Pitch to Win: Eau Claire hosts new HATCH business pitch competition

Nick O’Brien

IN IT TO WIN IT. A speaker at a previous HATCH event in the Milwaukee area. The startup funding pitch platform is coming to the Chippewa Valley in July.
IN IT TO WIN IT. A speaker at a previous HATCH event in the Milwaukee area. The startup funding pitch platform is coming to the Chippewa Valley in July.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the next Facebook, Uber, or Amazon were created in the Chippewa Valley? For all we know, that company exists in the mind of that neighbor down the street who you’ve seen walking his cat on a leash. And if there is an Elon Musk-type business genius in the Valley, wouldn’t it be cool to say you got to witness the beginnings of that company’s creation? Well, there’s a new business pitch competition cracking out of its shell in the Chippewa Valley, and it’s looking to support that cat-walking, business genius neighbor of yours.

“It is exciting to have a new outlet for our emerging entrepreneurs.” – Christina Wasson, Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp.

Next month we’ll get our first look at HATCH, a startup funding pitch platform that hopes to turn “napkin” business ideas into early-stage companies. HATCH is a fast, fun networking event, which allows creative and scalable business ideas to cash in on a $2,000 prize and the chance to compete for $5,000 at the regional finals. Eau Claire will host HATCH on July 19 at the State Theatre. It will be the first of four HATCH events in the region.

HATCH was created by the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation and NEWaukee as a way to empower entrepreneurs in Wisconsin. The program launched in 2017 with five events in central Wisconsin, and has now expanded to include two more regions in the state: northwestern Wisconsin (Eau Claire, Menomonie, and Chippewa Falls) and southeastern Wisconsin (Kenosha and Racine).

The BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation aims to fuel job creation in the state by providing capital donations to early-stage companies with the chops to scale nationally. For HATCH, BrightStar works with NEWaukee, a social architecture firm, to collaborate with regions throughout the state to support entrepreneurship and the startup business ecosystem.

Following last year’s success of the central Wisconsin launch, agencies in the Chippewa Valley expressed interest in bringing HATCH to northwestern Wisconsin. Economic development corporations from Eau Claire, Chippewa County, and Dunn Country stepped up to take the lead in organizing the HATCH program in our area. Local entrepreneurs were encouraged to submit their business ideas to compete in the program. Christina Wasson of the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp. says that HATCH’s vision is to use key partnerships with community leaders to empower and enable entrepreneurs to launch their ideas through social opportunities that change the way people think about the entrepreneurial culture.

While the purpose of HATCH is to accomplish serious business growth, the event itself is designed to be fun, highly social, and open to everyone. Attendees can expect to network with creatives, business professionals, and investors while eating complimentary food and sipping on complimentary beer and wine. There will even be a DJ spinning tunes to add to the casual environment. Oh, by the way, HATCH events are free to attend. Following an open networking portion of the event, pre-selected entrepreneurs will jump up on stage for their big moment. The rules are simple. Presenters have five minutes to pitch in front of judges and the audience. After the presentations, the audience and judges will vote for their favorite idea. The top vote-getter is then awarded with a $2,000 prize and will move on to the Chippewa Valley regional final for a shot at the $5,000 grand prize.

“It is exciting to have a new outlet for our emerging entrepreneurs,” Wasson says. “The Eau Claire HATCH pitch competition will allow our community to continue to support our local entrepreneurs and help them grow for the good of the Chippewa Valley.”

The Chippewa Valley HATCH program kicks off with the Eau Claire event on July 19 (6-8:30pm at the State Theatre), followed by an Aug. 23 event in Menomonie and a Sept. 27 event in Chippewa Falls. The winners of the three semifinal events will compete for the $5,000 grand prize at the Nov. 8 regional final in Eau Claire. Learn more about the HATCH program at hatchwi.com.