In support of the innovative Indianapolis technology community, Salesforce invited five carefully selected local startup companies to a Pitch Night event in the city on May 2. Representatives from each startup got to pitch their business concepts to a panel of three Salesforce executives for a chance to win a $100,000 investment.
By the end of the night, Viral Launch, a sales performance and conversion engine for brands selling on Amazon, won the investment. It was also a great night for giving back, with all proceeds from ticket sales donated to Indianapolis’ Riley Children’s Hospital.
Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss wowed the judges with a very personal story of how he dropped out of college, taught himself how to code and started the company with a $700 investment. In the early days, unable to afford heat in his apartment, the entrepreneur had to wear socks on his hands to keep them warm, while coding the software that would ultimately build his business.
Today, Viral Launch customers represent more than $2 billion in sales on Amazon. The startup helps brands identify opportunities in the market, and analyze how any product has been performing from a sales perspective. And with historical data on over a 100 million brands, products and keywords, it can accurately gauge market trends, Gauss said.
“Third-party sellers and brands are struggling to drive and manage success on Amazon. We are focused on building a comprehensive automated platform to help them maximize their success,” he told the judges and the audience of 150 attendees. He added that he hoped to use the funds to build out the team and sales pipeline.
The five competing startups were selected based on their talented management teams, innovative products, large market opportunities and strong vision. The startups also provided innovative services complementary to the Salesforce platform.
The companies involved in the competition included DemandJump, Pattern89 (formerly known as Quantifi), Powderkeg, Torchlite and Viral Launch. A group of Salesforce executives, including Chief Product Officer Bret Taylor, Vice President, Product Management Armita Peymandoust, and Global Head of M&A Chris Hecht served as judges. They scored each company on a 1-5 point scale based on the following three categories:
- ability of the current team to execute
- innovation in the existing marketplace
- understanding of market size and ability to capture market share
“Indy has an incredible technology community,” said Bret Taylor, seen in the photos here with members of the Viral Launch team. “The innovation, the drive and the passion that I saw from the companies who participated in the contest this evening was inspiring.”
Pitch Night took place on the heels of Salesforce winning the Tech Company of the Year award during TechPoint’s 19th annual Mira Awards honoring the best of technology in Indiana. Salesforce has also announced plans to train 500 workers in Indiana by 2020, enabling these trainees to begin new careers in technology as part of Salesforce’s commitment to workforce development and equality.