The Skimm Cofounders’ Pitch Competition Reveals a Winner

November 16, 2016

2:20 pm

What do bead bracelets, boutique cotton candy, and pink eye have in common? They all feature in the business models of three young entrepreneurs debuted in front of Chase and the cofounders of popular email newsletter the Skimm at the Chase-powered Seattle Startup Week.

The event, titled “Moving On Up,” was the ending point for three rounds of elimination that trimmed a pitch competition down to three candidates: Sara Wroblewski from Boston, MA; Ryan Corte from Concord, NC; and Alisha Vimawala from New York, NY.

The Judges

Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg founded the Skimm from their living room couch, after meeting first at a study abroad program and then again while both working for NBC News. Their driving question: How can we make it easier to make people smarter?

The result, a daily newsletter that offers a snappy breakdown of top stories from the last 24 hours, caught the public’s attention. The four-year-old company now boasts four million subscribers, a fantastic open rate, and 37 employees. Carly and Danielle have made the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media and Fortune’s 40 Under 40, as well as an array of other, less-list-based awards.

Now, as the judges behind Moving On Up, they’ll provide mentorship to the winner to go alongside a $2,500 cash prize and the financial mentorship that Chase — in a surprise move at the event itself — will offer all three contestants.

The Contenders

Sara’s Boston-based operation, One Bead, is a nonprofit that’s “infused with entrepreneurial spirit.” One Bead both empowers children to be leaders in their own communities through six-to-eight week youth leadership programs and also sells handmade glass jewelry.

Not Your Average Cotton, Alisha’s company, offers cotton candy in uniquely delightful flavors: Their pop-ups are dedicated to serving mint, citrus, lavender, and rose flavors. The treats themselves skip the artificial syrups in favor of fresh herbs and extracts. The goal is a product that can add a dose of whimsy to people’s lives. The most entertaining part from Alisha’s pitch: To optimize for whimsy, the team topped their cotton with cool sprinkles like pink peppercorn or cinnamon.

The event’s over, so there’s no point in dragging this out — the last contestant, Ryan, landed the prize.

The Winner

The company, Introwellness, has a business model that focuses on boosting health and wellness awareness through short, punchy videos. Dr. Ryan Corte, who holds a degree in optometry, opened his pitch with an entertainingly impossible to understand diagnosis. Then, he showed the solution, a 60-90 second video that named symptoms, the problem (pink eye, for this example) and the treatment, alongside advice on how to keep from transferring the aliment to others.

Introwellness already has a site for eye health, IntroWellness.com, but it’s looking to expand into a variety of other areas, from introtherapy to introdiet to introsmile. The videos are designed to cut through the attention spans of today’s audiences while still relying on the words of real doctors and specialists, unlike online competitors like WebMD.

“Our average attention span is one second less than a goldfish’s,” said Ryan. “A goldfish, guys!”

Armed with the prize money and mentorships, Introwellness plans to develop beyond their eye niche to serve a community of needy patients. That’s a pitch everyone can get behind, especially The Skimm.

chase-for-business

This article is part of a Startup Week content series brought to you by CHASE for BUSINESS. Startup Week is celebration of entrepreneurs in cities around the globe.CHASE for BUSINESS is everything a business needs in one place, from expert advice to valuable products and services. Find business news, stories, insights and expert tips all in one place at Chase.com/forbusiness

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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