The Crossroads Fall 2023 Pitch Competition is a wrap! On October 4, Charlie Edmonds won the pre-seed competition for Pocket. Kevin Celisca won the seed competition for Integrate School. Pocket will receive a $10,000 investment from Flywheel Fund. Integrate School will receive a $20,000 investment. The two winning startups also receive priority consideration to pitch at an upcoming Elevate Ventures event.
The finals took place live at The Mill as part of Innovation Week, our annual celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship. Special shout out to this fall’s spotlight sponsor, the IEDC, for all their work to support Hoosier startups.
Charlie Edmonds, founder of Pocket, the pre-seed winner
Kevin Celisca and Maxwell Witt, co-founders of Integrate School, the seed winner
Pocket Wins Pre-Seed
The Pocket app gives beginning band and orchestra instructors access to a curated catalog of music, lesson plans, and pacing guides based on Black gospel music. This historical music, founder Charlie Edmonds said in her pitch, has deeply influenced American rock, hip hop, and contemporary music, and yet is radically underrepresented in music textbooks—a long-standing pain point of teachers and students. A former middle school band director, Edmonds saw other band instructors regularly expressing frustration in professional forums on the dearth of appropriate African-American content for their students. In Edmonds’ own school, band enrollment tripled when she expanded the curriculum to include relevant Black music.
“It was an absolute honor to participate in and win the pre-seed finals of the Crossroads Pitch Competition,” said Edmonds. “The process gifted me the ability to learn from amazing judges and participants, immerse myself in the thriving entrepreneurship community in Southern Indiana, and share my world of Pocket Methods, LLC with a wide audience. With the pre-seed funding from Crossroads, I am now accelerating my goals for development, piloting in schools, and gaining much needed legal access. I am filled with gratitude for this opportunity.”
Now a PhD student in music education, Edmonds aims to crack the $3 billion child instrumental music learning market. Band directors are unusual, Edmonds notes, in that they usually have a separate budget and discretion to spend it—thus eliminating barriers to market penetration. In her customer discovery surveys, 100% of band instructors were willing to pay for access to Pocket’s platform. This fall, Pocket will pilot in two schools, and by August 2024, Edmonds hopes to have her minimum viable product complete.
“My forward movement would not be possible without the support of The Mill and the Flywheel Fund,” Edmonds said. “From my participation in The Mill’s Startup Summer program to now, I have been endlessly supported by The Mill’s staff in startup coaching, accountability meetings, connections to venture capital companies, marketing assistance, and anything I could request. Compounding that support is The Mill’s community of members who have shown genuine care for my founder journey with their feedback and willingness to help in any way. Pocket has introduced me to an entrepreneurial community that I will always cherish.”
Pre-seed finalist Vy Le pitching Rescue BioMedical
Three-time pre-seed finalist Parker Busick (Mill member and Startup Summer grad!) pitching Soloist
Jim McIntosh and Jean Ross of Primary Record, pre-seed finalists
Shout out to our pre-seed judges Landon Young, Logan Herzog, and Nida Ansari!
A panel of over three dozen entrepreneurs, investors, and business experts from across the state selected four finalists for each of the two tracks. The other pre-seed finalists were Primary Record (Jean Ross); Rescue Biomedical (Vy Le); and Soloist (Parker Busick).
The Primary Record app, from Jean Ross, provides a safe and secure way to organize, discuss and easily share family health information—helpful for all families, and essential for those dealing with complex medical situations.
Vy Le’s startup Rescue Biomedical has developed a wearable device that detects an opioid overdose and automatically delivers the life-saving antidote and notifies emergency contacts of the individual’s location.
Soloist from Parker Busick has made it to the finals several times, and the pitch just keeps getting better. Soloist simulates the rich learning environment of playing with bandmates for musicians practicing alone. Users can stack multiple audio loops, share loops, and co-create songs.
The pre-seed finals were judged by Nida Ansari, CEO of Karmic Partners; Landon Young, Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Programming at Elevate Ventures; and Logan Herzog, Innovation Fellow at the Idea Center at Notre Dame.
