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MJ Slaby / the incline

So you want to pitch at a tech competition in Pittsburgh? Here are some experts’ tips

A pitch about bedsores won AlphaLab Gear’s regional Hardware Cup on Tuesday night.

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MJ Slaby / the incline
MJ Slaby

Instead of showing gruesome photos, Sanna Gaspard said she would describe Byron Van Tassell’s bedsores.

There was no skin, and the flesh underneath was gone too, she said. “You could see all the way down to the bone.” Van Tassell eventually died from complications after his bedsores, Gaspard said, adding that Van Tassell was one of thousands who eventually die after having a bedsore.

Gaspard, CEO and founder of Rubitection Inc, opened her four-minute pitch to judges for the Mid-Atlantic Regional contest for the AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup on Tuesday night with Tassel’s story. She followed it by describing her device and companion software for improved bedsore detection.

Currently, Gaspard said the test for bedsores is manual and based on the color of the skin after pressure is applied. But that can be unreliable and a change in color can be difficult to detect on darker skin tones, she said. Rubitection’s tool measures properties of the skin, such as consistency and temperature, as well as color, to detect dying tissue.

Gaspard’s pitch beat pitches from six other finalists during the regional contest. She won $3,000 and a one-year license for software program SOILDWORKS and qualified for the national competition in Pittsburgh on April 19, where she has a shot at $50,000 in investment funds.

After the event, The Incline talked to Gaspard as well as the contest’s emcee and organizer for their pitch tips. Here’s what they shared:

From Sanna Gaspard, winner of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Hardware Cup:

Gaspard said Tuesday wasn’t the first time she’s pitched her tool. In fact, Rubitection is also a finalist for UpPrize, a social innovation challenge for local companies, that has a final showcase March 30.

  • Gaspard said she plans her pitch with the audience in mind and thinks about what they want to hear.
  • She said she also pitches as “if I were in a movie” to keep it engaging.
  • But, she said to also include all the details that investors want to hear about business plans and prototypes.

From Lee Ngo, contest emcee:

Ngo works at startup space Galvanize in Seattle, but before that, he lived in Pittsburgh for three years and became part of the startup community, pitching companies and organizing events. He’s also been an emcee for more than 20  startup competitions.

  • Be confident to show the judges and the audience why you are here and why you are passionate about your idea.
  • Focus on building a connection, and don’t worry about giving all the details.
  • A lot of great pitches start with a story.
  • Instead of worrying about your pitch, focus on engaging with the judges and answering their questions.

From Ilana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear, which created the hardware cup:

  • Have a good definition for the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Show that a lot of people agree that it’s a problem, and they also find your solution useful.
  • Know the competition for your product and why you have the better option.