How I Won $50,000 This Week at Phoenix Startup Week

Eric Diaz - latino pitch competition winner holding the trophy

Anxious on the Podium

I stood on the stage with the other 9 contestants from the Street Pitch event hosted by PHX Startup Week. I was anxious; we had each just delivered our 5 minute tech startup pitch to the attentive audience, and now waited for the MC to announce the single winner to the crowd of 500 people gathered outdoors on a warm spring evening in the normally busy streets of Central Ave and Washington St which divide downtown Phoenix. I was optimistic as I had prepared significantly for the pitch, (even having practiced my pitch 20 times that day!), but having been in this position before my sense of realism knew that I should not get my hopes too high. I am used to the yellow (Finisher) ribbon and not used to hearing our name called…

The Announcement

And then it happened. I heard the organizers whisper ‘OYE!‘ (our business intelligence startup) to the MC and I felt the blood rush through my body. The judges were picking my company as the winner of the $50K prize. I couldn’t believe it. The MC called OYE! out loudly to the expecting audience, and handed me a trophy that was nearly as tall as me. After I held the gaudy trophy sky-high for the photographers, the formal event was over and the celebration began. I was instantly mobbed by hugs and pictures from friends and strangers alike. Soon I made eye contact with my friend Hayley Ringle from the Phoenix Business Journal and I zeroed in on her so that I could provide her a few good quotes before my elation set in. Immediately after, Stefania Okolie from Fox 10 News approached me and asked how it felt to have just won the $50,000 grand prize. I started gushing and explained to her that I felt like I had just won Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Eventually, she had to cut me off, kindly reminding me that it was at most a 30-second clip that would be featured.

But I had so much more to say! And so I continue here with appreciation to those that really made this all possible:

Thank You’s to OYE! Supporters

As really is the case when any small team like OYE! wins anything as important as a $50,000 investment; there is really much more at play and so much support that has gone into it. Allow me to thank the people that are really behind OYE! winning this week.

Arizona Founders Fund (AZFF) and Founder/Managing Director Romi Dhillon – Thank you so much to AZFF for taking this chance on Arizona founders, and for walking the talk in spurring Arizona technology entrepreneurship. That is real leadership and I look forward to working with their team.

The Clients who have funded OYE!  – To our clients including MassMutual, Arizona State, Henkel, White Castle, Big Lots, Jelena Group and more, who have had the utmost willingness to try innovative ways to reach Hispanic consumers using OYE! technology. They have bestowed in our company confidence for reaching their target audiences nationally and we thank them endlessly for this. Several of our clients were actually in the audience while others later sent me texts after seeing me on Fox10 or hearing via social. Love them!

OYE Team and Advisers – Everyone that is part of OYE!, right down to the non-Latinos, gets it and supports the overall mission. Thank you so much for instilling in me the confidence to present for our team and get this momentum that we need to accomplish our 2017 (and beyond) goals.

Thank You’s to those that Helped Me Personally Deliver the Winning Pitch

On a personal note, helping me deliver that game-winning presentation on Wednesday, I really must attribute 99% of it to these people:

3 most important women in my life
Mom (Raquel) – Always my inspiration. Always pushing for something new. I’ve learned from this and have my entrepreneurial spirit because of this. She has meant so much to me throughout my life; when I was 17 back in Columbus, Ohio, everyone (including my high school counselors) advised me to go to vocational school as I wasn’t going to pass my classes. My mother, always passionate for education, did not accept this and pushed me every day until I agreed to go to night school, make up my missed grades, and get my diploma.
Sister (Susan) – My sister always picks up the phone. I don’t know if I can fully explain the significance of this but in this digital world of texts and social media I have always loved the fact that when I just need to talk I can call her and she will actually answer the phone.
Partner (Natasha) – I had to go back in my archives to figure out when we started working together. July 2009! Somehow she has put up with me for 8 years. Wow. Through ups and downs, she is my partner and has done this even as a devoted wife and mother of two children. My #1 fave #latinaboss.

Collectivo – Thank you to Josh, Natalia, Erika and Maira for being a part of our non-profit board. And to our awesome Board including Joe and Kathy! I can always depend on you guys and you support me on all my personal ventures including OYE. Thank you so much.

Guys I ball with on Wednesdays – As I looked around the audience, I saw an impressive number of the tech-finance professionals that I typically recognize only in shorts and sweated-through t-shirts. The Street Pitch happened to be on a Wednesday, which is the same morning we meet in Scottsdale to play basketball at 6am before work. For a moment I considered not playing on Pitch Day as it was going to be a long day; but realized that would be foolish as playing ball helps me with the rest of my day. That morning of the Pitch I had to defend the best player in our group and while I was getting burnt for the third straight game, I smiled knowing that this would be the hardest part of my day. Networking by playing basketball with these entrepreneurs/professionals (instead of the standard drinks at happy hour) gives me a spark to my day which channels my productivity.

National Supporters – I have so many great friends/colleagues/mentors from around the nation that I meet at conferences such as Hispanicize, SXSW, and more. I only see you 1-2 times per year, but we make the most of our time, Thank you all! And Laurita – thank you for having the idea for writing an amazing story and interviewing me the next day, what an amazing article!

Street Pitch Coaches – Todd and Raoul; thank you for getting on my a**, and putting up with me as I missed virtually every deadline. You guys were great and coached me through a poor presentation to truly make it great. My favorite moment was the final time Todd and I practiced via Google Hangouts; as I waited for his feedback following my practice pitch, he simply displayed a proud ‘thumbs-up’ which gave me the confidence that I would be in good shape.

Everyone Else that Helped me Through – To the countless other friends, such as my Ohio-mates, dodgeball buddies in Phoenix, Juntos Book Club friends, and more – thank you so much for all of your support!

And now, time to use this momentum…

A Few Images from the Event

Eric Diaz Phoenix Arizona Fox 10 News

 

Photo Sets:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mranathema/

http://www.devoncadams.com/Event-Photography/Street-Pitch-2017/

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