University of Illinois Startup Teams to Make "Real Pitches on Real Elevators" this Weekend

12/6/2015 Christine Olivo

For the first time, the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) will be attending Saint Louis University’s Real Elevator Pitch Competition this Sunday with two student startup teams: Cast21 and TenseSense. The competition, taking place at One Metropolitan Square, is designed for students to make “real pitches on real elevators.”

In order to enter, teams submitted a 30 second YouTube video of their best elevator pitch. A panel of judges then selected the top 18 teams to move into the Final Round this Sunday, along with the top 2 teams that got the most “likes” on their YouTube submission. Those two teams were deemed as the “People’s Choice Champions.”

Cast21, a startup that creates 21st century casts to increase bone healing speed and prevent muscle atrophy, is composed of three team members: Justin Brooks, senior in electrical engineering, Ashley Moy, senior in Bioengineering and Jason Troutner, senior in mechanical engineering. TenseSense, a startup that has created a biomedical device to measure elevated stress levels in order to raise awareness about mental health on a national scale, consists of four team members: Aneysha Bhat, senior in bioengineering, Margaret Barbero, senior in bioengineering, Ayako Ohoka, senior in bioengineering and Karthik Balakrishnan, senior in chemical engineering and bioengineering. Cast21 and TenseSense, along with the other finalist teams, will need to pitch their startups to over 30 judges on 10 elevator rides this Sunday. All elevator pitches will last around 45 seconds each.

With each judge only carrying four business cards, the goal for each team is to gather as many business cards as they can. The top three finalists with the most business cards will then give one last pitch to judges in the backseat of a Tesla Model S vehicle for one minute.

First place winners will receive $2,500 along with a paid trip to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas in March. Second place winners will receive $1,500, and third place winners will win $1,000.

Although both University of Illinois teams have multiple team members, only one member may pitch the idea to the judges during the competition.

“We picked Aneysha Bhat as our representative because she is an excellent speaker, was the predominant face in our video and believe she will represent TenseSense well,” the TenseSense team said.

Cast21 picked team member, Ashley Moy, as their representative.

“Ashley has the most experience with entrepreneurial affairs. She does not take ‘no’ for an answer,” Troutner said.

“Ashley has inexhaustible supplies of energy. Not only is she intimately familiar with every aspect of our product from a technical standpoint, she is a dynamic speaker whose enthusiasm for our project is infectious,” Brooks added.

Tim Hayden, director for Saint Louis University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, said this is the fourth annual Real Elevator Pitch Competition at the University. It began to celebrate the 25th anniversary for the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Hayden said this is the first year that they have opened up the competition to universities across the nation, having received over 100 submissions from 27 different universities.

With the competition growing bigger, Hayden had a word of advice for this year’s participants.

“Convey a powerful pain - something the judges can truly relate to. And then hit them over the head with the solution,” Hayden said.

Although the competition is approaching quickly, both teams have been preparing in order to be successful for Sunday’s event.

“I’ve always been inspired by Disney’s ability to captivate an audience with storytelling. We spent lots of time discussing the key aspects of our product and what kind of story we wanted to tell,” Moy said. “We’ve been getting great advice from other young entrepreneurs and are rehearsing independently and as a group.”

TenseSense has been taking similar steps in preparation for the Real Elevator Pitch Competition.

“To prepare for the competition, we’ve had meetings with our client, spoke with previous winners from our school, and collaborated with our department,” they said.

Both teams have also expressed that they are ready and excited for the competition.

“We are feeling confident and excited; through multiple rounds of practice and feedback, we feel that we will be able to deliver our content in a brisk and effective manner,” TenseSense members said.

“I’m excited! I love to compete, and my teammates are great travel buddies,” Moy said. “This is a really unique opportunity for us, and I can’t wait to meet the other teams from around the country.”

Likewise, TEC is eager for the competition.

“I am excited to make our first trip to the Real Elevator Pitch competition,” said TEC Marketing Coordinator, Ashley Hipsher. “Both Cast21 and TenseSense have great pitches prepared and I know they will represent the University of Illinois exceptionally well.”

Stephanie Larson, assistant director of student programs and marketing at TEC, is also looking forward to this weekend’s event.

“We are thrilled to have 2 teams in the competition this year and are really looking forward to this experience. This is a great way for our students to get off-campus, expand their network and get feedback on their ideas,” Larson said.