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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

CMU reverse pitch challenge ‘flips the table’ on corporate engagement


By David Schwartz
Published: June 4th, 2019

University-based start-up companies and similar entities seeking corporate sponsorships or partnerships are exhaustingly familiar with the process of developing and presenting elevator pitches. But what if the process was reversed? What if corporations seeking assistance in solving one of their most pressing problems were asked to make a similar pitch — to start-ups?

This “flipping the table” on the more traditional approach is behind the Pittsburgh Reverse Pitch & Innovation Challenge, held on February 28, 2019 and hosted by Carnegie Mellon Institute’s Corporate Startup Lab at the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship. For industry engagement professionals, supporting university start-ups may not typically be in their job description, but the reverse pitch concept could help change that.

“The basic idea was that while some companies are not comfortable sharing their need for innovative solutions publicly, others are pretty transparent with entrepreneurs around,” explains Sean Ammerati, adjunct professor at CMU, a partner at Birchmere Ventures, and head of the Corporate Startup Lab. “Many people have, and love, to pay start-ups to help solve their problems.”

So Ammerati and the Corporate Startup Lab’s partners in the initiative, Innovation Works, reached out to their networks of large company corporate executives, asking them to come and talk. “Each company had to be willing to give a presentation on what they were looking for and to talk about how much money they’d be willing to spend to solve that problem,” he shares. “This in some ways flips the table, having companies pitch entrepreneurs on problems they have — with dollars behind them.”

A detailed article on the CMU reverse pitch event appears in the May issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

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Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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