Elevator Pitch competition

2019 Elevator Pitch competitors and judges: Breanna Whitley, front row left, and Daniel Rivera, right, were the top two finishers in the 2019 SIU Elevator Pitch competition. In the back row, from left, are contestants Ian Moeckel, Dannaka White, Nelson Fernandes, Kyle Carter, and Jasmine Robinson, and competition judges Sarah Patrick, Gary Kinsel, Pinckney Benedict and Thomas Becker. (Photo provided)

October 11, 2019

Daniel Rivera wins SIU’s 2019 Saluki Elevator Pitch Contest with his idea for a better resume

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Thanks to Daniel Maa Rivera’s plan for a more effective resume and the ability to sell his concept, he will be competing at a national competition later this month as the winner of the 2019 Saluki Elevator Pitch Competition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Rivera, a junior finance major, took top honors in the contest sponsored by the Saluki Entrepreneur Corps, a registered student organization which is SIU’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Breanna Whitley, a junior plant biology major, claimed second prize.

Competition fosters entrepreneurship   

The premise of the contest is simple. You’ve got a great idea for a product or service that you think is commercially viable. You’ve got no more than 90 seconds, the length of an average elevator ride, to convince a prospective investor your plan is worth contributing to.

The goal is to pack a lot of pertinent information into a short period of time and in the process, hone your entrepreneurship skills.

“As part of the competition, each participant was provided training, along with mock pitch presentations, to help them practice and gather valuable feedback before the final competition,” Deborah Barnett, director of the Business Incubator Program, said. “It was exciting to see each student develop skills and confidence throughout the process that not only helped them in the competition, but which also will benefit them in their future careers.”

Six finalists competed at SIU

Six finalists participated in the big event. The finalists, along with their hometowns, year, majors and product/service concepts, were:

  • Kyle Carter, a freshman psychology student from Chicago, presented a GPS-technology-based product intended to prevent child abduction.
  • Nelson Fernandes, a sophomore mechanical engineering student from Skokie, discussed his plans for creating and refurbishing eco-friendly “green” roofs.
  • Ian Moeckel, a master’s student in creative writing from Painesville, Ohio, shared his technology that would more easily connect virtual reality products with commonly used video platforms.
  • Rivera, from North Aurora, Illinois, “sold” his concept for creating an enhanced and more effective resume that works well with online search mechanisms used by large career databases.
  • Dannaka White, a senior electrical and computer engineering major from Memphis, Tennessee, revealed his vehicle-based technology which detects and reports potholes.
  • Whitley, of Pinckneyville, shared her concept for a programming and education curriculum based on unique biology and science.

Whitley said she enjoyed preparing for the contest as it enabled her to connect with other SIU students and staff who are passionate about business.

“It was also the first time I started seeing ‘Breanna’s Bizarre Biology Show’ as an actual business,” she said.

Challenging competition

The competition was intense. Each of the finalists presented a “pitch” to a panel of expert judges and a crowd of about 60 spectators. Each also had a couple of minutes to answer questions.

The judges, all experienced professionals, included Pinckney Benedict, Jasmine Robinson and Sarah Patrick. The panel offered helpful suggestions for improvements along with their scores, and audience members had the opportunity to vote for their favorite.

Rivera said he was grateful for the encouragement he received from fellow competitors and judges and that the event was “definitely a great learning experience.”

Gary Kinsel, vice chancellor for research, was also on hand to offer remarks and Thomas Becker served as timekeeper.

Trip and cash for winners

As the top finisher, Rivera received a $750 prize and he will advance to the national competition, which will take place Oct. 31 during the CEO 2019 Global Conference and Pitch Competition. More than $10,000 in prize money is up for grabs at the national event. CEO’s goal is to inform, support and inspire college student to be entrepreneurial and seek opportunity through enterprise creation and it boasts more than 250 chapters across the United States and around the world.

Whitley claimed the $500 second prize and also won the crowd favorite vote, adding another $250 in seed money for her business. All prize money from the contest is designated for advancing the winners’ business concepts.

SIU fosters innovation and entrepreneurship

The Saluki Entrepreneurship Corps event was sponsored in partnership with the SIU Office of Innovation and Economic Development and its SIU Business Incubator Program and is organized by Barnett.

“SIU has a long history of supporting innovative activities, including those of our student entrepreneurs,” Barnett said. “We are very proud of the students who participated in their year’s competition and the high level of professionalism at which they competed. SIU will be well represented at the national competition.”

For more information about the Saluki Entrepreneur Corps, contact Jake Coddington, president, at jacob.coddington@siu.edu. To learn more about the Business Incubator Programs contact Barnett at incubator@siu.edu. Visit the Office of Innovation and Economic Development website at econdev.siu.edu, call 618/536-4451 or email innovation@siu.edu for details about the organization and the numerous programs and service it offers for students, faculty, staff and community members.

Daniel Rivera

Daniel Rivera of North Aurora won the 2019 SIU elevator pitch contest. (Photo provided)

Breanna Whitley

Breanna Whitley of Pinckneyville won second place and people’s choice at the SIU pitch competition.