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Inspired to Pitch

Posted by Will Poole

inspired-to-pitch.jpgAfter hearing my wife Janet tell enough stories about inspired discussions and activities at SVPI Annual Conferences, I finally carved out time to go to Long Beach last November.  Those two days re-ignited my passion for making a difference in our community and gave me the idea of what to do next.

SVP LA’s workshop on their Fast Pitch program was fantastic.  The concept is simple, and as I later discovered, has been run successfully in Phoenix (whose winner is photographed above), Pittsburgh, Dallas, Providence, and even Seattle (albeit 10 years ago!).

I am a regular at local angel investing events and am a member of Zino Society and Alliance of Angels.  I have also participated as a judge and coach in UW’s business plan competition.  So I readily understood the concepts that the SVP LA team explained:

  1.  Define attractive grant (or “prize”) categories.
  2. Promote them heavily to the non-profit and social entrepreneur community.
  3. Engage with, mentor, and coach contestants.
  4. Run a cool event that community influentials, donors, and contestants all attend.
  5. Every participant wins, whether they take home a grant or not, because they learn and connect in new and profound ways.

Check out the winning presentation from LA SVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch:

After returning from Long Beach, I made the rounds of local angel groups, university entrepreneurship centers, SVP members, and anyone else willing to talk.  My questions were simple:  Does Seattle need a Fast Pitch competition to ignite innovation within established non-profits and to nurture the social entrepreneurs among us?  Is the need being filled elsewhere?  If the need is valid, should SVP address it?  

The answers were overwhelmingly positive as to the need and were similarly positive towards SVP’s role. We have the credibility, neutrality, and focus (on the social sector) that make us ideal to bring a Fast Pitch to the Greater Seattle area, working with established angel and university groups.

As of last month, we’re off and running, preparing for Seattle’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch (SIFP) to be held on October 3 at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavillion.  We’ve assembled a great team of long-time SVP partners, two new SVP partners, and three more connected community volunteers.  Over the summer, as we launch the effort, we will be recruiting a small army of pitch coaches, mentors, and others to screen applications, coach participants on everything from business plan building to Fast Pitch skills, and hopefully to form mentoring relationships that will last for years to come.

Our grant categories are still in the making (weigh in here), but they will likely include:

  • Youth Ventures Software for Social Gain
  • Collective Impact & Collaboration
  • Education, Environment, & Sustainability
  • Local Implementation, Global Relevance
  • Simply Innovative (anything great that does not fit the above)

Get Involved!

If you’re intrigued about how SVP can help increase the speed and depth of social innovation in our community, please visit our website and register your interest areas.  We need help from SVP Partners on mentorship, sponsorship, or simply spreading the word around.

You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter (@SIFPnet) and provide your feedback as we continue shaping this program and preparing for the first of many events.


Will Poole, husband of Janet Levinger, SVP Seattle members since 1997.

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