Monday, March 11, 2013

A for startups, PitchCastr seeks to connect investors with entrepreneurs


Rejection is hard enough in the business world. But do you really need to fly across the country just to be told “no?”

The folks at don’t think so, and they’re poised to soft launch a new service at South By Southwest this year aimed at cutting out the time startups waste courting the wrong investors while making it easier to connect with the right ones.

“It’s a frustrating process,” said Herb Sih, co-founder and managing partner of Think Big. “We watch a lot of our entrepreneurs spend money to get on a plane, fly across the country to meet with investors who may not even be interested in what they have to say, just to get a rejection. There has to be a better way.”

Sih and his partners hope they’ve found a better way in the form of PitchCastr. Something of a for start-ups and venture capitalist, the site lets financial backers browse through a catalogue of pitch videos posted by nascent business owners looking to secure capital.

Online for nearly a month now, the Kansas City-based entrepreneurial incubator hopes PitchCastr can break away from the pack at SXSW Interactive this week in Austin, Texas. The key to doing this, Sih said, is to distinguish the new service from similar funding-based operations like Kickstarter.

“The scope is a lot bigger than Kickstarter,” Sih said. “We’re not just looking to raise funds for our entrepreneurs. We want to connect them with serious investors who will make a commitment.”

The promise of PitchCastr is two-fold. It’s designed to let entrepreneurs cast the widest possible net for funding, while simultaneously helping investors sort through just the pitches that interest them.

Start-ups post a brief video pitch online (no more than 10 minutes). From there, financiers look through and select the ones that pique their interest. If enough investors show interest in the same idea, the entrepreneurs can then schedule a live “demo day” in which they can teleconference with all the interested backers simultaneously.

“I think this is going to cut down on a lot of travel time and a lot of wasted time,” Sih said.

PitchCastr is a logical extension for Think Big, a company that prides itself on moving startups quickly from the incubator stage to financial self-sufficiency. The National Business Incubation Association reports that most startups spend an average of 33 months in a business incubator or accelerator firm.

But from its inception in 2010, Think Big has been focused on revving up the process. Based out of a 20,000 sq. ft. office in downtown Kansas City, the firm has already served nearly 400 clients, with an emphasis on establishing revenue streams within 90 days.

“On average, start-ups are spending 2-3 years inside incubators,” Sih said. “That may have been fine at one time. But in the tech world, your market could be gone in 2-3 years.”

In addition to helping investors, Think Big is also helping to boost the profile of Sih’s hometown of Kansas City as a hotbed for technology startups. Though it may seem like an unlikely location, Kansas City has been integral in nearly doubling the number of start-ups in the Midwest, according to Venture51. The town was also chosen as one of the pilot cities for Google’s fiber optic program because of all the startup activity. Think Big also partnered with the city’s chamber of commerce last year to host its first startup conference. PitchCastr is a Microsoft Bizspark company, using the Windows Azure platform.

“There’s more going on here than people might realize,” Sih said. “And in this day and age, it’s easy to connect and start a tech company from just about anywhere.”

And with the arrival of PitchCaster [sic], that’s just the point that Sih and his partners are hoping to make.

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark providing Software, Support, and Visibility to Software Startups. Visit for more information.

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Follow PitchCastr: @PitchCastrTips 

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