BENNINGTON >> For the second year, the "business bikers" of the FreshTracks Road Pitch program visited Bennington, and awarded $500 to one entrepreneur.
Some 46 venture capitalists rode up to the Bennington Museum on motorcycles on Tuesday to hear five business pitches from local entrepreneurs, from Bennington, Saratoga, Pownal, Williamstown, and North Adams. The event was followed by a social luncheon, where potential investors had further opportunities to speak with the entrepreneurs.
The winner, as voted by the investors, was Mark Morrison, who represented Windrush, an application that seeks to "tell meaningful stories through data." He received a check for $500, and will have the opportunity to compete against other entrepreneurs from across the state in a "pitch-off" at Champlain College on Oct. 18. The winner of that competition will receive $4,000.
"Data is everywhere," he said, but presenting that data in a way that is engaging for customers can be prohibitively expensive. For example, he said, one third of the documents published by the World Bank are never downloaded — not even once.
"Windrush's user interface makes data visualization easy and fun to create," reads the product description on the company's website, windrush.io, "Our application is the fastest and most intuitive way to build engaging data-driven content. With our drag-and-drop interface you are able to create custom documents from quarterly reports to content marketing with ease; no designer or developer needed. This empowers users to create beautifully branded and interactive content in an afternoon without writing a single line of code."
The other entrepreneurs who delivered pitches were Janette Kessler, of RealApp, a new spin on social networking apps that would allow users to make new friends by finding people with similar interests in their area; Mia Gancayco of FoodLove, a startup that seeks to connect local farmers to wholesale buyers in an easier, more efficient way; Scott Trafton of Pool Shark H2O, a log book and pool management system for commercial swimming pools, many of which are still using pen and paper to keep required records of their water treatments; and Ryan Maturski of RynoAds, a new cross-platform app that seeks to connect local buyers and sellers, but with a more visually appealing user interface and in a more user-friendly manner than current options, such as Craigslist.
"This is a great event, and each year we get stronger and stronger," said local organizer Brian McKenna, who advocated for more business and economic development collaboration across the wider region, including nearby New York and Massachusetts. "As long as we look just at Vermont, and draw a line at the border," he said, "it's going to be impossible to move forward and to compete."
The Road Pitch was founded in 2014 by Cairn Cross, co-founder and managing director of FreshTracks Capital. That year, the event came as close as Manchester. In 2015, it stopped at Bennington College.
Lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott rode with the bikers for part of the trip, and was present in Bennington to hear some of the pitches. "I've been taking part in the Road Pitch since it first started," said Scott, "and every year I am impressed with the amount of creativity we have here in Vermont. At today's pitch, I learned we have people trying to connect farmers with local partners online, develop tech-savvy solutions to keep pools clean, and build an app which could compete with Craigslist, just to name a few. Thanks to Cairn, these entrepreneurial Vermonters have a traveling team who can come to them and offer them guidance. This is what happens when anyone — be it a local investor or the Legislature — acts as a partner to businesses rather than a burden, and offers help rather than hampers growth. It's neighbor helping neighbor, which is truly the Vermont way."
The trip, which runs Aug. 1 through Aug. 5, is sponsored by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Champlain College, and more. The local event was sponsored by D.B. McKenna & Co., Inc., The Bank of Bennington, The Bennington Museum, The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, Bennington Young Professionals, and The Lightning Jar.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.