San Diego startups lose Quick Pitch event in 2020, but gain alternative

The John G. Watson Quick Pitch event is canceled this year. Organizers of an alternative event, however, have announced their top 10 finalists

San Diego’s startup scene is losing a favorite annual event this year with Quick Pitch on hiatus until the pandemic eases, organizers say. But a new event with a fresh group of partners is rolling out in its wake.

The John G. Watson Quick Pitch competition has a reputation for being highly attended, drawing about 500 audience members each year to watch entrepreneurs battle on-stage for a large cash prize. The event normally concludes with the passing out of giant checks totaling $75,000, a much higher sum than typically awarded at startup pitch competitions.

This fall, however, Quick Pitch hit the same roadblocks that other local events experienced: no in-person gathering can occur, and sponsor budgets dried up. Instead of shifting the event online, organizers — angel investor group Tech Coast Angels and startup support non-profit Connect with the San Diego Venture Group — have decided to scrap the event altogether this year.

In its place, the two groups have teamed up with local non-profit San Diego Innovation Council to host a virtual startup competition in October called Inventors and Investors. This pitch competition is focusing on “hard tech” — startups working on difficult technology problems within science and engineering — spun out of universities and research institutions. Think robotics, biotech and clean technology.

The focus plays to the strengths of the San Diego Innovation Council, which is made up of tech transfer officers from the region’s top universities and research institutions.

Unfortunately, there will be no cash prize for the winners.

“The startup mentality is about agility,” said Ashok Kamal, executive director of San Diego’s Tech Coast Angels chapter.”And without a sold-out auditorium, we had to pivot from big cash prizes. However, even at Quick Pitch the real top prize is the chance to build a relationship with TCA and elite VC judges.”

Tech Coast Angels has invested roughly $5 million in recent Quick Pitch finalists, including Echo Labs, Trust & Will, and NeuraLace Medical, far eclipsing the pitch competition winnings. And that opportunity is still alive with Inventors and Investors.

The winner will get an automatic slot to pitch at one of TCA’s screening meetings in consideration for TCA funding. The finalists will also get a chance to pitch to a panelist of investor judges, which includes high-profile venture companies such as Section 32 and Qualcomm Ventures.

The virtual event will take place as part of San Diego Startup Month, an online event that takes place from Oct. 1-30. Organized by Startup San Diego, the month will be full of interactive experiences and virtual content.

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