TechCrunch produces Grand Rapids Pitch-off


Start Garden in downtown Grand Rapids is an early stage venture capital fund, incubator and accelerator, which hosts events such as its Overheard at Start Garden series. Photo via

A major technology media outlet is coming to Grand Rapids to conduct a pitch competition for local entrepreneurs to vie for a free booth at its trade conference.

Start Garden, a Grand Rapids-based early stage venture capital fund, is hosting the TechCrunch Michigan mini-Meetup and Pitch-off this Thursday, from 5-8 p.m., at 40 Pearl St. NW. Pitches begin at 5:30 p.m.

Five local entrepreneurs will compete for a space at the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco.

Grand Rapids Pitch-off

During the event, the entrepreneurs selected to participate in the pitch competition will have roughly 60 seconds to present their startup or idea to a panel of judges comprising local venture capitalists and TechCrunch writers.

Judges for the Grand Rapids-based mini-Meetup and Pitch-off include John Biggs, East Coast editor for TechCrunch, Matt Burns, senior editor for TechCrunch, and Joe Malcoun, CEO at Ann Arbor-based NutShell.

“TechCrunch does a lot of these Meetups across the country and across the world,” Burns said. “It is primarily for the local community to bring tech neighbors together. The connections made at these Meetups are invaluable.”

The event also includes 15-minute one-on-one sessions with TechCrunch for entrepreneurs to receive feedback on their ideas and recommendations for the best pitch strategy.

TechCrunch has hosted Meetup and Pitch-off events in Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Finland, Austin, Texas and Seoul, South Korea. This is the first time it’s coming to Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids is a unique area,” Burns said. “There is such a heavy concentration of industrial designers, and it is a key part of the Internet of Things, which is a huge expanding startup area. Start Garden is a really unique accelerator, and they are willing to put so much money into the local area and put their money where their mouth is.”

The event is free, and people can register to attend at Start Garden’s website.

Disrupt San Francisco

The first-place team at the event will receive a free booth at Tech Crunch Disrupt San Francisco in September, and the second place team will be awarded two tickets to attend the technology conference. Third place will receive one ticket to the event, which is a $3,000 value.

Burns called Disrupt “the premier startup conference in the world.” TechCrunch produces three Disrupt conferences a year: in New York, San Francisco and London.

"To get a Grand Rapids company there is really key," Burns said. "To have a table in the middle of the massive trade conference is invaluable to a lot of these smaller companies, and we would like to give that away for free."

TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco will take place on Sept. 21 through Sept. 23 at Pier 70 in San Francisco.

The event will feature guest speakers, leading venture capitalists and entrepreneurial presentations on a variety of topics pertinent to the technology industry.

Each afternoon at the conference, TechCrunch will host a Startup Battlefield competition, culminating in six finalists to compete for the Disrupt Cup and $50,000.

During the Disrupt New York conference, Burns said a Grand Rapids-based company known as Arctuition participated in the Startup Battlefield as a contestant. 

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