Area startup companies offering legal services, organic waste recycling, educational robotics and organ regeneration are the four finalists in an innovative business pitch competition that concludes with a fan vote during the Sacramento Kings game on April 5.
The four “Capitalize” finalists: Quicklegal, California Safe Soil, Barobo, ViVita Technologies emerged after several rounds of competitive pitching Tuesday. The team believes the competition is the first of its kind organized by a pro sports franchise.
Fan voting during the April 5 game will decide the winner. The halftime pitch before more than 12,000 fans at Sleep Train Arena is part of the team’s “Tech Night.”
While the winner will receive $5,000, organizers said the real prize is the mentoring and exposure that come with it.
“The exposure is the real prize here,” said Chris Granger, the team’s president and chief operating officer.
That exposure was already underway Tuesday as the 32 semifinalists pitched their way through a series of heats in hopes of making it to the final round of judges, which included Jack Crawford, general partner of Velocity Venture Capital.
Regardless of the result of “Capitalize,” Derek Bluford and his company Quicklegal will soon be getting national exposure on the ABC television show “Shark Tank.” The date of his appearance has not been released.
Quicklegal is operating in California, but Bluford hopes to take it national soon.
Tuesday opened with remarks from Kings Chairman owner Vivek Ranadive and Crawford, who urged the tech entrepreneurs in the room to lead the region’s transition for a government-led economy to one with a thriving technology sector. Crawford pointed to a strengthening technology triangle formed by San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento.
Tech tycoon Ranadive said the timing and locations of these new businesses couldn’t be better.
“There has never been a better time to start a company,” said Ranadive, the founder and former CEO of TIBCO. “There is no better place to be starting a company than Sacramento.”
He called Silicon Valley “congested” and predicted that “over the next decade Sacramento will become a hub of innovation.”
Granger said interest in the program was high. Submitting companies were limited to within 75 miles of Sacramento.
“I would be shocked if this didn’t become an annual thing,” Granger said. “To be able to shine a light on the best new ideas from our region is very exciting.”
Those making the pitches included seasoned entrepreneurs like the team behind HomeZada, a homeowner management tool and a high school-aged CEO and his sister who run NannyMe, an Uber for hiring nanny services.
“I’m just excited. I enjoy this type of thing. I really believe our company can do what we say it can do and be a success,” said Jake Randle, 17, a senior at Jesuit, who runs the company with his sister Annie Randle, 19, a freshman at Vanderbilt.