2019 John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition Achieves Sold-Out Success with $75,000 in Prizes Awarded to Three Companies

Ten Southern California startups vied for prizes at renowned annual event, sponsored this year by Tech Coast Angels, Connect w/ SDVG, Cox Business, the John G. Watson Foundation, and PeakSpan Capital

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IRVINE and SAN DIEGO, Calif. – November 5, 2019 – $75,000 in prizes was up for grabs at the John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition, held on October 29, 2019.  With all 600 seats at Qualcomm Hall sold out, ten startups selected from almost 300 applications had just two minutes to persuade the audience and judging panel that their companies were more remarkable than the other exceptional finalists.

Acrobats and a mime opened the event with a Halloween theme. “In the spirit of Halloween, we wanted to make this the most entertaining Quick Pitch yet,” said Ashok Kamal, Tech Coast Angels (TCA) – San Diego executive director.  “The aerialist and stilt walkers signify that running a startup can be a circus, but you need to remember to have fun along the journey.” 

“The world-class talent in Southern California’s startup community was showcased tonight with ten founders tackling big problems and global opportunities,” said Jared Ruth, director of product & marketing, Cox Business.

The ten finalists presented their quick pitch to the judges, but also shared their concepts with the investment community, other entrepreneurs and influencers who were in the audience. 

The big victors of the evening were from Orange County, with Irvine-based AgTools winning the $50,000 prize and an additional $10,000 for being awarded the audience’s favorite. AgTools provides real time data and analysis to farmers, buyers and shippers of agricultural goods. Coming in second place and taking home $10,000 was Laguna Beach-based Eyedaptic, creators of a wearable augmented reality solution that helps simulate natural vision for those suffering from macular degeneration. Third place and $5,000 recipient was 1859, a San Diego-based biotech startup that supports drug discovery with a single bench-top instrument, eliminating the need for large and complex R&D facilities.

Martha Montoya, founder & CEO of AgTools, said, “Quick Pitch was a great experience from the first questionnaire through the coaching because it fine-tuned our presentation and message to the investment world. It was humbling to have Big Data and farming win over the judges and audience who all realized that food waste is everyone’s problem.”

“The goal of Quick Pitch is to be bigger and better every year, and create momentum beyond the event for our finalists,” said Victoria Lakers, member of TCA – San Diego and Quick Pitch Chair. “This year’s unprecedented performance by AgTools winning both first prize and the audience choice award is a signal of a break-out company in the making! TCA is already considering several Quick Pitch companies for investment.” 

PeakSpan Capital joined in 2019 as a new sponsor illustrating the growing attraction to SoCal for Bay Area VCs. Although Peakspan is based in Silicon Valley, the VC firm has funded several San Diego companies recently.  The other sponsors of the competition were TCA – San Diego, Connect w/ SDVG, the John G. Watson Foundation, and Cox Business.

Mike Kreen, CEO of Connect w/ SDVG, said, “San Diego’s brand and reputation continues to grow. We’re not just a life sciences town, we’re both a tech and life sciences town. And that’s important. Growth capital is pouring in, Series A money is accessible, and TCA is filling a gap at the seed level. We can always do better, but we have come a VERY long way in the past 3-5 years.” 

Among the judges for the event was Sanket Merchant, senior associate at PeakSpan Capital, who said, “We feel privileged to have partnered with such an exceptional field of entrepreneurs and disruptive software companies in San Diego! The entrepreneurial ecosystem is truly top-notch and this year’s showing at Quick Pitch amplified this in spades.  I’m confident we’ll see a lot of these companies go on to raise from reputable VCs and build exceptional businesses.”

The other event judges were: Marlon Evans, CEO of Nex Cubed; Nancy Hong, managing director at RiverVest Venture Partners; Vanitha Kuman, VP, SW Engineering at Qualcomm; Caitlin Wege, president-elect of TCA-San Diego and partner at MooDoos Investments; and Paul Whitworth, SVP of operations for retail solutions and general manager of KBB at Cox Automotive, Inc.

To learn more about, or to apply for future Tech Coast Angels’ pitching events in San Diego, please contact Ashok Kamal: ashok@techcoastangels.com.

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