Uber hosts "ride-and-pitch" for Tampa Bay investors, entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and aspiring startup founders in Tampa Bay enjoyed a new way to reach an investment audience for one day only: in an Uber car.

For three hours on Friday, October 9, select Uber drivers hosted investors from the local Tampa Bay area, giving entrepreneurs the chance to "ride and pitch." 

Following two successful stints in its home base of San Francisco and in Philadephia, ridesharing company Uber paired up with Florida Funders, LLC to bring Tampa Bay investors and entrepreneurs together - for 15 minutes per ride. 

David Chitester founded Florida Funders, a Tampa-based company that connects local businesses with investors and financing, in 2014, after noting that the Tampa Bay region was "losing too many young, promising entrepreneurs to places like Silicon Valley and Austin. If we can fund some of these firms, they can grow here, and the local community will benefit.''

Using modern technology to give them a few minutes of investors' time could be a good way to keep those young, promising entrepreneurs. 

Chitester found himself hesitant to get involved with the UberPitch contest initially - "but when I returned the call from Uber and discussed the concept, it really made sense for us to get involved," he says. "We are well connected in the Tampa Bay region with both investors and entrepreneurs. Also, we are disrupting the investment industry and Uber is disrupting the transportation industry, so it is a great match of philosophies." 

Since Uber has run the pitch contest in only a few cities around the country, the unconventional company's selection of Tampa as a host city "shows we are getting national recognition for the efforts everyone here is making in the local startup community and eco-system," Chitester says.

Each Uber car involved in the pitch contests hosted two investors, riding separately, for an hour and a half each on Friday morning. Altogether, two UberPitch cars could be requested around downtown St. Petersburg; two in Tampa's downtown and West Shore business districts; and one in the University of South Florida's growing "Innovation District." That means that selected riders were able to talk about their ideas with ten potential investors during the three-hour event.

To access Uber cars with investors, individuals simply input a code (TBPITCH) when reserving a ride through the Uber smartphone app. Once an investor car picked them up, riders had 15 minutes to pitch to an investor before getting dropped back off at their original locations.

Not all rider requested were granted in the "lottery-style" special event time frame.

Several of the participating investors are based in Tampa Bay; all in the state of Florida. Investor riders include:Interested in learning more about the Uber Pitch events? Search the hashtag #UberPITCH on social media sites and follow @Uber_Florida on Twitter for real-time updates.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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