September 22, 2016
NAMIC Blog: The New Kids Compete in NAMIC's Version of "Shark Tank"
By Verneda White
In legacy industries such as television, cable, and media, it brings a breath of fresh air to take a look at what the new kids on the block have been brewing in their vision banks. Today’s launch of the “Startup Pitch” Competition on day two of the 2016 NAMIC Conference, was a telling sign of NAMIC’s commitment to evolve and align its mission with the needs of the next generation.
The dynamic competition, presented by NAMIC and SAVA360 was structured on a 5/5/5 platform with 5 companies each giving a 5 minute pitch, and 5 minutes of Q&A from a panel of esteemed judges. The first and second place winners would receive a bevy of prizes including support from NAMIC, one on one mentoring with experts in the field, and access to several world-class sports and entertainment events. However, before any of the prospective companies could take advantage of the prize, each would have to first demonstrate to five judges whose backgrounds varied across media, communications and entertainment, why their idea was the one to take to the next level. When the judges took the stage including, Andrew Cleland of Comcast Virginia, Darrel Hegar for Charter Communications, Zenita Henderson from SCTE/ISBE, Aarti Tandon of Decade Citizen, and Sola Winley at A+E Networks, it was clear each prospective company had just walked in to NAMIC’s own version of “Shark Tank”.
The five competitors who were as diverse as their ideas, included “Merlin Onboarding”, a technology solution designed to take out the pain and reduce the cost of onboarding new employees. The second pitch came from a company called “Open Up” that would help businesses better understand their consumer by not only tracking their online shopping behavior, but tying it back to the original point of influence. Up third, “The Royal Inn” brought new meaning to microcontent on Instagram by demonstrating how authentic video interactions between millennials and the products, brands, and sponsors we engage with is the future of advertising revenue. Next we learned about more effective brand collaborations from the team at E.L.O.S., where social media has created a bridge between products, influencers such as athletes, and engagement with their followers and fans. The final pitch came from Uru (yes, Uru like the metal in Thor’s sword), whose patent pending technology service took us through the new pillar of video monetization and the seamless integration of logos and brands on the plain surfaces of your favorite YouTube videos.
Following the five energetic pitches, the judges deliberated and selected two companies with solid business solutions, with Open Up taking second place, and Merlin Onboarding as the winner. I had the opportunity to catch up with Charles Douglas-Osborn of Merlin Onboarding, and the team behind The Royal Inn following the session. For each competitor presenting at the NAMIC Conference was an honor, and created the opportunity to think through their pitch in a new way. With a genuine sense of joy, Douglas-Osborn expressed his shock for not only having been selected as one of the five companies to compete out of the initial round of 90+ entries, but to have come out the winner. He looks forward to engaging with his future NAMIC mentors in a meaningful way.
Like many of its previous iterations, the 30th Annual NAMIC Conference has not disappointed. While each and every session or presentation over the two-day conference has been thought provoking, inventive, and a platform for new discussions, the “Startup Pitch” Competition was by far the most fun. The passion and determination that came across in each entrepreneur who presented, invigorated the audience with that distinct feeling that nothing is impossible.
For more information on Merlin Guides (formerly Merlin Onboarding) or test drive their beta version, visit merlinguides.com.
1st Place: Merlin Gudies (formerly Merlin Onboarding)
Executive Team: Charles Douglas-Osborn, Founder
Magically simple onboarding: teach your staff inside of the products they actually use.
2nd Place: Open Up
Executive Team: Ashwini Aburajan, Founder
A platform delivering smarter, personalized marketing.