At the beginning, talked into it by friends and mentors, Jarrett went to the first interview in jeans and was surrounded by entrepreneurs with suits and briefcases.
“I’ve never owned a briefcase in my life,” he said.
But by the end of it, after he was accepted and went through the year-long program, Jarrett was all in—and all nerves.
During the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Lincoln to Kansas City for the Innovator of the Year finale, Jarrett repeated his pitch over and over, and over.
He snapped back into the days he played football, competitiveness taking over.
“It was probably more than a 100 times,” he said. “Before we left, I even pitched to my dogs (photos of the judges) and I if I lost their attention, I knew I would lose the judges’ attention.”
The practice paid off. Jarrett won the January 23 competition.
One week after the big win in KC, he sits in a Lincoln coffeeshop one week to recap his experience.
Or at least try.
It’s still surreal, he said.
“I’ve won state championships and bowl games and thought this might just be another thing like that,” said the former Iowa State defensive lineman. “But it feels different.
“I look at it like it’s validation to investors, but more importantly our team. People have sacrificed a lot—left jobs, left other opportunities. If I was sitting there looking at that business plan and it passed Pipeline, then I’d gain confidence in those people.”
Pipeline, based out of Kansas City, takes the Midwest’s most successful, high-performance entrepreneurs and puts them in a year-long mix of mentorships, workshops and other programs.
“Our members work as one to face business challenges, funnel opportunities to their peers and build market-leading technology and life-sciences business together,” the website states.
The participants go through several “modules,” including target markets, business model, financials, negotiating and pitching.
But a lot of special stuff happens outside the modules, Jarrett said.
“You’re hammering out homework, stuck in the room with these people for hours,” he said. “People see you at the best and the worst.
“As an entrepreneur, I feel like you’re always on. No one wants to hear about the failures. But this tight group of people—we were open and vulnerable.”
He said any of the other entrepreneuers could’ve won.
“They’re all just that good,” he said. “Everyone had cool models, angles, technology.”
Jarrett co-founded Bulu Box in December 2011, and his team has been in the news throughout the year, whether its for surpassing 30,000 customers and $100,000 in monthly revenue in October, being named to Inc.‘s list of startups to watch, or selling out a 3,000-runner half marathon in a day.
So what does being Innovator of the Year mean for Jarrett’s future?
He’s certain he’ll remain a part of the fraternity.
“Considering they’re texting me right now,” Jarrett says as he glances down at his iPhone, “yeah, I think we’ll be a part of this for a long time.”
One of his classmate’s little brothers is interning for Bulu Box right now.
Jarrett said he keeps his Pipeline family top of mind and said he’d recommend any of them to an investor.
“Frankly, there’s an element of trust among us,” he said.
Credit: Photo from Pipeline website.