Portland entrepreneur Peter Kirwan's company, Collexion, started with a pink typewriter.
"I'm a collector," Kirwan told the audience and panel of three judges. Along with vintage typewriters, Kirwan said, he has an extensive collection of vinyl records, which he estimates number above 30,000.
The pink typewriter was going to be a gift for his girlfriend. But even after scouring eBay and Etsy, he was unable to find one.
That experience gave him the idea for his startup Collexion, an online marketplace designed for collectors.
With Collexion, Kirwan explained, users not only buy and sell collectible items, but also connect with other people with similar hobbies.
Collexion was among the 50 tech startups from the Pacific Northwest and Canada selected to pitch their nascent company to a panel of veteran investors at PitchfestNW, an event affiliated with TechfestNW.
Startups compete for a prize package that includes cash, consultations with investors, and a getaway at an Oregon vacation destination from Vacasa.
In addition to Collexion, Monday's pitches included Fidgets 2 Widgets, a technology-oriented youth center; Ligo, a startup whose wearable technology glows when you approach someone with similar interests; and Standtall Desks, a team of high schoolers pitching standing desks for the classroom.
In addition to an opportunity to showcase their own ideas, startups received a crash course in pitching their ideas. The day started with a workshop on how to craft the perfect pitch.
"I don't really care if you've built the most amazing technology in the world," Diane Fraiman, a judge and partner with Voyager Capital told the workshop audience.
"That's almost the easy part."
The Pitchfest contestants will be narrowed down to 5 finalists this afternoon, who will pitch their companies on the Armory's main stage. Following this final round one winner will be announced.
Kirwan's pitch for Collexion was poised and rehearsed. But one question gave him a little trouble.
"Did your girlfriend like the typewriter?" asked one of the judges at the end of his presentation.
Kirwan seemed unsure.
"She smiled," he said.