When PitchBlack, a “Shark Tank”-style competition where black entrepreneurs pitch their businesses and compete for cash prizes, returns next week, it will be the biggest venue yet.
Nearly 70 people attended the inaugural pitch competition in 2015 at the Village Ballroom in northeast Portland. Seven entrepreneurs competed for his $900 prize pool, which was split among the top three entrants.
This year, 11 Black-led businesses pitch their ideas for five minutes to a sold-out crowd of over 500 at the Patricia Lesser Center for the Arts in Beaverton. The top three entrants will share a prize pool of up to $60,000. Organizer Stephen Green said the amount will continue to increase as the February 7 tournament draws near.
The competition has grown in popularity over the years, attracting more participants, sponsors and attendees, and tickets are sold out every time, said Green, who is also chairman of the board of PitchBlack’s main sponsor, Built Oregon. .
“It’s been pretty amazing. Most importantly, people in the Pacific Northwest startup ecosystem are more aware of the amazing black entrepreneurs and companies that are being built here,” said Green. said Mr.
The event will act as a platform to connect black entrepreneurs with the local startup ecosystem while also awarding prizes that can be used for their businesses. Today, it’s the largest event of its kind on the West Coast.
Due to its success, Green introduced versions of PitchBlack to other cities such as Seattle, Austin and Philadelphia. Green’s work also inspired a similar annual event called Pitch Latinx.
Since its inception seven years ago, PitchBlack has been held in Portland every year except 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year’s event heads to Beaverton.
Funding comes from donations, sponsorships and tickets sold for $29 apiece, but Green hopes to attract more sponsors by the day of the event to increase the prize pool. Key sponsors this year so far include Nike, the Oregon Community Foundation, City of Beaverton, Autodesk and the Port of Portland.
According to Green, PitchBlack’s goal is to introduce people to new businesses and ideas that they may not know about, and help them financially. He said the event also serves as a way to raise awareness, equality and awareness for black entrepreneurs.
“We have pitches from a wide range of companies this year. Some are nonprofits pitching ideas, some are pitching ideas for new products, others have new ideas to offer their services,” said Green. says. “The point is to expose people to a very wide range of black companies doing something in the area right now.”
To date, 100 Black-led company founders have pitched their ideas through PitchBlack, with 1,000 people participating in every city. The event generated his $100,000 invested in winning the idea.
“In Portland alone, companies pitching since the event began have raised over $45 million for their ideas,” says Green. “So it’s pretty cool to see people take their ideas forward.”
Census data released last year showed that the number of Black-owned businesses in all sectors of the U.S. economy increased by 8% from 2017 to 2019. One of the first winners of the 2015 event, Tyrone Poole of his OneApp, an online property registration company designed to streamline the rental application process, has been pitching nationally and globally since PitchBlack. I have won the contest.
According to Poole, PitchBlack’s first event had just $300 in prize money, but attending and winning the event helped raise awareness for the company now known as OneApp.
“PitchBlack got my name and my story out there,” Poole said. “It added value and credibility to my idea in the early stages, and I have since competed and won other pitch competitions. This is how we were able to raise money for the company.”
Poole said the black community needs more platforms like PitchBlack that connect equity-focused investors with minority-owned businesses.
“Events like PitchBlack help normalize black entrepreneurship and business ownership of all kinds,” says Poole.
Last year’s winner was Adre, a sustainability and BIPOC-focused property developer founded and led by Anyeley Hallová. Adre won $40,000 from the competition and an additional $10,000 from Intel’s donation from her RISE Technology Initiative.
“My company was only a year old at the time, so I was just starting everything myself,” says Hallová. “The money from PitchBlack has been very helpful as it allowed us to hire employees and pursue more projects.”
Green said this year’s change of venue reflects a greater focus on black-led businesses west of the Portland metropolitan area.
Organizations pitching at this year’s event include:
- The Albina Vision Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to managing future redevelopment plans for Lower Albina, Portland’s once-thriving black neighborhood.
- Heart & Hustle Productions is a film and photography branding agency.
- Fridie Outdoors is a company dedicated to empowering people with the skills and knowledge to camp outdoors.
- Creative Homies is a creative services center in Old Town Portland featuring makerspaces, event spaces, and a music bar.
- Black Earth United is an outdoor clothing company focused on removing barriers to the outdoors through design.
- Card craft, greeting card company.
- The Corporate Strategist is a diversity, equity and inclusion based consulting firm.
- Epilogue Kitchen is a Salem-based restaurant adorned with handcrafted and printed signs supporting the racial justice movement.
- Kapwa Consulting is an advisory and leadership coaching firm for other businesses with a focus on racial equity, environmental sustainability and community.
- Metalet, a recruitment company designed to provide innovative and immersive experiences for both future athletes and colleges.
- Clothing and apparel company Black in Beaverton
–Christine De Leon, firstname.lastname@example.org