The New York City real-estate market is hot, but its potential for disruption is hotter. That was a key takeaway from last night's inaugural Pitch Night NYC, bi-monthly competition in which startups face off against one another in front of a rotating panel of judges with roots in the VC and entrepreneurial community.
Held at AlleyNYC, a co-working space in midtown Manhattan, the event attracted 250-plus spectators who arranged themselves on fold-up chairs to watch 10 presenters pitch their startups. The judges were Jay Levy, co-founder of Zelkova Ventures, Matt Witheiler, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, Elliot Durbin, general partner at BoldStart Ventures, Alex Iskold, managing director at Techstars, and Ray Hennessey, editorial director of Entrepreneur.com.
The startups varied in their stage of development and function, but three of the 10 were focused on creating new opportunities in the real-estate sector.
First up to bat was Sohin Shah, the co-founder of iFunding, a platform that allows users to invest in real estate online through crowdfunding. Appearing slightly nervous, he addressed the judges from the floor instead of mounting the small, makeshift stage at the front of the room. "We have over 5,000 registered users on our website. The market for us is accredited investors," he told the panel. "There are 8 million accredited investors in the U.S. who we are going to match with $150 the billion real-estate market."
Shah was immediately followed by Daniel Ahmadizadeh, the founder of Rentity, which directly connects renters moving out of their apartments with prospective tenants, eliminating the need for a broker and minimizing apartment vacancies for landlords. "I'm assuming most of you know that finding an apartment in New York City is an extremely painful process. You have to pay a broker an obscene fee, or you have to use Craigslist, which is incredibly sketchy," he started off, jumping up on the stage. "We're matchmaking… bringing the sharing economy to the rental market."
Next up, dressed in blue jeans and matching bright green shirts emblazoned with their company logo, were the co-founders of Zenly, a website where apartment hunters can watch video tours of listings online. As with Rentity, one of Zenly's central messages was: Brokers suck. "The idea is that a 60 second video clip saves me hours of having to run around the streets like a maniac with a broker in the bitter cold," explained one half of the duo. "I can now explore apartments all across the city without even leaving my couch."
After all 10 presenters pitched – the judges heard from startups looking to reduce home energy costs, cut down wait times at emergency rooms, and provide teachers with tools to help educate special needs students, among other – the winners were selected based on five criteria: The problem each startup was attempting to solve along with the ingenuity of the proposed solution, presentation style, market opportunity, traction, and strength of the founding team.
While the real estate faction was well-represented among the competition's best received pitches – Zenly tied for third place with Vonvo, a real-time video platform for brands to interact with audiences, and Rentity nabbed second place – the winner was an outlier in more than one respect.
Match-Click, a recruiting platform for attracting passive candidates, won the event by a gaping margin; the only HR startup in the lot, Match-Click's pitch was also one of two presented by a woman.
In the sea of plaid-shirted, denim-wearing tech bros, Maury Hanigan – Match-Click's founder and president – stood out. Tall and blonde, Hanigan was older than the majority of the fresh college grad presenters and with more than 20 years of experience working in the recruiting industry, her expertise elevated the polish of her pitch.
What's more, Match-Click has already generated considerable traction. The company's management system, which sends attractive candidates custom job postings including video clips from the position's hiring manger, is currently being used by “a bunch” of companies, including Ernst & Young, L'Oreal and Cisco, according to Hanigan. "We have an original patent on our content management system."
As the night's winner, Match-Click received a free month of rent at AlleyNYC's offices, a meeting with Techstars, a startup accelerator, and a profile in Entrepreneur.com – so check back here soon for an update on the company.
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Media is an investor and partner with AlleyNYC, a co-working space in New York City. Pitch NYC is a bi-monthly event sponsored through a joint partnership between AlleyNYC, Techstars and Entrepreneur Media.