Last week PILOT launched the PILOT Pitch Prize 2018 to foster innovation in the broadcast and media industry. Seed level startups focusing on broadcast and media will submit their applications to enter the competition, and five finalists will be chosen to compete in the pitch competition that will be held at NAB Show NY. Each of the three winners will receive $50K in Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) notes from NAB, have the opportunity to present their startup to senior level executives in the broadcast industry, and get free exhibition space at the NAB Show 2019.

PILOT has been involved in the ideation, validation & incubation, and acceleration phases of the innovation cycle. The PILOT Innovation Challenge, which focuses on the ideation phase, nurtures individuals and very early stage startups that have promising ideas. On the other end of the spectrum, we have partnered with SPROCKIT to help scale market-ready startups in their acceleration phase. We have been addressing the void between these two maturity levels by investing in early-stage, seed round startups and by providing exhibition space at the Futures Park at the NAB Show. The PILOT Pitch Prize is our latest effort to set a process to identify and support startups that are between the ideation and acceleration phases.

With a goal of fostering innovation, we have designed the Pitch Prize with startups in mind. The $50K SAFE note charges no interest and imposes no maturity date. We ask a 20% discount only if the amount is converted into equity after 180 days; otherwise we waive the discount. If a startup happens to be raising funds during the pitch competition, the discount waiver will help avoid conflicts with the other investors of that round who might object to the instant 20% discount.

The $6M valuation cap is by no means used as a bargaining chip. The valuation cap was carefully chosen so that only the seed level startups submit applications and participate in the competition. We feel that the $6M cap is low enough to discourage startups that are too far advanced, and high enough to attract startups with a minimum viable product (MVP) and even some market traction. We hope that the winners will make good progress with our support, and therefore we have arranged for free exhibition space for the winners six months later at NAB Show, which attracts more than 100,000 attendees. Finally, the winners will be showcased in smaller groups of broadcast and media executives, and they will receive mentoring and feedback from these business leaders. The winning prize, therefore, is much more than the SAFE note investment; it could be the best support the winners will receive on their journey to success.

PILOT has engaged Quesnay Inc. and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship to contact startups, screen applicants, select finalists, perform due diligence and coach the finalists. The applicant pool will be reduced to 20 after the first selection process. At that time, the Dingman Center Angels, an active and seasoned group of angel investors, will review the applicants and select the top 5 finalists. MBA students at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business will perform due diligence of the finalists, and a mentor at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship will coach the finalists for the pitch event. Finally, broadcasting and digital media leaders will choose the winners on the pitch day.

If you make it to the top 5 finalist list, go through the Dingman due diligence process, receive coaching by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, and get an opportunity to pitch at the NAB Show NY, you will be noticed by the broadcast and media industry executives attending the event, and you might meet potential investors or clients. If you make it to the top 20, you will be noticed by the Dingman Center Angels; new avenues of opportunity might open for you. Finally, if you don’t make it to the top 20, you still get a free pass to the NAB Show NY 2018 by being one of the first 100 applicants. There is something for all. So why wait? Check out your eligibility and the rules and submit your application if you qualify.