Northwestern Mutual's 'reverse pitch' event attracts innovators

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Northwestern Mutual held its second annual Reverse Pitch MKE event, inviting business owners and innovators to help the insurer solve business challenges.

The company decided to make the event annual after the inaugural edition showed success with 150 attendees, almost 20 applications and six team idea pitches. According Karl Gouverneur, VP of digital workplace, corporate solutions and head of digital innovation for the company, says Reverse Pitch MKE builds momentum in Southeastern Wisconsin startup community by connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to keep ideas and businesses growing.

“Reverse Pitch MKE allows us to connect with startups in new ways, as well as provide them with funding and resources to launch a potential product of their own and help them grow their businesses,” he explains.

Northwestern Mutual executives pitched to entrepreneurs three business challenges the company is looking to solve:

  • Securing payments
  • Evaluating inclusion
  • Streamlining medical record review

Following the event, participating teams have two months to develop solutions and apply to pitch their ideas. Teams with this best proposal are invited to a “pitch-back” event in January; where they can earn a seed investment from Cream City Venture Capital of up to $85,000, get access to company mentors and work at Northwestern Mutual’s innovation space, Cream City Labs.

Last year’s winning solution was Socialeads, a platform that analyzes social networks and other data so financial advisors can stay updated on milestones reached by clients. Created by entrepreneurs Larry Hitchcock and Matthew Salzer, Socialeads now is posted at Cream City Labs, working on a proof of concept.

Reverse Pitch is part of a larger regional event, Startup Milwaukee Week, which includes 40 events run by local firms to help sell the area to innovative workers.

“Wisconsin was built on know-how and an entrepreneurial spirit, we have seen firsthand how successful our state can be when we invest and develop our technology ecosystem,” said Matt Cordio, founder and president of Startup Wisconsin, Startup Milwaukee and Skills Pipeline Group LLC. “We must come together to connect and create a statewide movement and build a more robust ecosystem. Doing so will allow companies to thrive in Wisconsin.”

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