2017 Causeway Pitch Competition

Picture of the Alabama Causeway at sunset
"Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once" - Drew Houston, Dropbox founder and CEO

The Causeway Pitch Competition is an annual competition hosted by the USA Melton Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This year students are competing for over $5,000 in prizes. Students may enter by submitting a poster about their idea by October 18th. A panel of judges will select the 10 best pitches to compete live on a Gulf Coast Duck Boat at Fort Conde. Submissions are now being taken and posters should be delivered to Rachel Backlin in the Mitchell College of Business, Room 118. 

Important Dates

10/18/17 - Due Date for Posters

10/25/17- Finalist Announced

10/27/17 - Finals on the Causeway


1st Place- $2000

2nd Place- $1000

3rd Place- $500

Social Prize- $500

Student Choice Prize- $250

There are early entry prizes so get your pitch in early!!

Writing Your Winning Elevator Pitch

If you need help with your pitch or have any questions Dr. Thomas Nelson would be happy to help. His Competition Specific Office Hours are 9:00am - 11:00am & 3:00pm - 5:00pm daily. You can email him at thomasnelson@southalabama.edu. Please notify him via email if you would like to come by or set up an appointment.

▼   The 5 P's of presentation

What is the problem that you’re trying to solve? How big is the problem?

How are you going to make the pain go away? KISS: Keep it simple, students. If you read just the premise out loud with no other information, someone hearing it should understand what it is you do. If not, keep simplifying/refining your message.

The people are one of the most important parts of your business. Their character, experience, expertise, availability and drive all influence their ability to obtain funding from angels and venture capitalists. In this section you should answer the question why you? Why not someone else?

The best proof is sales, but if you’re at a pitch competition you may not have generated sales yet. In this case, the next best proof is people that say they’ll buy. This can come from interviews, focus groups, surveys or other market research. Crowdfunding pre-purchases can also be helpful. If your concept is B2B (Business to Business), rather than B2C (Business to Consumer), letters of intent from prospective business customers can be helpful as well. Other great forms of proof include prototypes and intellectual property. Though they do not provide evidence of market demand for your product/service, these types of proof can bolster your credibility and help you build a case for feasibility and competitive advantage.

The purpose of a business is to make money and contribute value. What is your profit potential? If you have a social endeavor, you will need to provide an alternative metric to revenues or profits. For example, if you are launching a nonprofit to feed the homeless, your metric might be number of people fed. It often makes sense to explain why the metric you choose is important.

▼   The 9 C's of presentation

Use plain English as much as possible. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Never use a large word when a diminutive one will do.

You don’t have a lot of time, so it’s important to be as brief as possible so that you can get it all in.

People should believe you when you deliver your pitch. There are two complementary ways to accomplish this. First, you can explain why you’re qualified. Second, you can sound like you know what you’re talking about. This should be because you have practiced what you’re going to say a lot and because you really do know what you’re talking about.

Have a message and stay on it. If you have numbers for something, use the same numbers throughout. Don’t contradict yourself within your pitch. It’s easier to do than you might think.

You shouldn’t sound like you’re reciting the pitch, even though you probably are. Keep in mind that the elevator pitch is the beginning of a real conversation, one in which you hope to convince the listener that your idea is amazing and they want in on it.

Do not go into details in the elevator pitch. You don’t have time. For instance, when discussing proof, if you’ve done market research you may know that 15% of college students will buy your product. You may also know a breakdown of that number based on other demographic information. The 15% is enough in most cases.

Be as specific as you can. This sounds like the opposite of #6 above, but it’s not really.

You typically address this most in the pain section. You explain the pain, and part of that is convincing us that it’s important to ‘fix’ the pain.

As much as possible, tailor your elevator pitch to your audience. In a contest setting this will not be easy. It might not even be possible. But remember, the skill of pitching, and perhaps even the pitch you’re developing for this contest, may prove useful elsewhere. You might actually get on an elevator with Bill Gates, and wouldn’t it be awesome if you had a fantastic opportunity for him?

▼   FAQ's

1. What is it?
Inventors and entrepreneurs of all kinds commonly have to request support from investors to raise capital in order to commercialize their ideas and launch start-up ventures. Busy investors don’t have much time to listen. Often you need to be able to request their support in just a couple minutes, the length of one elevator ride. This “elevator pitch” competition simulates this business reality. Come pitch your innovative idea for a chance to win $2000.00 (1st Prize), $1000 (2nd Prize) or $500 (3rd Prize), or a special $500 social enterprise award! There are also prizes for early entry so get yours in today!

2. Am I eligible?
If you’re currently a student enrolled in an Undergraduate or Graduate Program at USA, then you’re eligible. It’s just that simple! The event is open to the entire University, so students from ALL colleges are invited to compete every year!

3. What is involved?
We’ve tried to keep it simple. There are just a few requirements. First you need to create a poster with your innovative idea on it and if selected for finals you will share that idea verbally in two minutes and maybe answer a few questions. You won’t have time to get into the technical details. You won’t need to make a formal presentation. There’s no dress code. You can work alone or with a team of up to 5 people. You don’t have to bring a prototype, but can if you have one and would like to “show it off”. Our goal is to keep it simple, reward your creativity, and connect you with successful and innovative people and programs that can help you take your ideas to commercialization or even launch your own company!

4. How will it work?
Details will be posted as they are confirmed, but for now just know that you will present your pitch to people with real world businesses, entrepreneurs, and other community members who are interested in your ideas and success.

5. Code of Ethics
All concepts must be legal in the USA and Alabama. Vice industry concepts are prohibited, including concepts related to alcohol (e.g., production, distribution), drugs, pornography, tobacco, gambling, etc.