Pipeline Entrepreneurs kicked off module two this week with a trip to Canada for the fellows to take part in networking with Alberta’s startup ecosystem, a trip to the 2018 Inventure$ conference, and a pitch contest with a twist.
“Every year, Pipeline has four modules,” said Joni Cobb, President and CEO of Pipeline. “One of which is about building our network––exposing our entrepreneurs to networks and markets, and really networking our whole Pipeline family in another region.”
The networking module takes place in other regions. Last year the module was held in Seattle, the previous year the fellows went to Ireland for a special Pipeline tenth anniversary trip.
This year, CEO of Alberta Innovates and long-term Pipeline national advisor Laura Kilcrease invited the fellows to Alberta and Inventure$.
“She invited us to have our module at the same time as the Inventure$ conference because it allows her to feature Pipeline entrepreneurs on a large stage and put them in front of international investors,” said Cobb. “It also exposes the Canadian community to what our entrepreneurs in the Midwest are doing.”
Fellows started arriving in Alberta on Tuesday and went right to work on Wednesday.
Pipeline was featured at one of the conference’s sessions on “Built to Scale,” where Cobb said discussions formed around entrepreneurial models and examples of what it takes to scale entrepreneurial ventures.
While most of the module was spent working and connecting, there were also plenty of opportunities for a little fun, including a Game of Thrones-themed pitch competition titled, “Pitch for the Throne.”
Brian Handrigan, cofounder of Advocado, walked away the winner.
“[It was a] one-minute startup pitch with normal judging criteria, then an added criteria which was your effectiveness at embracing a Game of Thrones theme,” said Handrigan. “I will tell you the Canadians brought it. Every team was dressed as if they were on the [show.]”
Although Handrigan walked away with only bragging rights and a cape, he said that it was a great learning experience.
“A lot of times, people get worried about a ten-minute pitch or a five-minute pitch,” said Handrigan. “To sit down and say, ‘How am I going to tell the entire story that someone can understand and work in the Game of Thrones in one-minute,’ is really a fun challenge. It’s no longer a daunting task, and that’s a testament to how Pipeline provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need.”
After a reportedly late night of karaoke on Wednesday, fellows went back to work on Thursday at Inventure$ with mentor sessions and speakers.
Brad Roth, Network Advisor for Pipeline and Executive Director of NuTech Ventures at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln led mentor sessions with the fellows.
“I had the opportunity to help out with workshops on Business Model Canvas and Value Chain Analysis,” said Roth. “We had about three hours worth of pretty intense interaction around all of that.”
Roth said that uninterrupted time for networking with the Pipeline fellows, other network advisors, staff and instructors in another ecosystem has been valuable.
“We’re getting to see another startup, entrepreneurship ecosystem. A number of folks including Joni have made the point that it’s not that unlike our ecosystem,” said Roth. “There’s a lot of great support from startup companies, government and non-government agencies, investors, energy companies and ag companies.”
Roth said he’s excited to see the potential for the Midwest and Canada to connect.
“It’s pretty interesting, the connections that I’ve been able to make, that have the potential to have an impact on our Nebraska ecosystem,” said Roth. “There are a lot of ag startups that have interest in our Nebraska and Midwest markets. We’re going to see if there’s an opportunity to leverage some of those connections.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.