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April 19, 2021

Organizers say Drive-in Pitch Night will return; Home Lending Pal wins first competition

Lana Udalov received a, well, different response to her business pitch Friday night.

As she finished her presentation on her hotel management startup HKeeper, a chorus of cars in a downtown Orlando parking lot honked their horns in approval.

Udalov said the reaction took her by surprise, calling it a “very unusual experience.”

“I felt like a hero and that I did something heroic,” she said following her Drive-in Pitch Night pitch.

The startups at the event kind of did.

They demonstrated that in-person events, thought to be a thing of the past, could return with some precautions.

HKeeper was one of seven businesses to pitch at Drive-in Pitch Night, an event organized by Orlando Economic Partnership, Starter Studio and Project Orlando.

Home Lending Pal took home the title of best pitch of the night.

Organizers said they expect to repeat the event, the first of its kind in Orlando.

“It was a very unusual experience. I felt like a hero and that I did something heroic.”

Lana udalov, HKeeper

For the entrepreneurs, it was a rare chance to get in front of an audience during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I like the way everything was organized, especially when you have a chance to pitch on the screen,” Udalov said.

Logistics of a drive-in pitch night

The parking lot of the live-music venue The Vanguard on Concord hosted the event.

That was where organizers set up a makeshift stage alongside a large movie theater-like screen in the parking lot.

The companies presented three-minute video pitches then either took the stage or were on the phone to answer questions.

About 40 cars packed the lot.

The presentations included a prerecorded introduction from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who touted the city’s young businesses.

He called startups and entrepreneurship one of the city’s major focuses.

Distric 5 City Commissioner Regina Hill also prerecorded a message.

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Starter Studio director Lilian Myers said she and co-organizer Charlie Lewis of Project Orlando plan to repeat the event.

The Drive-in Pitch Night became a unique experience, Myers said.

The logistics of the event included securing an FM frequency, figuring out a method for parking and dismissing cars and renting portable restrooms.

“These just aren’t things that one normally encounters (during regular events),” she said. “We were so proud of the startups and the work they put into their pitches and their willingness to experiment with us in this unique way. I don’t think they knew what to expect.”

The next step?

Myers says organizers received a good amount of feedback from both the entrepreneurs and attendees.

They plan to take the feedback into consideration as they plan a follow-up event.

That will help them improve the next version, she said.

“Everyone was desperate for something that felt like being somewhere and sharing with others in support of our tech community,” said Myers, who added there was “little doubt” the event would return. “We knew we had a winner and an unexpected buzz started … around it.”

An Orlando Tech Grant from the Orlando Economic Partnership helped pay for the event.



2 thoughts on “Organizers say Drive-in Pitch Night will return; Home Lending Pal wins first competition

  1. It was SUCH a fun event! The logistics worked out so well thanks to the great team that organized it. The entrepreneurs did a great job. I’m looking forward to the next one with more people (cars) there. Maybe food trucks too?

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