Economic Development, Human Resources, and Small Business & Startups

Start Garden brings back pitch competition

New 5x5 Night events will have a more regional flair.

July 1, 2016
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5x5 Nights are back.

Start Garden, Rick DeVos’ startup accelerator, is giving the popular pitch competition new life.

The monthly pitch night was created in 2011, then brought back in 2015 through eMerge West Michigan. The event went on hiatus when Start Garden and eMerge joined, but now it’s time to bring it back, said Brian Burch, Start Garden spokesperson.

The first will be held July 21 at Holland City Flats Hotel, 61 E. 7th St., Holland.

At 5x5, up to five people make their pitches with five slides in five minutes for a $5,000 grant decided by five judges. It was originally developed by Grand Rapids business incubator Pomegranate Studios. Any person with an idea can submit to 5x5night.com, Burch said.

“When Start Garden launched in 2012, the team closed 5x5 Night to focus on weekly investments of $5,000 into high-growth, early-stage business ideas,” he said. “It … is now returning with an emphasis on regional idea generation.”

Funding for 5x5 Night is coming from the Start Garden Foundation, a newly organized nonprofit funded with private dollars, as well as series sponsors including Huntington Bank, Spectrum Health and Varnum Law. Regional 5x5 Nights will be supported by local stakeholders.

The new 5x5 Nights will follow the same structure as in 2011, Burch said. Up to five entrepreneurs will be selected online by popular vote. Those finalists get up to five minutes to present a summary of their ideas. The judges will decide which idea wins a $5,000 grant.

“5x5 Night is an inherently open competition, with no restrictions on the type of idea that a presenter can submit. It is all about moving an idea and our region forward,” said Paul Moore, chief operating officer of Start Garden.

Here is the new schedule for 5x5 Night:

  • July 21, Holland City Flats Hotel.
  • Aug. 24, Grand Rapids LINC Community Revitalization.
  • Sept. 27, Muskegon Innovation Hub.
  • Oct. 25, Grand Rapids, Grand Valley State University Pew Campus.
  • Nov. 29, Grand Rapids (in Spanish), Rockford Construction.
  • Jan. 24, Muskegon Innovation Hub.

“We want West Michigan to be the easiest place to start running with an idea, which is why we're bringing it back and asking the broader region to get more involved with 5x5 Night,” Burch said.

He said Holland and Grand Rapids each topped WalletHub financial services website’s list of best small and large cities in the United States to start and grow a business.

“Creating platforms that inspire new ideas from all over the region to come forward and provide a channel for funding is critical to creating a dynamic small business economy,” he said.

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