Hopewell Chats: Hannah Gray

Get your day off to an inspiring start at Hopewell this Friday at the monthly pitch event, WakeUp Startup. In its sixth year, the event provides an avenue for entrepreneurs and professionals to pitch their ideas and gain useful feedback in an energetic and attentive environment.

Hannah Gray joined the team behind WakeUp Startup in 2016. She is currently manager of account process and implementation for PriorAuthNow. Hannah coordinates the monthly event with Alex Ditty, marketing director at SEEN.

“There’s something beautiful about [WakeUp Startup] being consistent and also consistently in need for the community,” Hannah says. “So WakeUp Startup fills the need for entrepreneurs to get the idea out of their head.”

And the style of the monthly pitch event hasn’t changed much since 2012.

“We haven’t needed to change the format because stating your problem, how you’re trying to solve it; stating what you want out of this thing you’re entering into - those core things don’t change,” she adds. “I think the consistency [of format], and knowing you will walk away with value and that it will start on time and end on time, keeps people coming back.”

The event draws a wide array of attendees. From those curious about what the term startup can include to a class of Columbus State Community College students to potential investors to job seekers to small business owners, all are welcome to learn and interact at the monthly meetup.

“This shouldn’t be a stagnant place, where three people talk at you and then you leave,” Hannah says.

She says these unique meetings aren’t only an avenue for business idea pitches. “You get, literally, brain connections, too,” she points out. “If someone is talking about this new way to do networking or a marketing deployment and you might find that useful because you are a marketer and can apply it to your work life now.”

A Standing Ovation for Standing Up

In appreciation to each month’s pitchers, the audience at WakeUp Startup gives a standing ovation to each presenter before their pitch (Inspired by Big Omaha), “Because really the biggest thing is getting up there and telling your idea, it’s not necessarily how good or bad it [the pitch] is,” says Hannah.

“It doesn’t matter if you have the next Facebook or not, but you really have the community support there,” adds Alex Ditty, who assists Hannah with coordinating the monthly meetups.

The program format for each event includes time to network and mingle before and after three pitches. Presenters have a strict five minutes to pitch their idea, to respect attendees’ time, and five minutes are allotted for questions after each pitch.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pitch where no one had a question,” she says. Hannah says that’s unique to WakeUp Startup, and they reinforce that “Questions must end with a question mark.” This rule of thumb keeps the audience focused on asking thought-provoking questions running the gamut from monetization to potential product markets to design to simply “How did you think of that?”

Useful Connections

Hannah cites two results of WakeUp Startup that keep the project engaging. The first involves a presenter hearing questions, doing more idea development and returning 6 months or even a year later with an evolved pitch.

“Because the audience is pretty consistent, they remember,” explains Hannah. “It’s so cool to follow the story [of pitches].”

The second result Hannah cites as her favorite, because it shows a maturity of character and self-awareness on behalf of the presenters.

“When someone pitches an idea and they do the proper validation to stop that business,” Hannah says. “That’s super mature for someone to realize, because they typically take what they learned from that business and apply it to a new one in a much better and healthier way.”

About WakeUp Startup

A crew of six started the monthly pitch event to give the Columbus entrepreneur community a platform to make pitches to the community.

“A room with coffee producing collisions with entrepreneurs and community members is all that is needed to accelerate the progress of early stage companies,” was the early premise for the event, per Hopewell CEO and co-founder, Brian Zuercher.

Zuercher was one of the crew that started the event in 2011, along with Mike Figliuolo, Brian Link, Dan Rockwell, Nick Seguin and Derek Seif.

WakeUp Startup continues Friday, April 13, at Hopewell at 8:00am. Register here!  It’s Free!

If you have a pitch you want to submit for consideration, check out the WakeUp Startup website. To see what else has been written about WakeUp Startup, check out Brian’s Medium post for the three-year anniversary, and this Metropreneur post at the five-year anniversary.