammates, CAS student Brandon Johnson and alum Joshua Denholtz, who are being advised by Tandon Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Kurt Becker and Professor of Electrical Engineering Unnikrishna Pillai, are using what they learned during the workshop to smooth and refine their presentation. “One of the most useful elements of the evening was the chance to listen to the critiques of all the other teams,” Sequeira asserts. “It was invaluable because much of it could be applied to our own project, even if it wasn’t directly targeted at us. The whole workshop was a great learning experience.” 

InnoVention Finalists

Thanks in large part to the coaching they’ve received as participants in InnoVention, the teams all performed admirably at the semi-final round on April 5. Only six, however, could be chosen as finalists. Moving on to the next stage of the competition are:

  • Aduri - a multisensory meditation micro-environment that immerses users into a deep meditative state quickly and easily
  • INVIP - an affordable and easy-to-learn mobile tool that allows visually impaired people to interpret and explore the visual world and safely move around the city by understanding their immediate surroundings
  • Levitas - a wearable activity monitor that detects a patient’s intent to stand, and alerts nurses reliably while deterring patient movement, thus lessening the chance of a costly and painful fall
  • The Multicorder - an affordable educational tool that aims to bring hands-on science labs to students who might not otherwise have access to them
  • State Space Labs - a platform that brings cutting-edge neuroscience to bear on the field of e-sports
  • Waho - a wearable device for gamers, coders, and others that uses real-time neural commands to avoid conditions caused by repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel and tendinitis (At the semi-finals, the developers explained that their first prototype had been created using a baseball hat from the popular restaurant chain Waffle House, commonly called Waho by its fans.)
Learn more about: Kurt H. Becker, Unnikrishna Pillai