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Challenge Cup

Judges Q&A: Challenge Cup Regional New York

With Challenge Cup Regional New York at 6:00 PM on Thursday, Mar. 3, some of the event’s esteemed judges shared their insights about the eastern region of North America, what they’re looking for in startups’ pitches, and what they’re looking forward to learning more about.

Competing startups take note, and anyone hoping to catch the pitching and judging in action should join us or follow #1776Challenge along online!

Maria Gotsch

Maria Gotsch is President and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City, where she has spearheaded the creation and operation of a number of the Fund’s strategic initiatives such as FinTech Innovation Lab, New York Digital Health Accelerator, and NYCSeed. Her investment know-how will certainly be valuable on the judging panel.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

New York City is the U.S. leader in digital media and has the potential to be the leader in enterprise tech given the large number of potential customers in financial services, healthcare, media, fashion and retail, real estate, and insurance. Key will be the ability to connect the domain expertise that exists within those large corporates with entrepreneurs that are developing new technologies.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

Novelty of the idea [is important] rather than a “me too.” Does the technology address a real pain point? Is management open to feedback? How experienced is management?

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

I look forward to learning about their products and services and why they chose New York City.

Jeffrey Makowka

Jeffrey Makowka is director of AARP’s market innovation group, which aims to spark entrepreneurial activity and innovation across public and private sectors. His fifteen years of experience in strategic consulting and market research make him a great fit for judging the startups’ pitches on Thursday.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

New York City has a heritage of entrepreneurial development but especially the networks and culture that were created during the dot com boom in the mid to late 1990s. The cross pollination of different disciplines, whether it be tech, fashion, media, the traditional arts… New York creates an interesting and rich ecosystem for innovators. Having Wall Street money nearby doesn’t hurt either.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

For me it is a balance of several things: the originality of the idea, the viability of the business model, and finally the leadership of the startup-can they make it happen and take it to scale. There is no shortage of good and interesting ideas — it’s a matter of whether they can be turned into real businesses.

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

I’m always interested in new ideas and concepts that improve the quality of life for people as they age. These can come from different and sometimes surprising areas. I love the variety of the companies in 1776’s programs. I’m most interested in learning about how they are aiming to change how we live, society, and in some cases, the world.

Jessica Singelton

Jessica Singleton is the Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York. Her most recent experience working to drive public participation in city-led technology initiatives, focus on outreach to the tech community, and direct citywide digital policy positions her well to deeply understand 1776’s mission with the Challenge Cup.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

[The eastern half of North America has strong] industry expertise and diversity.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

The path to sustainability and potential for impact are key.

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

How will their products make cities better and improve New Yorkers’ lives?

Matt Turck

Matt Turck is a managing director at FirstMark Capital. He invests across a broad range of enterprise and consumer startups, and previously helped found Bloomberg Ventures, the investment and incubation arm of Bloomberg LP. Turck’s investing insights will be key to the judging panel as it assesses the strengths of startups’ plans to scale.

What do you think is your region’s number one entrepreneurial strength?

Access to a broad and deep network of customers (for enterprise businesses) and density and diversity of users (for consumer businesses) force entrepreneurs to build products and services that people actually want and love.

What criteria are most important to you when judging a startup pitch like the ones at Challenge Cup?

The quality of the team matter most: intellect, clarity of thought, and how their experiences related specifically to the problems they’re trying to solve.

What are you most looking forward to learning about the startup competitors?

Are they world class experts at understanding the problems they’re tackling? Have they thought through all the details and nuances? Have they spoken to hundreds of possible users or customers?

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