The 12th annual Venture Idol competition winner will broaden its marketing and brand and strive to gain female enthusiasts in a predominately male winter sport.
Gilson Boards, a snowboarding startup in Center Township, Snyder County, won Thursday night’s competition hosted by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania on the Lehigh University campus. Gilson beat two other finalists: second-place Orbweaver Sourcing LLC of Bethlehem and third-place CDC Software LLC of Bloomsburg.
The trio will share a $15,000 prize. Officials for Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s TechVentures did not disclose the amount each of the finalists would receive.
A cross between American Idol and Shark Tank, the event gives regional tech startups the chance to pitch their story to a panel of judges in the hopes of winning funding.
Snowboard guru Nicholas Gilson, founder and CEO of Gilson Boards, said 60 percent of the sport’s participants are male, and he wants to increase its appeal among female beginners and athletes. He said his snowboards are designed to be used by all skill levels.
Gilson said the ancillary snowboard market – including boots, fittings, clothing and accessories – is an estimate $10 billion industry.
“I would encourage you to think big,” said Bruce Luehrs of Rittenhouse Ventures, a Venture Idol investor panelist.
Gilson said the U.S. Olympic Snowboard team would be testing his firm’s snowboards.
“They will be five of the best snowboards we’ve ever made,” he said.
The live crowdfunding event aimed to help bring innovative entrepreneurial ideas to market or to expand them.
“Building companies and creating jobs to improve the human condition” are among Ben Franklin TechVentures’ goals, said Fred Beste, CEO of General Partners, Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds.
Earlier Thursday, eight tech startups made presentations before the three finalists were selected. After each finalist’s presentation, audience members voted for their favorite idea by using “Ben Bucks.”
Joining Luehrs on the investor panel were Clark DeHaven of Soundboard Angel Fund and Inflection Point Strategic Advisors; Mike Gausling of Originate Ventures; and Stephanie Olexa of Lehigh Valley Angel Investors and Lead to the Future.
“Passion is the driving force, something you care deeply about,” said Venture Idol keynote speaker Kathryn C. Worrilow.
Worrilow is a past Venture Idol winner and CEO of LifeAire Systems LLC in Upper Macungie Township.
“Surround yourself with key advisers who know what you don’t know,” she said. “Invest a lot of time on a clear purpose and ask a lot of questions.”