Via Jesse Hollett Clay County News
ORANGE PARK – The products of Clay County’s growing entrepreneur culture stood on stage Saturday to pitch their products in the inaugural innovation festival Pitch in the Park.
Innovators touted products ranging from drywall repair to mobile apps to the crowd, organizers and judges in an event which is being compared to a hybrid of the competitive pitching television show “Shark Tank” and Jacksonville’s yearly innovation festival “One Spark.”
“These innovators have the dream to transition from the garage to the global stage with the invention they’ve created,” said keynote speaker Wally Conway, host of the Home & Garden Show on a Jacksonville radio station.
After poring over the ideas from 18 innovators, the judges named Zachary Schwartz – creator of a mobile app called IntoGo – winner of the top prize.
Schwartz’s app turns the idea of ‘what can I do this weekend’ on its head with a swipe left and right for yes and no design that allows algorithms to find, regardless if you swipe left or right, what its users like to do in their spare time.
“Date night ideas, dinner, live music, events – IntoGo is your solution,” Schwartz said in his winning pitch. “In less than 10 weeks we launch this app IntoGo, previous One Spark winners, local investors in a local software team. This app right here is now the fastest growing app in the history of Northeast Florida.”
Schwartz won a $1,000 first prize and the opportunity to press palms with potential business partners.
Staged at Orange Park Town Hall on Jan. 21, Pitch in the Park’s creators want it to become an annual affair. The festival’s creators, who are themselves entrepreneurs and business owners, created the event to market the budding innovators of Clay County as much as the innovators market themselves. The event marks the culmination of years of planning between Bob Hawkinson, co-owner of TLC Total Lawn Care, Brian Knight, head of the software company Pragmatic Works and Bill Garrison, president of the Clay County Development Corp. and others.
“We were very pleased with it, we were very pleased with the turnout and who participated,” Garrison said. “The biggest thing of it all is the demonstration that Clay County has a strong system of business support and that’s really what we want to demonstrate and I think we were successful with that.”
The group has already begun to move forward planning for next year’s event. They got public feedback after the event and discovered that both pitchers and attendees alike had some recommendations for the event. Garrison hopes to discuss those recommendations and use them to improve the festival for next year.
“We had no idea with what to expect,” Garrison said. “The majority of the feedback was good. We now we need to improve on our sound and that’s going to mean a sound system. Bring the pitch component inside and makes it more controllable and everybody can hear better so they can improve the pitch component.”
Garrison also believes that the event simply had “too much going on.” While pitchers had the stage, musicians strummed away in the background, which he said may have taken the focus away from some of the pitchers. Because the event is 40 percent judged through audience participation and the remainder through a select group of judges, he said this might have weakened the event.
However, he said planning for 2018 begins immediately, so he hopes the event will be an even larger success then.
Coming in second and winning $500 was Fleming Island entrepreneur Elaine Smith, founder of Clamour Theatre Company, while Wally Trudeau, inventor of a unique drywall repair tool, took third place and a $250 prize.