By Hallie Busta
— Chicago-based technology startup ReadyPing won the CrowdPitch business plan event held Tuesday at the Illinois Technology Association’s TechNexus by impressing a panel of judges and the audience with its text-messaging alternative to restaurant pagers.
ReadyPing’s system lets restaurant owners send a text message to waiting patrons when their tables are ready, eliminating the need for more expensive paging systems, said co-founder and chief executive Joe Sprovieri. The system also provides more flexibility to customers, allowing them to leave the restaurant and return when ReadyPing notifies them that their tables are ready.
They established their value proposition, said Theodore Polk, a managing director at Capstone Partners Chicago office, who judged the six CrowdPitch contestants and put his support behind ReadyPing. The six startups each had four minutes to sell their concept to a panel of judges and the audience.
Six contestants, four minutes each
ReadyPing was joined by BillionaireXchange, an online luxury items auction house; MapDing, a location-based smartphone app that notifies shoppers of nearby locations of items they’re looking for; Pentamerus LLC, a provider of location-based meeting coordination software that relies on users social media portfolio; Point Bearing, a provider of information security software for the IT industry, and Sibylus, which sells college course packs to students at a lower price than traditional copy stores.
South Jordan, Utah-based Lendio, formerly known as FundingUniverse, brings its CrowdPitch event to cities nationwide. After the entrepreneurs’ initial pitches, the audience and panel had three minutes to ask questions.
The audience included customers, investors and potential partners as well as fellow startups, who provided candid feedback, said Brock Blake, chief executive officer of Lendio. They can tell it to you straight, he said.
To determine the winner, audience members and panelists invested $100 and $500 of pretend money respectively in their choice of ventures.
Despite delivering a winning pitch, Sprovieri said he felt pressure under the clock. When you ve got four minutes and you re trying to get (across) certain pieces of information , certain things have to be cut. That inevitable, Sprovieri said.
Restaurants pay $49 monthly for ReadyPitch’s notification service, plus 5 cents per text message, Sprovieri said. Using ReadyPing, restaurants and other hospitality companies also can notify customers in person or by phone call or pager, Sprovieri said. After testing its service with a few restaurants during the first half of 2009 and revising it based on their feedback, ReadyPing nabbed its first customer in April 2010, Sprovieri said. The company hopes to have its system in 1,000 partner locations in about 20 markets by the end of 2011, he said.
As a CrowdPitch winner, Sprovieri received an estimated $5,500 in services from NOW Advisors, Lendio and Amazon.com.