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Two Startups Tie for First Place in VANJ Elevator Pitch Olympics

On Monday, May 21, the Venture Association New Jersey (, presented its Spring Entrepreneurs Expo & Elevator Pitch Olympics at the Marriott Hanover, Whippany, NJ.  Two companies tied for first place.  One was New Tech Wind ( of York, PA, which seeks to market high efficiency wind turbine generators using patented direct drive technology instead of gearboxes to slash life cycle costs.  The other was Thermal Gradient ( of Rochester, NY, which has developed a unique device capable of performing DNA testing in only 8 minutes instead of the hour or more required by conventional laboratory techniques.

From 10:00 AM to 12:00 Noon, 22 individual entrepreneurs seeking startup and growth capital showcased their companies to potential investors.  At 12:00 Noon, lunch was served to an audience of 175 people as a panel of Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and Angel Investors who served as Judges for the Elevator Pitch Olympics took the stage.  Immediately following lunch, the 22 entrepreneurs made their 2-minute presentations, which were judged by the panel. 


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An elevator pitch is a short presentation made by an entrepreneur raising capital to launch or expand a business.  The term describes a pitch short enough to be given during an elevator ride, which may be the entrepreneur’s only chance to talk with a potential investor.  Just as in the real Olympics, the investor judges held up their scores and gave points ranging from one to ten in the categories of quality of presentation and business fundability.

The panel of investors was moderated by David J. Sorin, Esq., Managing Partner of SorinRand LLC (, a business oriented law firm structured to meet the needs of emerging growth and middle market enterprises.  Panelists included:


·       Steve Brotman, Managing Partner, Silicon Alley Venture Partners (


·       Mario Casabona, Angel Investor, Founder & CEO, Casabona Ventures, LLC (


·       Brian S. Cohen, Chairman, New York Angels (


·       Carol Curley, Managing Director, Golden Seeds, LLC (


·       Frank Graziano, Managing Partner, Monmouth Venture Partners (


·       Scott Sipprelle, Managing Director & Founder, Innovation Garden (


·       Jeanne Sullivan, Founding Principal, StarVest Partners L.P. (


New Tech Wind, one of the first place winners, has developed a utility-sized wind turbine combining high output permanent magnet generator technology originated at Penn State University (patent pending) with proprietary high RPM blades made of advanced composite materials.  With improvements based on field feedback, these generators should reduce life cycle costs to the point where government subsidies are no longer needed.

Thermal Gradient, the other first place winner, has developed a patented device that can automate DNA testing, which is currently carried out by extracting nucleic acids from bodily fluids and making billions of copies of them, primarily through a complex, costly and time consuming amplification process known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction).  The Thermal Gradient device not only reduces the time required for PCR from hours to minutes, but also eliminates the need for highly skilled laboratory technicians.

The second place winner was Plehn Analytics ( of Newtown, PA, which uses complex proprietary algorithms to process raw data from a number of U.S. Government Departments and agencies to produce accurate detailed reports.  These reports can then be used to determine the size of a market, manage financial and legal risk and perform economic and business research.

There was also a tie for third place.  SeedInvest ( of New York, NY is an equity crowdfunding platform that empowers entrepreneurs to raise seed capital and enables anyone to invest in startups and small businesses.  Legalized by passage of the JOBS Act in April, 2012, crowdfunding has significantly expanded access to capital for startups and small business.

Speak-N-Find ( of New York, NY is a voice recognition, radio frequency electronic device that enables users to find within seconds items they constantly misplace in their homes and offices.  The base station supports up to 16 finders, each of which is attached to a different item such as a set of keys, a wallet or billfold, etc.  When the name of the item to be found is spoken into the unit, the finder flashes and beeps.


“Accelerators and Incubators”  at June 19 VANJ Luncheon

The next VANJ meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 19 at the Marriott Hanover, 1401 Route 10 East, Whippany, NJ.  The featured speaker will be Heather Gilchrist, Managing Director, RAK Tech Fund (, a seed fund based in SoHo with a preference for lean startups and companies that participate in high quality accelerator programs.  She will discuss the role of Accelerators and Incubators as new work models for startups.

Gilchrist also serves as the Startup Ambassador for the New Jersey Tech Meetup and is a mentor at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, organizer of Startup Weekend Education in New York City.

Advance reservations can be made by calling Clara Stricchiola at (973) 631-5680, faxing (973) 984-9634 or e-mailing and mailing a check ($35 for members, $55 for non-members) to VANJ, 26 Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928-2402.  Registration at the door is $75 after 12:00 Noon on Monday, June 11.






Caption:   Jay Trien, President of VANJ (center), presents awards to the top winners – Robert Juncosa, Chief Technology Officer, Thermal Gradient (left) and John West, President, New Tech Wind.





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