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Think Fast: The Ninety-Second Elevator Pitch


Media Relations

April 17, 2014

Think Fast: The Ninety-Second Elevator Pitch

Eleven Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Students Set To Compete in Elevator Pitch Competition April 17

Whether it’s called a presentation, an introduction, or a proposal, the first 90 seconds of any discussion to convey a new idea are crucial. Sometimes it’s the only time one has to get and hold someone’s attention. To encourage Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduate and graduate students to develop this essential skill, the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE) and the Office of Technology Commercialization will host the fourth annual Elevator Pitch Competition on April 17. The event will take place in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Auditorium from 7 to 10 p.m. Members of the Rensselaer campus, as well as the local community, are invited to attend to event.

“It’s often compared to trying to sell your idea to someone while riding in an elevator from the first to the top floor, hence the name, elevator pitch,” said James Spencer, executive director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, real estate and new venture development, and acting director of the Office of Technology Commercialization.

“In a university setting, research, creativity, and inspiration drive the engine of innovation,” Spencer said. This student-focused event centers more on product design and presentation rather than traditional business planning. The Elevator Pitch Competition emphasizes the student’s ability to communicate a value proposition that may or may not be used in a strictly entrepreneurial sense.”

Following a preliminary written pitch entry phase, representing cross-campus students, 11 ideas have been selected as finalists to compete in the live Elevator Pitch Competition. Entries cover three pitch categories that include business, social venture, or idea/innovation.

This year, some pitch ideas include:

  • A quad-copter light that uses current technology to improve individual safety.
  • A wellness chip dedicated to the advancement of veterinary medicine.
  • A novel scheme to remove heat from electronic chips more effectively.
  • An automated Web service that uses machine learning to bundle resume building and headhunting into one powerful and synergistic platform.
  • A home physical therapy platform using the Xbox Kinect, along with robust tracking and vitals monitoring to optimize patient recovery.
  • The development of new technology to enhance antiquated coaching methodologies in swimming and endurance sports.

During the competition, students also will have an opportunity to participate in series of programs including preparation workshops, coaching, and networking opportunities.

In addition, $3,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to individual students and team participants. Prize categories are: Best Overall ($1,500), Most Investment Potential ($1,000), and Best Presentation Skills ($500).

Two Elevator Pitch Competition 2013 winners will be on hand at the event. Glenn Rothwell ’16, a dual major in aerospace and mechanical engineering, who has been working on his concept to create self-healing bioglass technology, was awarded the prize for Best Overall Pitch; and Meghan Olson ’14, a dual major in mechanical engineering and design, innovation, and society, was awarded the Best Presentation Quality prize for her Mindful Dementia Tracking Device, that could be used to help people with cognitive decline locate misplaced items and track its progression for family and medical reference. Rothwell and Olson have also been working with Spencer to coordinate the event.

“In today’s world, students need to be able to develop their ability to deliver a brief, concise pitch of an idea or innovation, and then put it to the test,” Spencer said. “This essential business skill imbues students with the confidence to approach anyone, from a potential investor to a hiring representative at a career fair, in order to communicate their idea when it matters most. Overall, our goal is to connect Rensselaer students to the educational resources, student outreach activities, and networking opportunities available at Rensselaer that can help them to explore their interest in entrepreneurship on campus and beyond.”

This year, additional support for the event is also provided by the Business Opportunities to Success (BOSS) Mentor Program.

For more information about the 2014 Rensselaer Elevator Pitch Competition, visit:

For more information about entrepreneurship resources and programs at Rensselaer, visit the Rensselaer Innovation Hub:


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit