An Irvine-based tech startup scored two awards — and scooped up $60,000 of the total $75,000 in award money — at one of San Diego’s most popular events for local startups.
The event, called the John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition, featured the founders of 10 biotech and tech startups who battled on stage for cash prizes. The executives were allowed two minutes to convince a panel of judges — and the audience — that their startup was a promising business venture.
First place winner, AgTools, took home the lion’s share of the cash, earning a $50,000 check for coming in at the top. The company makes a monthly software service for farmers and other businesses in the agriculture sector, giving them access to data that can help drive decisions.
AgTools also took home the bonus award for being most popular among audience members, earning the startup an additional $10,000.
Second place went to Laguna Beach-based Eyedaptic, which is tackling the leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration, by developing software that’s embedded in augmented reality glasses. The goal is to help simulate natural vision. Eyedaptic got $10,000 for earning second place.
San Diego’s only winner was third place company 1859, a biotech instrument startup that aims to replace large facilities used for medicine discovery with one benchtop instrument. 1859 earned a $5,000 check.
The event, which was hosted by Tech Coast Angels, Cox Business and Connect with the San Diego Venture Group, sold out at 600 tickets, packing the house at Qualcomm Hall.
Although roughly 85 percent of applicants for the competition were San Diego-based companies, organizers decided to include a handful of Southern California contenders. It gave local startups more exposure to the realities of pitching investors, said Mike Krenn, CEO of Connect with the San Diego Venture Group.
“Our companies are always competing against everyone else in SoCal for dollars,” Krenn said. He added that this is the first time in recent memory that two out-of-towners won top awards.
This year’s competition was judged by a panel of well-known investors, including Nancy Hong from RiverVest Venture Partners, Marlon Evans from Nex Cubed, Caitlin Wege from Tech Coast Angels, Susie Armstrong from Qualcomm, and Sanket Merchant from PeakSpan.
“The goal of Quick Pitch is to be bigger and better every year and create momentum beyond the event for our finalists,” said Victoria Lakers, Tech Coast Angels member and Quick Pitch chair, in an email. “This year’s unprecedented performance by AgTools winning both first prize and the Audience Choice award is a signal of a break-out company in the making!”
Lakers noted that Tech Coast Angels is already considering several Quick Pitch companies for investment. Previous winners have raised millions from angel investors after taking part in the competition, including San Diego-based NeuraLace.