Pitch Island brings Shark Tank model to L.I.

On Saturday Adelphi University hosted Pitch Island, an event modeled after ABC’s Shark Tank that gave Long Island-based startup companies an opportunity to pitch their technology-related business ventures to competing angel investors. An initiative of Executive Edward Mangano’s Nassau County Tech Task Team, co-chaired by Peter Goldsmith of LISTnet and Andrew Hazen of LaunchPad, the event took place at Adelphi’s Performing Arts Center from.

            Last year the Tech Task Team organized local events such as Technology Island Job Fair at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City on June 11th and Long Island Tech Day at the Mitchel Field Athletic Complex in Uniondale on November 10th. Both events were held to promote Long Island as an emerging technology powerhouse. The Tech Task Team plans on continuing these events annually.
            Mangano’s office started the Tech Task Team specifically to strengthen Long Island’s technology ecosystem as well as create meaningful employment by starting and growing tech related companies.
            Brian Nevin, communication director and senior advisor for Mangano’s office, explains that Pitch Island is another step in their administration’s dedication to help Long Island’s business community.
             “Pitch Island provides local tech startups with an effective way to meet private investors that are willing to provide seed money to help entrepreneurs get off the ground,” Nevin said. “The Mangano administration remains committed to retaining and growing Nassau as the technology superpower of our region by helping our residents find meaningful employment opportunities.”
            Jack Chen, chief information officer at Adelphi University, was a driving force behind Adelphi’s involvement with the Tech Task Team’s latest endeavor. Long time friends with Pitch Island’s co-chair Peter Goldsmith, Chen’s involvement arose from a casual conversation one day between the two.
            “One of the things we were talking about,” Chen said, “is that we were losing a lot of jobs here and the cost of living is so high. We needed to find some way to stimulate the economy and create some higher paying jobs located on Long Island.”
            Pitch Island seemed to be just the opportunity that Chen was looking for.
            “Peter told me he was working with Mangano’s T3 project and they had an idea about a Shark Tank style pitch event, and [they were going to] call it Pitch Island. Immediately I said, “Hey, we want to be a part of that!””
            Co-chair of Pitch Island, Andrew Hazen is also CEO of LaunchPad, a local business incubator aimed towards the discovery and cultivation of local startup companies. With facilities in Huntington, Mineola, Great Neck, Old Westbury, Hicksville, and Stony Brook, LaunchPad serves as a resource for early stage companies across Long Island providing workspace, capital, marketing, and professional services. Born and raised in Bellmore, part of Hazen’s mission is to facilitate opportunities for young entrepreneurs aiming to start their business on Long Island.
            “My wife and I are both from Long Island. I literally married the girl across the street,” Hazen said. “Having gone to school in upstate New York and law school in Michigan, I know how great it is here but it is also very expensive. That’s why I am trying to figure out a way for it to be affordable and make sense for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses here.”
            LaunchPad is one of ten New York State designated incubators serving as a New York Innovation Hotspot Program location, as part of Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Developmental Council Initiative. This means that startup companies five years or younger working at a LaunchPad facility qualify to be exempt from state income tax for five years.
            The idea of a Shark Tank style event is not a new concept. Events such as Guppy Tank held in southern California and Shark Tank at FutureM held in Boston are both based around entrepreneurs and angel investors conversing about investment opportunities in front of a public audience. In fact, this is not a new concept even for Andrew Hazen. LaunchPad also holds Pitch Nights once a month at one of the five Long Island locations. However, Pitch Island was three times the size of any previously held event at a LaunchPad facility.
            For over two hours the panel of investors, including Craig Kugel of BDS Venture Fund, Bob Brill of Long Island Angel Network, and Faith Paige Wall of EVP Mohawk Group, listened to pitches from companies ranging in size from startups like ChromaFISH to multimillion dollar revenue companies such as E-Gifter. Although Pitch Island did not give an opportunity for the panel of investors to make formal offers on stage, their interest in each presenting company was clearly evident. Such interests may result in significant investments for these local entrepreneurs, leading to a major boost for Long Island’s overall business community.
            Financial government incentives along with Pitch Island connecting investors and young entrepreneurs may be an important recipe for keeping Long Island’s brightest entrepreneurs in the area while simultaneously creating meaningful employment opportunities and stimulating the economy.
Photos: Dylan Mantello