Charlie Edmonds (Pocket, pre-seed winner); Diego Achio (Traduality, seed finalist); Maxwell Witt and Kevin Celisca (Integrate School, seed winner); Jean Ross and Jim McIntosh (Primary Record, pre-seed finalist); Vy Lee (Rescue Biomedical, pre-seed finalist); Hoda Salsabili (HEMSCap, seed finalist); Parker Busick (Soloist, pre-seed finalist). Not pictured: Rod Baradaran and Dmitry Brown, rScan, seed finalist.
Integrate School Wins Seed
Integrate School is a lesson planning tool that maps to curriculum and state standards. Currently, co-founder and CEO Kevin Celisca said in his pitch, schools use cumbersome combinations of Google Docs and email, or even handwritten notes, to communicate lesson plans to the main office. Most have no verification process of alignment to standards, and no tracking of whether the lesson itself has good student learning outcomes. This leads to inequities in instruction, especially for students in zipcodes with lower tax revenue and fewer teacher resources.
“The reason this is important to me,” Celisca said, “is I was a victim of zipcode discrimination.” Celisca credits his fourth-grade teacher for helping him turn the corner on learning. “She worked with me after school every day and customized a lesson plan to help me excel academically, to eventually go to college and study abroad.” After college, Celisca worked for a big-four accounting firm working with Fortune 500 companies. Later he started a nonprofit, College Lingual, to help first-generation students transition from high school to college, where he learned how to sell to schools.
Celisca says it’s now his sole mission to help teachers everywhere easily create high-quality lesson plans, personalized to student needs, to ensure all students succeed. Integrate School increases job satisfaction for teachers, while also increasing accountability and transparency for administrators and parents.
Integration with key education software is key to the product’s viability, according to co-founder Maxwell Witt. Integrate School has a two-way data synch with EdLink, to connect data to class rosters; 1EdTech’s CASENetwork, a central repository for state and national learning standards; and OpenAI, to fuel AI-generated lesson plans that align with those standards and students’ current levels of understanding.
“I am deeply honored and incredibly grateful to accept the prestigious Crossroads seed award,” said Celisca. “The unwavering support extended to us by the Mill and Flywheel Fund for Indiana startups is truly unparalleled and unlike anything I have ever experienced in any other state. My team and I now have the fuel we need to propel our company to new heights. The level of dedication and encouragement we have received from this community is nothing short of inspiring. Their belief in our vision and their willingness to invest in our potential is a testament to the transformative impact our company aims to make.”
Integrate Schools uses a B2B SaaS model, with site license pricing starting at $5,000. Their average contract value, with value-adds like a library of pre-made lessons, is now $50,000. The app is ESSA / ESSER level 4 approved (an evidence-based certificate of efficacy) by the Learn Platform, a third-party evaluator, which allows schools to purchase the software through their emergency funds.
HEMSCap from Hoda Salsabili is an artificial intelligence (AI)-ChatGPT-guided home-exercise monitoring physical therapy platform.
Rod Baradaran’s startup rScan simplifies the process of selling returned merchandise online.
Finally, Traduality’s online marketplace connects organizations and individuals in need of any translation-related service directly to vetted freelance translators.
The seed finals were judged by Julie Heath, Executive Director of IU Innovates; Ryan Locke, Vice President of Venture Finance at the IEDC; and Alex Shortle, Partner at EO Advisors.
Seed finalists Rod Baradaran and Dmitry Brown pitching rScan
Huge thanks to our seed finals judges Ryan Locke, Julie Heath, and Alex Shortle!
Seed finalist Diego Achio (Mill member and Mill Cohorts grad) pitching Traduality
Seed finalist Hoda Salsabili from HEMSCap
“This fall’s competitors were truly outstanding,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming. “We couldn’t be happier with these two worthy winners, who’ve founded companies with great potential not just for growth and investors, but with great potential to make a positive impact on students and communities. We look forward to hearing more about the future success of all our finalists.”
Visit the Crossroads site to learn more about the competition. Crossroads Pitch Competition is open to any Indiana-based startup with less than $250,000 in annual recurring revenue.