As more than 500 people began filing into the conference hall at the Titan Student Union, it was clear that the competition for this year’s Titan Fast Pitch would be fierce. In excess of 150 university and high school students from many different SoCal schools were among those who attended the event and they all came with the hope that their business concept would be good enough to earn them one of the scholarships available to the top competitors.
One of these students was Zolma Beltran, a freshman from Cal State Fullerton, who entered the competition in search of experience and real-time feedback for her plan. She had originally been reluctant to enter the competition, but thankfully her business management teacher urged her to go so that she could learn from the experience and the feedback she would receive.
“I first heard about this competition from my professor and didn’t want to go. But after some convincing I felt that my idea centered around everything that I believed in. I felt that regardless of what the outcome of the competition was this would be a good experience for me,” said Beltran.
Beltran was one of many competitors and in order to judge that large of a number of students we brought in many business leaders from the local area who volunteered their time to judge the students’ pitches. Many of these judges are seasoned entrepreneurs who have successfully started their own businesses and the feedback that they would give to the competitors would be very valuable.
Bob Scheussler, a first time judge for the competition, was excited to see such a great turnout and looked forward to helping students improve their ideas.
“It is exciting to see young and enthusiastic people here today at the event. I have been in business all of my life and I look forward to what these competitors will bring, and how I can help them,” said Scheussler.
As the competitors and the rest of the audience took their seats, CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship and CSUF Startup Incubator Director John Bradley Jackson kicked off the competition. He began by thanking all the students and judges who came out and led the crowd in a calming exercise to help ease their nerves before presenting.
After outlining the rules of the competition, Director Jackson explained that the competition would consist of two main rounds. For the first part, students would enter the Bullpen Round and have the opportunity to present their business idea multiple times to individual judges. This would enable the competitors to build their confidence and gain critical feedback from a wide variety of different business leaders. Each of the judges would then rank the students based on their performance as well as the cohesiveness of the plan as pitched within the minute allowed competitors for presenting.
The second round would be the Lightning Round and it would feature the top ranking students and would have them present to an elite panel of judges in front of the entire audience. Lightning Round judges included: Dan Black, Michael Sawitz, Karl Freels, Ash Kumra, David Morris, Alicia Lopez, and Bill Taormina.
After Director Jackson’s welcome, Asha Bhattacharya came to the podium to encourage the competitors and give them some last minute tips. As the winner for the high school track last year, Asha knew the stress that some first time competitors felt as they waited to give their sixty second pitch. Her reassurance and presence at the event helped immensely in conquering people’s nerves.
“I remember being in this position and being super nervous last year. Now I am telling you to be confident and it is very inspiring to be able to help out.… As long as [you] are confident in what [you] are saying you will do great!” said Bhattacharya.
Armed with those encouraging words the competitors started giving their pitches. As they moved from judge to judge, the nerves of the students began to wear off and confidence took over. While waiting to present to a judge, students went from quietly going over their lines to speaking with one another and helping other competitors with their pitches. Students from all walks of life came together and helped one another regardless of what age or school they came from; this kind of experience is what truly makes the Titan Fast Pitch so memorable for students.
After the competitors had multiple opportunities to pitch their concept to the judges the Bullpen Round came to an end. With the Bullpen Round closed, students and judges were encouraged to reach out to one another and network as the votes were tallied by the officials. The networking session proved valuable as students collected business cards and began to socialize with the judges and discuss their business concepts in a more relaxed manner. Interspersed into this networking session was an opportunity drawing where competitors could win prizes such as a Fire Tablet, Amazon gift certificates, or even riding lessons sponsored by the BirdDog Group.
Once the votes were tabulated Director Jackson retook the stage and he began announcing the names of the competitors who would be competing in the Lightning Round. Loud cheers from the crowd erupted as the finalist, four each from the university and high school tracks, lined up before their turn on the stage.
During the Lightning Round, competitors had a minute to re-pitch their concepts to the panel of elite judges and audience members. After each pitch, the judges were allowed to ask questions about the plan and give feedback. As the last finalist finished the judges moved to a separate room to discuss their thoughts about who had the best and most feasible plan.
Once the Lightning Round judges had made their decisions, Director Jackson took to the stage to announce the winners of this year’s competition. For the high school track, Theresa Palczewski and her team won 1st place for their business concept. And for the university track, Armando L. Cordero and Terrell Bolden from Cal Poly Pomona won 1st place. The announcement of the winners was met with a loud round of applause from the audience.
When speaking with Theresa from the high school team they felt amazed that their plan had won compared to everyone else at their level. They felt that this event was an amazing experience. The both agreed that they would be coming back again next year.
“This has been a really fun experience for us both. It was great because we were able to pitch our idea in a safe environment which really helped us feel more comfortable when presenting.… We definitely want to come back again next year!” said Theresa.
The winners of the university track had a very exciting concept and the judges and potential investors spoke to them about the future plans for the scooter they pitched during the competition. As they spoke, Terrell Bolden, the CEO of B2C, stated that the event and the school were excellent avenues for helping them improve what they had created.
“I love the idea of getting feedback from college professors [and veteran entrepreneurs]… it really is a great opportunity for us and I hope that this will help bring our product out to the public and convince them to buy it,” said Bolden.
As the day came to a close and the room began to empty, Director Jackson remarked to the volunteers and judges about how proud he was that the event was a success. As one the hosts of the event along with Director Radha Bhattacharya of the CSUF Center for Economic Education and Will Taormina of the National Startup League, Director Jackson allowed himself a moment to take pride in the success of the Titan Fast Pitch and is hopeful for what the students will accomplish in the future.
“I am very pleased by the diversity of the audience, the middle schoolers from the Anaheim School District [who participate in our STEM Inc. program] did a terrific job and did just as well as the upperclassman in presenting their ideas…. To me, entrepreneurship is people making changes both big and small for the betterment of our world…. It takes a lot of guts to present an idea and lose but the students here today did an amazing job! I look forward to seeing them expand on their ideas in future competitions.”
For those CSUF students who missed this year’s Titan Fast Pitch, there will be a chance to pitch your concept this spring semester at the CSUF Business Plan Competition on April 7th. (More details on this are forthcoming; make sure to become a CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider so that you won’t miss the announcement.)
Thank you to all who came and made the Titan Fast Pitch such an amazing event!
Here are some pictures from the competition and some more details about the competition are below.
University Track Top 4
- Armando L. Cordero and Terrell Bolden from Cal Poly Pomona – FromB2C
Brent Maxinoski from CSUF – WeCADEMi
- Sam Smith from CSUF – Community Ink
Bon Huynh from CSUF – Realreplies
High School Track Top 4
- Theresa Palczewski & Paige Bagne from El Dorado – Shower Saver
- Kimberly Gonzalez from Western High School – CHS
- Alexis Gamero from Western High School – Fusion
- Mateo Sandoval & James Liu Tang from Lost Altos High School – PencilBox
Lightning Round Judges
- Dan Black
- Michael Sawitz
- Bill Taormina
- David Morris
- Karl Freels
- Alicia Lopez
- Ash Kumra
- Dan Black Family Trust
- CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship
- Royal Business Bank
- National Startup League
- CSUF Center for Economic Education
- Sigma Upsilon Mu
- Wells Fargo
- Entrepreneur Society
- CSUF Startup Incubator
- Union Bank
University Scholarships Awarded
- $1,500 + Interview by Entrepreneur Media Startup Youngry
High School Scholarships Awarded
Edit on November 8: This story has been updated to include the schools and the startup names for the winners at both the high school and university levels.
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