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Annual Pitch Fiesta draws a crowd


Participants at this year\’s annual New Mexico Pitch Fiesta listen to one aspiring entrepreneur pitch his idea for a new app for cyclist aficionados at the Standard Diner Downtown Thursday night. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Equiseq, a new Albuquerque startup marketing genetic horse tests for breeders, won first place at this year’s New Mexico Pitch Fiesta at the Standard Diner Downtown Thursday night.

The Pitch Fiesta, an annual competition that began in 2013, drew a crowd of nearly 75 startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, who listened to ll aspiring entrepreneurs present their business ideas in two-minute “elevator pitches.” A panel of four serial entrepreneurs judged the presentations, awarding a first-place cash prize of $400 to Equiseq, a graduate of this year’s ABQid startup accelerator program.

A team of four software developers who created a new “Punctuality App” to help people juggle busy schedules took a second-place $200 prize. The team recently graduated from Central Community College of New Mexico’s Deep Dive Coding program at the CNM STEMulus Center Downtown.

Buckle Down Systems LLC, which is marketing a new device to easily and inexpensively fix buckled sidewalks , won a third-place prize of $100. And the judges chose U-Trade  — a new app to facilitate sales of used dorm equipment for students departing from campus — to receive $500 in in-kind legal services from Lerner Venture Law in Albuquerque.

U-Trade, which was developed by two University of New Mexico students, also won the $50 “people’s choice” award, based on the loudest applause from the crowd.

The event was co-organized and sponsored by the STEMulus Center, the FatPipe ABQ incubator, the New Mexico Technology Council and Standard Diner.

“It’s a way for people to make connections and build relations,” said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus initiatives. “And it’s a way for budding entrepreneurs to work under a deadline that forces them to hone their pitches down to just two minutes. It helps them validate their product or service in front of people.”

Such pitch competitions have become common place in Albuquerque and other cities with burgeoning startup movements.

“You need as many pitch competitions as possible to help aspiring entrepreneurs get the butterflies out and tell their story,” Mierzwa said. “We have so many amazing ideas and people here willing to put themselves out there like these participants, so the least we can do is provide some venues for them to do that.”

The event provides a non-judgmental environment for startups to build experience, said FatPipe ABQ Director Lisa Adkins.

“It provides a supportive community for people to come together to drink, eat and pitch startup ideas,” Adkins said. “The cash prizes are not enough to start a company, but at least enough to buy your team some beers.”

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