Serdar Acar admitted he was nervous while standing on stage in front of a group of angel investors.
The Turkish-born entrepreneur was pitching his language-learning programs company, Dino Lingo. But Acar didn't need to be anxious: Investors thought his idea was the best they had heard from four early stage companies at a VenturePitch event in Fort Myers on May 21.
Voting in a Shark Tank-style atmosphere at the Arcade Theatre in downtown Fort Myers, the audience also picked Dino Lingo, which sells language-learning programs for children.
Three other companies participated: Superior Upgrading, AboutYourMortgage and Game Nation. Here's more on each company, and it's elevator pitch.
The Ask: $400,000
The Pitch: The company develops fun language-teaching programs for children. So far, it has developed books, flash cards, DVDs and mobile applications to learn 43 languages, from English to German, Spanish and Japanese. “We started the company with one language three years ago,” says Acar. The company reported sales of $600,000 last year and it expects to grow that to $750,000 next year and $1.5 million in 2016. It's seeking a $400,000 investment to hire a team to sell the programs to retailers and develop new products.
The Ask: $1.9 million
The Pitch: The company has developed technology that helps generate leads for mortgage servicers to pitch customers who might be considering refinancing. Of the 68 million people who currently have a mortgage, 13.6 million are searching on the Internet for information on refinancing, says Tim Allen, the company's founder. The company identifies those prospects and helps servicers retain existing customers. “We're giving servicers an opportunity to compete,” Allen says. The company anticipates revenues of $2.6 million in the first year and growing to $19.3 million in the second year and $53 million in the third year.
The Ask: $1 million
The Pitch: Oil from the Canadian tar sands has to be mixed with imported oil to send it through the pipelines in North America. “It's so heavy and thick it cannot flow,” says Max Fomitchev-Zamilov, founder of Superior Upgrading. But the company says its technology can help Canadian oil companies save as much as $5 to $10 a barrel to move it through pipelines more smoothly, a cost-saving that's especially critical now that oil prices have fallen. The company needs $1 million to build a pilot plant in Alberta, Canada. Once operational, Fomitchev-Zamilov says the company expects to earn $1 per barrel in royalties, or about $3 million a year.
The Ask: $5 million
The Pitch: Game Nation plans to raise $5 million to finance the construction of an arena that would let video game enthusiasts play with life-sized characters from their favorite games. “We're looking to put it in Fort Myers,” says Daniel Ruke, co-founder of Game Nation. The arena, which could generate $15 million in annual revenues, is the first step to building a theme park that would feature video game worlds.
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