Pitch competition created for entrepreneurs in Larimer, Weld counties

FORT COLLINS — LaunchNo.CO is seeking applicants for its first pitch competition, held exclusively for entrepreneurs in Larimer and Weld counties during Fort Collins Startup Week.

LaunchNo.CO is a nonprofit that started as a Meetup group in 2012 for Northern Colorado entrepreneurs, startups and investors to connect. Last year, the group became a nonprofit aimed at supporting and growing small businesses in Larimer and Weld counties.

Now, it’s launching PitchNo.CO, a showcase for area small businesses where they will not only get to compete for prize money but get coaching and mentorship.

The pitch competition for PitchNo.CO is not limited to any specific industry or type of business, but does require applicants to be businesses in Larimer or Weld county, have been in operation for less than five years and to make less than $500,000 a year.

The winner is competing for $17,000, but LaunchNo.CO executive director Jana Knapp Sanchez said the real value of the competition comes from the process itself.

“We’re providing a platform and opportunity for these businesses to go through the process and get feedback,” she said. “If they make it into the competition, they go through three rounds with investors getting feedback on their pitch, business plan and company. We can help them find investors, partners, banks to work with. This is about showcasing these companies and making sure they have everything they need to thrive and succeed in Colorado.”

Knapp Sanchez said that unlike other pitch competitions that are usually tech- and startup-focused , this is one where any small business, even bakeries, could be eligible to participate. But it’s limited to Larimer and Weld counties, to showcase those companies, rather than allowing startups from Denver or Boulder who might already have gotten some funding.

Applications are due Friday, and Knapp Sanchez said judges are looking for companies that will be viable and sustainable in the long-term and through the crucial first five years of business. They’re also looking at how a company could be impacting the economy in Northern Colorado and how they’re interacting and getting involved with the local community.

“We’re looking for companies that have been flying under the radar, so they have the opportunity to be recognized as something interesting coming out of Northern Colorado,” she said. “The pitch competition might be secondary. We’re thinking about this as a way to showcase the best companies in Northern Colorado, not just as a competition with prize money and feedback, but as a mini incubator. There will be a lot of education and work we’re providing for free for those companies to get them prepared to be the very best they can be.”

PitchNo.CO will take place Feb. 27 and 28 at Fort Collins Startup Week.