Got the Itch to Pitch?

By Michael Weiss

A new year means a whole new season of pitch competitions. The Venture Plan CompetitionPropelHER, and the Florida Venture Forum are just a few upcoming events that seek local startup companies to present their business model to a panel of judges, who award cash and in-kind prizes for the best presentations.

If you are unfamiliar with what a pitch competition entails, think of the ABC television show Shark Tank, but with a lot more PowerPoint presentations. Typically, pitch competitions begin with an open call for presenters. Before submitting your application, be sure to review the competition’s eligibility criteria, which sometimes is focused on specific industries; the race or gender of the business owner; or the stage or revenue of a business. After the application deadline expires, an organizing committee will select a handful of applicants to move on to the next round. Finalists are tasked with delivering a real-time business presentation to an audience within a specific time constraint (e.g. 5 – 10 minutes). Judges listen, ask questions and then evaluate all the presentations to determine the winner(s).

Aside from winning cash or in-kind prizes, pitch competitions are a great way to create awareness for your business, receive valuable feedback, make contacts, and help you face your fear of public speaking. If any of these benefits have piqued your interest or if you have actively been looking to enter a pitch competition, you can find them by visiting, searching on Google, connecting with entrepreneurial support organizations, industry/trade associations, business schools, social media, and searching event platforms like Eventbrite.

If you need help refining your presentation, work with an entrepreneurial support organization like the UCF Business Incubation Program or practice your pitch live at 1 Million Cups – Orlando. Some competitions also assign participants a mentor, so be sure to take advantage of their expertise. Lastly, be sure to practice your presentation with a timer. Time constraints are real and you would be surprised how quickly time passes. So practice, practice, practice!

The University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program is a community resource that provides early-stage companies with the tools, training, and infrastructure to become financially stable, high growth/impact enterprises. Since 1999, this award-winning program has provided vital business development resources resulting in over 300 local startup companies reaching their potential faster and graduating into the community where they continue to grow and positively impact the local economy.

With eight facilities throughout the region, the UCF Business Incubation Program is an economic development partnership between the University of Central Florida, the Corridor, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia Counties, and the cities of Kissimmee, Orlando, and Winter Springs. For the 2017/2018 fiscal years, the activities of these participating firms have helped to sustain more than 6,725 local jobs and have had a cumulative impact of over $725 million on regional GDP and over $1.3 billion on regional sales. During the same period, the program has returned more than $12.00 in state and local taxes for every $1.00 invested in the program. In addition, for every $1.00 of public investment, the firms also produced $118 of additional regional GDP and $226 of regional sales. For more information, visit