2021 What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition Awards $40,000 to Innovative Entrepreneurs: PedalCell, Leap Photovoltaics, and ATP-MD

The winners for USPAACC’s 7th annual What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition was PedalCell in first place, Leap Photovoltaics, second, and ATP-MD, in third. Over 150 applicants from 15 industries across the nation pitched their ideas for a chance to win.

From July to September 2021, three regional preliminary rounds were held and 30 competitors were selected to continue to the national round. By October, nine competitors made it to the national round. They represented the west, southeast, and northeast regions and the agri-tech, science, technology, education, consumer goods, and manufacturing industries. The national round featured five judges.

These judges had expertise in diverse industries: entrepreneurs, supply chain experts, venture capitalists, academics, minority business advisors, and a former winner of the popular television competition, Shark Tank.

Serving as moderator was Usha Boddapu, the CEO and Founder of Esolvit. Boddapu has been a long-time USPAACC member and winner of multiple awards, including USPAACC’s Fast 100 and the Minority Professional Services Firm of the Year from the US Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency in 2020.

Those who tuned in to the competition also heard from Lucas Vining, CEO of Ichosia Biotechnology, winner of the 2020 What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition.

Vining is happy for the opportunities that the competition brought him, “I started Ichosia as a research project in high school. I didn’t have access to research grants or a network of investors and really had to start this company from scratch. It’s completely due to pitch competitions and the generosity of sponsors like USPAACC that made what we’re doing at Ichosia possible."

The national round was an exciting production. The competitors had 10 minutes each to pitch their product, service, or innovation to the judges, then they engaged in a Q&A session.

In first place winner PedalCell’s pitch, the founder, Adam Hokin, presented technology that allows bicyclists to stay safe and connected by powering their devices simply through pedaling their bikes. This bicycle pedal source product is based in Chicago and was founded in 2015. Emphasizing the positive impact of winning this competition, Hokin said, “Our next step is to grow, grow, grow… the prize money that we got from this competition will really help us pour directly into working capital and boost our production numbers.”

Leap Photovoltaics, the second-place winner, represented by Dr. David Berney Needleman addresses crucial solar cell manufacturing issues with an innovative idea that could significantly streamline the production process and better enable solar supply chains in the United States.

The third-place winner, Joseph James of ATP-MD, created technology that will help protect the environment by reducing C02. He hopes to use biomass to reduce poverty and promote environmental justice in poor, urban communities of color.

After all nine pitches were completed, deliberation took place, and the winners were formally announced at USPAACC’s 2021 Business Development Week: SYNERGY FORWARD>>, held in November.

“The What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition was created after receiving many comments from our corporate and government members who were seeking innovations. In 2014, we created the pitch competition to help the next generation of young entrepreneurs, encourage them to create and innovate, develop a good management team, and a plan to market their best inventions,” Susan Au Allen, USPAACC National President & CEO.

Congratulations to our 2021 What’s Your Pitch? Winners and Finalists

1st Place: Adam Hokin, PedalCell

2nd Place: David Berney Needleman, Leap Photovoltaics

3rd Place: Joseph James, ATP-MD LLC

Sustainability Award: Fela Akinse, Salubata

Additional Finalists
Anjali Nair, Desi Girl in US

Mena Blue & Steve Ward, DreamCatcher Enterprises

Chasity Wright, Infiltron Software

Alon Cohen, Pika Diapers

Jennifer Zhang, Rotate Watches

We want to thank,

Southern California Edison
Trane Technologies

Wells Fargo

National Round Moderator Usha Boddapu, CEO & Founder of Esolvit

National Round Guest Speaker Lucas Vining, CEO of Ichosia Biotechnology & 2020 What’s Your Pitch? Winner

National Round Judges
Murali Chirala, CEO & Co-founder, FalconX
James Haddow, Associate Director, Center for Excellence in Supply Chain Management, Howard University School of Business

Youngro Lee, COO, Republic

Porter Wong, Business Consultant, Mentor, Entrepreneur, Executive in Residence

Kent Yoshimura, Co-founder & CEO, Neuro

USPAACC Southeast Regional Chapter Moderators

Lissa Miller, Senior Vice President, Chief Supplier Diversity Officer, Truist Financial Corporation

Paula Washburn, Associate Manager, Supplier Sustainability & Diversity, Trane Technologies

USPAACC Southeast Regional Chapter Judges

KeeKee Mathis, Senior Leader, Supplier Sustainability & Diversity, Trane Technologies
Larry McHugh, Board of Directors, Atlanta Technology Angels
Lianne Wang, Senior Vice President, Business Banking Leader, Truist Financial Corporation

USPAACC Northeast Regional Chapter Moderator

Ryan Silvestre, Senior Business Consultant, NJ SBDC & Board of Directors, USPAACC NE

USPAACC Northeast Regional Chapter Judges

Nisha Balwani, CEO, RCI Technologies

Brian Goral, Director of Tech Programs, Dcode

Henry Woram, Investor, Palm Drive Capital

USPAACC Western Regional Chapter Moderator

Deepti Dawar, Co-President; COO, USPAACC Western Regional Chapter; Diya TV

USPAACC Western Regional Chapter Judges

Steve Anderson, Founder, Capitola Cap LLC

Mike Chop, Designer: Conversational Interaction, Apple

Dennis Thurston, Program Manager, Supplier Diversity & Development, Southern California Edison

Kaitlyn Witman, COO & Founder, Rainfactory

Coming …

The competition will celebrate its 8th year in 2022. Applications for the next staging of What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition will become available on February 1st, 2022.

To learn more about USPAACC and our What’s Your Pitch? Innovation Competition, please visit: https://uspaacc.com/programs/innovation/whats-your-pitch

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