The winner of PitchFestNW 2017 is Madorra, a Portland-based startup that uses ultrasound to ease vaginal dryness during menopause.
Madorra was selected from 74 startups who pitched their high-tech wares before a panel of investors Thursday and Friday at the Portland Art Museum. Those 74 were selected from a high-water mark of around 400 applications for the fest, which began in 2012.
"It's really exciting to have won," said Holly Rockweiler, founder and CEO of Madorra, which uses a handheld ultrasound device to relieve post-menopausal vaginal dryness—which she says affects 32 million U.S. women.
"It's really strong validation," she says, "that women's health has been overlooked for a long time."
Madorra moved to Portland from the Bay Area last year, Rockweiler says.
"I'm personally just happy that a medical solution won," she says, "because a lot of times apps can be sexy, and it's definitely a longer path to develop a medical product. I know we have something great, so it's exciting to see other people recognize that."
During PitchFest, judges completed a scorecard for each five-minute pitch, scored on a scale of one to 10 for four criteria: quality of pitch; viability of business; whether they should advance to the Final 5; and likelihood you would invest in the startup.
The final five finalists—of whom three are based in Portland—were announced Friday afternoon, and then pitched a second time in the museum's grand ballroom in front of an audience of perhaps 300. They included:
- Dronze LLC is a next-generation DevOps platform that creates intelligent agents—bots—for teamware Slack. The bots “learn from you, are eager to help and work tirelessly to make your job better.” Based in Portland, its founder is Clay Graham.
- Sightbox, Inc. “removes the chaos and up-front costs” of getting contact lenses: calling doctors, paying for exams, receiving prescriptions and delivering a one-year supply of lenses. Based in Portland, its founder and CEO is Travis Rush.
- Mashup Machine applies machine learning and crowd creativity to make “adaptive storyworlds” in virtual and mixed reality environments, allowing users to “choose their own adventure.” Based in Vancouver, B.C., its CTO is Ben Cole.
- JikoPower’s “Spark” is a thermoelectric generator that captures and converts excess heat from campfires or stoves into electricity to power USB devices and cell phones. Based in Seattle, its Vice President and Cofounder is Marene Wiley.
Arrivedo, PitchFest's international winner, invites hotels to organize their local recommendations to guests, and provides personalized recommendations, while engaging travel writers to go and pitch directly to hotels. Based in Lima, Peru, its co-founder and CEO is Alonso Franco.
The winner's prizes included: $1,000 courtesy of Vacasa, and a 5 night stay at one of its national or international properties; $500 from HomeAdvisor; and $120,000 in cloud credits from the IBM Global Entrepreneur program.
Disclosure: TechFestNW and PitchFestNW are sponsored by Willamette Week.