By Paul Schott
Connecticut Post, Bridgeport
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Through the nationwide “UberPitch” program, female entrepreneurs in Connecticut had the chance to pitch their businesses to investors. However this pitch competition requires a little more flexibilty. All of the entrepreneurs have to make the case for their companies inside a moving Uber vehicle.
The entrepreneurs who gathered Wednesday in Stamford to pitch their businesses to potential investors were not looking to take over a room; they had to command the backseat.
The mobile meetings make up a key part of Fueling the Growth with UberPitch, a new nationwide pitch competition for technology-focused and women-led companies organized by Westport-based business accelerator The Refinery, with support from Uber and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Together, the three organizations have created a purse of $120,000 in grants.
The competition aims to tackle a persistent lack of access to funding for women entrepreneurs. Women-led startups received less than 3 percent of venture capital from 2011 to 2013, according to The Refinery co-founder Janis Collins.
“Women are not getting access to venture capital,” said Jennifer Gabler, The Refinery’s other co-founder. “And the reason they’re not doing that is because they don’t have the connections to get in the door to meet with venture investors. The whole point here was to put a woman entrepreneur in real time, face to face, with an investor and make those connections happen very immediately, right there, in that car.”
Some of the entrepreneurs said they were initially skeptical about the premise of pitching their businesses in an Uber vehicle, but that they realized its value after participating.
“The investor is totally focused on you,” said Ashwini Anburajan, founder and CEO of OpenUp, a New York City startup that recruits customers to share data with brands in exchange for rewards and incentives. “She is not looking at her email at the same time, not looking at what else is going on, which is what often can happen in a meeting. I think that focused attention was a positive thing.”