Indiana Entrepreneurs vie for investment, exposure

BLOOMINGTON – Today The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, announced that applications are open for Crossroads Fall 2023, one of the largest statewide pitch competitions for startups. 

Crossroads has two tracks of competition. Companies who have already launched a product compete for the seed prize, a $20,000 investment from Flywheel Fund. Startups that have not yet created a product compete for the pre-seed prize, a $10,000 investment. Both winners are also given the opportunity to pitch at an upcoming Elevate Ventures event for additional potential investment. All competing startups must be based in Indiana and have annual recurring revenue of under $250,000.

Andy Lehman

“One of the best things about Crossroads is that you don’t have to win to benefit from participating,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming at The Mill. “All the competitors get exposure to dozens of investors and ecosystem leaders who are on the lookout for rising stars. Sidebar conversations, investments, talent recruitment, and more are all part of the Crossroads experience. And we’ve found that when we hold the finals in person, as we will this fall, the energy of the crowd really helps spark those connections.”

Lehman noted that in the past year alone, former Crossroads finalists and winners secured nearly $200,000 in additional investment at Elevate’s Nexus events. AI translation startup Traduality honed their pitch over several Crossroads competitions and was recently accepted to gener8tor’s prestigious Milwaukee Investment Accelerator Program, which comes with a $100,000 investment. Six former Crossroads competitors have been accepted into The Mill’s Startup Summer program, which pays collegiate entrepreneurs to develop their companies.

Bram Boyd

“Since we know that competing at Crossroads can lead to valuable connections and opportunities, it’s important to set founders up for success,” said Bram Boyd, Program Manager for Crossroads. “We’ve always posted tips on creating a great pitch deck and pitch video. This year we added detailed information about the eight criteria our judges use to evaluate presentations. Founders can use those tips and the judging rubric to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward.”

Crossroads is judged by independent panels of investors, entrepreneurs, and business experts from around the state. They rate pitches based on categories such as “market/customers”, “product/service,” “financials,” “scaleability, “risk and risk mitigation,” and a few other factors. For example, under “market/customers,” the rubric asks judges to evaluate how well the founder defines marketing and customers, demonstrates an understanding of market dynamics, and strategically positions the company.

The deadline to apply to the fall competition is August 30. Startups can also pre-register to receive reminders to submit a pitch deck and a 3-5 minute pitch video. Finals will be held on October 4 in person in Bloomington, during The Mill’s annual Innovation Week. 

The Mill launched the Crossroads Pitch Competition in 2017 as a regional event. Since then, it has grown to become one of Indiana’s biggest competitions, with two competitions a year, in spring and fall. The Crossroads family of events also includes a collegiate competition, an idea competition, and a white-label event platform to help other organizations and regions hold their own pitch competitions and grow Indiana’s innovation economy.

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