Entrepreneurs pitch their startups in ‘Shark Tank’ competition during ConvergeSE

More than a dozen entrepreneurs pitched their start-ups Wednesday in a “Shark Tank”-style competition at Music Farm as part of this week’s ConvergeSE conference in Columbia.

An entrepreneur pitches his startup to a panel of investors (photo by Kelly Petty).

An entrepreneur pitches his startup to a panel of investors. (photo by Kelly Petty)

The 36|86 “Southern Series” pitch contest was developed by Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership based in Tennessee with a focus on building a strong entrepreneurial environment across the Southeast through business accelerator programs and angel investment.

Companies from Spartanburg to Charleston presented ideas like mobile applications and telemedicine to a group of investors and gained feedback. Brock said the twelve companies that would be chosen from South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia will join 36 other startups to visit Tennessee to compete for a $36,000 cash prize.

More than 45 investment firms will be on hand to judge the companies as well as to network with the entrepreneurs.

“We’re a big believer that what’s good for somebody in the south is good for everybody in the south when it comes to entrepreneurs getting capital,” said Charlie Brock, president and CEO of Launch Tennessee. “We need to collaborate more across the region, and we can help each other both with capital, with mentorship not only from within the Southeast region, but to paint a bigger story and a better story to attract more capital and more media from outside the region.”

Brock said members of the organization decided to take its 36|86 conference on the road to visit other cities in the South that have budding startup communities and build regional partnerships. Launch Tennessee representatives already have visited Arlington, Virginia, and are set to head to Atlanta.

Krissa Watry, president and CEO of Dynepic, pitched her company, which she says will “build the internet of toys.” Watry said she co-founded the Charleston-based startup to bridge the gap between interactive technology and children’s toys. She said manufacturers often don’t explore and design smart toys that can communicate with each other.

“It’s an open platform. We want all companies to make toys that are smart,” she said. “So we are building that platform to basically enable really engaging play that’s going to get kids out from behind the two-dimensional screen.”

Watry said that coming from big cities like Seattle and Boston, she finds that the tech startup industry in the South still is growing but has the ability to be produce innovative businesses.

“I see what can truly happen. And the support that the Southeast provides to their entrepreneurs is just incredible,” she said. “Really trying to get a few successful companies here that then can start rallying a ton of support is what we really need. We hope to be one of those.”

Brock said the “Southern Series” highlights tech and entrepreneur sectors in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Columbia and brings attention to the need to ensure the next generation is equipped to for the careers produced from thriving startups.

“There’s so many pockets where there’s great things going on,” he said. “As our companies are beginning to grow and become more successful, can we have our kids technically trained or educated enough to fill those jobs. At the end of the day it all goes back to education.”

Categories: Business, Local News