When Matthew Loupe arrived at the Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week Pitch Night competition Thursday evening, his plan was to sit back and watch the founders of fledgling businesses make their case for taking home the top prize of $1,000 and some free professional consulting services.
Instead, Loupe, 25, who recently quit his job at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, and returned to Baton Rouge, decided to get up and wing a one-minute pitch for his idea. Tentatively called Swedo, it would serve as a “Wikipedia for experiments,” allowing students, scientists and nonscientists to compare the results of studies and aggregate the data generated by the research.
“I had planned on doing a presentation next year about another idea for a social media program,” Loupe said. When organizers said participants didn’t need to have a rehearsed formal presentation to go along with their first one-minute pitch, Loupe decided to join the competition as it was about to start.
Loupe’s gamble paid off. He impressed the panel of judges and the enthusiastic audience and won the BREW Pitch Night. Along with the $1,000, he also gets startup consulting provided by Louisiana Tech Park, financial consulting from Horne LLP and legal consulting from Kean Miller.
Organizers of Pitch Night changed the format for the fifth annual event, which was held at the Creative Bloc downtown, to give young businesses like Swedo a better shot. This year’s event drew 15 participants, representing everything from companies developing treatments for metastatic cancer to businesses with plans for biodegradable Mardi Gras beads.
Jared Loftus, the local entrepreneur who served as emcee for the Pitch Night, said it was absolutely fair that Loupe won the competition because he had a strong idea with a lot of potential that easily could be launched. “That’s how business works,” Loftus said.
Loupe said he got the idea for the website when he was a teenager looking for ways to clear up his acne. He would go online and see where people would say things such as coconut milk would clear up your skin. He had no way of knowing if this would work. “The problem is, no one would fund a study that involved putting coconut milk on your skin,” he said. “I want to put real data behind this.”
Loupe said he’s written software, but he just needs scientists to help him develop a template for allowing visitors to the website to compare research.
Loupe edged out three other finalists for the top prize: Amy Phillips, who developed the Makeup Bag app that allows users to track their use of cosmetics and make sure their beauty products don’t go bad; Garrett Kessling and Daniel Wendt, a pair of LSU Tiger Marching Band members who developed the e-Flip, which attaches a smartphone or tablet to a musical instrument, eliminating the need for sheet music; and Earl Geoghegan, who makes The Oyster Sled, a heavy-duty stainless-steel platform that makes it easier to shuck oysters.
The beauty of Pitch Night is that it gives all of the participants a chance to network and make connections that could help their business grow, Loftus said.
“The point is that this gives you access to people you would have never met,” he said. “That’s the real magic, when people get together.”
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.