At LaunchPad, not the same old crowd

LaunchPad Long Island Founder Andrew Hazen with the littlest shark at the Jan. 20 pitch night, Steven Klein.

LaunchPad’s monthly pitch nights are always populated with innovative thinkers promising economic innovation, and the latest installment was no exception.

Among others, pitches came from George Kramer, founder and CEO of Bohemia veterinary-tech firm Ultravet Medical Devices, and Gary German, president of Nonnatech, a New York City provider of senior care-focused digital health solutions.

But setting January’s pitch night apart, according to Andrew Hazen, founder of the LaunchPad chain of coworking spaces and CEO of Hicksville seed fund Angel Dough Ventures, was its unusually strong focus on youth.

Roughly one-quarter of the 100-strong audience in attendance at LaunchPad Huntington were teenagers from the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club, a community-based organization in Locust Valley. Program coordinator John Keating – who runs several afterschool programs for area high schoolers, including the club’s successful Money Matters group – reached out to Hazen about the possibility of bringing 25 students to a Pitch Night for “real world exposure.”

Hazen, naturally, jumped at the chance to welcome a large group of young minds to the proceedings.

“It’s part of the whole ‘Tech Island’ concept,” he told Innovate LI. “And it was a great way of letting younger people know there are good opportunities here.”

The teen brigade was not the only youth-oriented angle at the Jan. 20 event. Scott Klein, an associate vice president of investments at Garden City financial consultancy Stifel and regular at the monthly pitch-offs, brought his young son Steven along for some firsthand investment experience.

And one of the pitches was focused on the relationship between students and teachers.

That pitch came from James O’Sullivan, a Stony Brook University graduate (2015, bachelor’s in computer science) and software development intern at Calverton-based digital communications platform Buncee LLC.

O’Sullivan is also the founder of Sullstice, a digital “class collaboration tool” that allows teachers and students to connect in after-class discussions.

By promoting peer-to-peer collaborations, keeping students and instructors on the same page and cutting down on classroom repetition, the platform aims to maximize instructional efficiency – a clever innovation, Hazen noted, and wonderful coincidence that O’Sullivan happened to pitch it on what essentially turned into Kid’s Night at LaunchPad Huntington.

“It’s a really very intriguing idea,” Hazen said. “And it was very interesting to see the reactions, because this was basically a business being pitched to students.”

Of course, the evening’s more-traditional tech-focused presentations didn’t disappoint. In addition to Nonnatech and Ultravet, Hazen said he was impressed with the presentation by Jim Lahren, founder and CEO of PerformXHealth, a Software as a Service platform looking to “help hospitals improve profitability by capturing at-risk quality incentives through employee alignment of strategic vision, values and standards of care,” according to the 2015 startup’s website.

And the Angel Dough Ventures CEO was especially taken with MeasureMark, a decidedly low-tech “independent tape measure marking system” that makes measuring and marking on sheetrock, tile, sheet metal or just about any other surface a snap for professional contractors and amateur DIYers alike.

“I don’t typically invest in those areas, and if I do it’s through the Long Island Angel Network,” said Hazen, a member of the LIAN board. “But I have to say, MeasureMark was pretty interesting.”

With the January Pitch Night come and gone, Hazen is already looking forward to next month’s edition. All of the pitch slots for the Feb. 23 event are already taken, with the night set to focus on media- and sports-related startups, with special guest Steve Rosenberg, the former Universal Television president.

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