Four Startups Rise Above the Rest in Local Pitch Competitions

Over the course of our 1,000 mile, four-city Rise of the Rest Tour last week, we visited with dozens of civic and private sector leaders and met hundreds of entrepreneurs. But one of the highlights of the trip in each city were the pitch competitions we hosted, where we heard from nearly 40 local startups in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville. Ultimately, one startup in each city was selected by the panel of judges to receive a $100,000 investment and the opportunity to visit Revolution’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and meet local investors later this year. The startups that competed were hand selected from thousands of entries, and we were blown away by the quality of the pitches in each city – but there could only be one winner.

So, without further ado, meet our winners:

Detroit: took home the first prize at the M@Dison Building where local entrepreneurs and founders gathered to watch the presentations. uses Facebook to connect people who need high-value goods or services with trustworthy professionals that their friends recommend.  To date, the company has helped more than 200,000 professionals and local businesses collect more than 2.5 million online reviews and referrals.  In 2010, Stik moved their headquarters from San Francisco to Detroit, as featured in a 60 Minutes segment. Judges, including Tige Savage of Revolution Ventures, Mary Grove of Google for Entreprenuers, Jan Garfinkle of Arboretum Ventures and John James of James Group International were on hand to select the final winner.

Pittsburgh: In 2012, a group of mechanical engineers studying at Carnegie Mellon University were told by their professor to “make a product that will benefit students on campus.” The result was SolePower, a company that has the potential to serve as a mobile energy solution for people across the globe. The technology transforms the natural motion from walking into a source of renewable and portable power for devices. The water proof and weather resistant insoles, created by founders Hahna Alexander (pictured) and Matt Stanton, generate enough power from roughly 2.5 to 5 miles of walking to power a full battery charge on a mobile device. With support from Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus as well as AlphaLab, a nationally acclaimed startup accelerator, they were able to launch SolePower and make their concept a reality. In 2013, SolePower launched a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign gaining over 600 backers surpassing their fundraising goal. Joining Steve to determine the winner of the Pittsburgh pitch competition was an all-star lineup of judges including Steelers great Franco Harris, Jay Katarincic of Draper Triangle Ventures, Debra Lam of the City of Pittsburgh, Luke Skurman of Niche, and our very own Clara Sieg from the Revolution Ventures team.

Cincinnati: Local startup Frameri makes interchangeable prescription glasses with a single lens shape that fits multiple boutique frames, a simple idea executed to the highest quality. Frameri’s interchangeable frame and lens system allows customers to express themselves with as many frames as they want, without paying for extra lenses. The e-commerce company, led by Konrad Billetz (pictured) and Kevin Habich recently graduated from the Brandery Accelerator in Cincinnati and last year surpassed their IndieGoGo fundraising campaign target by 200 percent. In addition to Steve, judges in Cincinnati included Mike Venerable of CincyTech, Tim Schigel of ShareThis, Rich Boehne of the E.W. Scripps Company, Wendy Lea of GetSatisfaction, and our very own David Hall of Revolution Ventures.

Nashville: took home the prize on the tour finale. – whose clients include MTV, Sony Music, A&E, Viacom and Constellation Brands – is a data marketing company that provides technology and knowledge to increase the value and revenue capacity of data assets. The company enables their clients to offer incentives for their customers and fans and better engage with their brands. The company has developed campaign for artists such as Taylor Swift, Pink and Trace Adkins. Steve was joined by fellow Nashville judges including Stuart McWhorter of Clayton Associates, Kent Kirby of UBS, Ron Corbin of RBBC Holdings, Mike Shmerling of Choice Food Group Inc., angel investor and philanthropist Jennifer Frist, Vic Gatto of Solidus, and world renown singer and songwriter Mikky Ekko.

Congratulations to each of the winning startups and the countless other deserving companies who pitched throughout the week. You can watch highlights from each pitch competition, Steve’s fireside chat with entrepreneurial luminaries and the rest of each city tour at our website Also read the Tumblr blog covering the full tour. Thanks for following along and stay tuned for updates on the next Rise of the Rest Road Tour.