In Photos: Wildfire pitch-off competition at The Garage
  • Billy Banks, Associate Director of the Garage, presents a $2,000 check to the HotPlate team.
  • Pedal Cell CEO Vishaal Mali explains his product. His company plans to partner with bike-sharing companies to implement phone chargers which are powered by the user’s pedal strokes and can charge devices at 2 percent per minute.
  • Megell Strayhorn and LLoyd Yates, co-founders and CEOs of MOGO, pitch their company. The app allows users to compete with friends or strangers in dance challenges.
  • Audience members vote for their favorite pitch using their cell phones.
Food-rating startup team lands $2,000 in pitch-off. Photo by Claire Bugos / North by Northwestern

In the final step of a monthslong program for resident teams at the Garage, three hopeful startups took the stage on Thursday to pitch their companies for a chance to win $2,000.

The annual contest is the grand finale for the 11 teams that participated in the Wildfire Pre-Accelerator Program this summer at the Garage. The companies spent the summer developing their startups and ended with Demo Day, where they received feedback from a panel of judges in the style of ABC’s Shark Tank. The top three teams advanced to Thursday’s final pitch-off, where audience members voted on the top pitch.

HotPlate, the winning team, offers an app for restaurant-goers seeking reviews on individual dishes based on the idea that a “restaurant experience should never be ruined by a bad dish.” The company is partnering with Big Bite Night in Evanston and plans to expand into Chicago soon.

The other companies were PedalCell, which lets users charge their cell phones while bike-riding, and Mogo, a virtual dance challenge platform.

Many of the teams that participated in the Wildfire Program are looking to develop their startups further.

“We’re really going to put [the prize money] towards marketing materials and getting more users,” said Sarah Ahmad, CEO of HotPlate. “We’ll see how far we take this in the next year, and hopefully it’s something that I can take on after college. That would be the dream, honestly.”


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