GeekWire Elevator Pitch winner Syndio rides high with a software solution to address pay bias

Maria Colacurcio of Syndio Solutions during the GeekWire Elevator Pitch finals at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle on Wednesday. (GeekWire Photos / Dan DeLong)

Twelve entrepreneurs rode to the top of Seattle’s Smith Tower for Season 2 of GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch. One of them kept going beyond that historic skyscraper elevator ride, all the way to victory at the 2019 GeekWire Summit on Wednesday.

The four finalists from four episodes of Elevator Pitch — in which business concepts were pitched in a 32-second elevator ride — emerged from a season featuring ideas related to agriculture, transportation, AI, IoT connectivity and more. They pitched once again, this time on stage in front of hundreds of Summit attendees at the Hyatt Regency. The entrepreneurs included:

  • Greg Newbloom, CEO of Membrion, a University of Washington spinout that makes ion membranes for use in fuel cells and water desalination systems.
  • Keith McCall, founder and CTO of Pollen Systems, creators of agriculture and drone technology for the wine industry.
  • Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio Solutions, creators of a software solution to address discriminatory pay gaps.
  • Jinesh Varia, CEO of Industrility, a startup focused on IoT technology solutions for industrial original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Colacurcio and her Syndio pitch managed to impress our panel of judges once again and take the title this year. Her pitch also won the Geek’s Choice award after live voting by the audience in the Summit app.

GeekWire’s John Cook, center, cheers on the season two Elevator Pitch finalists and judges on stage at the GeekWire Summit.

When asked what the secret to her pitch was, Colacurcio had a nugget of wisdom.

“Pitch to kids,” Colacurcio said. “They force you to keep it high and tight and they force you to use words that people understand.”

The judges, who greeted and grilled the entrepreneurs at the top of Smith Tower, were on stage again on Wednesday. They included: Flying Fish Partners co-founder Heather Redman; serial entrepreneur and Pioneer Square Labs managing director T.A. McCann; Darrin Siver, and Kyle Quinn, CTO at PACCAR.

The Elevator Pitch judges huddle off stage, from left, T.A. McCann, Heather Redman and Darrin Siver.

As Colacurcio was handed the trophy by Quinn, and thanked on behalf of PACCAR, the show’s sponsor, she handed back “Equal Pay” T-shirts to the judges. Quinn invited the CEO to come pitch to PACCAR at a technical center in Mount Vernon, Wash., — and get the chance to drive some big trucks.

The judges also offered final words of advice for all of those who pitched.

“The biggest thing for early stage entrepreneurs is to command people to follow you,” Redman said.

“Command, compelling, clear, concise,” McCann said of the elements of a good pitch, before adding one more C: “customers.”

Elevator Pitch finalists, from left, Greg Newbloom, Jinesh Varia, Keith McCall and Maria Colacurcio.

To catch up on Season 2 of Elevator Pitch and see all the original pitches, follow the links below:

  • Watch Episode 1 here to see McCall’s original pitch, as well as pitches from Virginia Emery of Beta Hatch and Christoph Krumm of Sironix Renewables.
  • Watch Episode 2 here to see Newbloom’s original pitch, as well as pitches from Manuela Papadopol of Portland’s Designated Driver and Jason Atherton, co-founder of Shared Technology.
  • Watch Episode 3 here to see Varia’s original pitch, as well as pitches from Robert Hamlet, CEO of Teal Communications and Alan Meekins, CEO of RosHub.
  • Watch Episode 4 here to see Colacurcio’s original pitch, as well as pitches from John Herlocker, CEO of Tignis, and James Wu, CEO of AdaptiLab.

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