Results of RIS News' Inaugural Startup Competition Revealed

Retail has quickly evolved into a technology business, and technology does not stand still. Success in the tech arms race requires the selection and investment in game-changing solutions, and the ability to recognize and implement differentiating offerings before the competition.

At Engage! 2016RIS News hosted its first every startup competition, pitting three up-and-coming solutions providers against each other, giving them the opportunity to present their technology to a room full of retail technology decision makers.

The field of competitors was comprised of:
  • Roddy Lindsay, CEO, Hustle. Hustle’s easy-to-use mobile app, allows associates to send 16 personal text messages in the time it would take to make one call.
  • Coy Pittman, founder, president, and CEO, Disco Melee. Disco Melee is a next-gen social network/platform for video game players and enthusiasts.
  • Einar Rosenberg, chief innovation officer, Creating Revolutions. Creating Revolutions is a mobile communication platform.
Each competitor was granted five minutes to pitch their solution to both the judges and audience. Following their initial presentations each contestant was questions and critiqued by the judges before a unanimous decision was reached, and Disco Melee was crowded the winner.

"Disco Melee is where innovation, inspiration and imagination come together to build a multi-market platform for the youth of tomorrow, today," CEO Pittman said. "We’re a new take on e-commerce, a HUB for [video] gamers of all walks of life to come together and not only leverage their brands and content, but to engage businesses and one another in a far more engaging way than currently exists, in any space.

"I was honored to be selected to showcase my company. I was especially excited that RIS is so forward thinking as to realize the potential verticals associated with E-Sports in terms of retail. In chatting with a few notable retailer representatives after the competition, it was refreshing how quickly they understood the need for their brands/products in this space. Not to mention, its always inspiring to see the proverbial light bulb light up when they understand the additional (untapped) revenue potential our platform stands to offer their brand(s)."

Disco Melee's video sharing social platform is currently in beta and those that are interested in checking out its functionality are invited by Pittman to do so here.

While Disco Melee was crowded the winner, the other two contestants displayed some potentially powerful technology that might one day find its way into retailer's tech stacks.

In the words of Hustle CEO Lindsay, "Hustle is a mobile clienteling solution that allows associates to build texting relationships with customers that are started in-store. Compared to making phone calls, Hustle is 48X more effective, as text messaging is the best channel for engaging Millennials one-on-one."

Prior to the judges making their final decisions on the contestants a live audience poll was conducted and Hustle was the voted the technology most likely to be considered for adoption by those in attendance. "We were proud to win the audience poll as the tool most likely to be considered for adoption by retail executives at the conference. In addition, we were very impressed with the solutions from Disco Melee and Creating Revolutions."

Creating Revolutions is an in-store hardware and software solution designed to increase employee/associate interaction and engagement. "Basically every technology in retail seems to try to remove the employee human factor," Creating Revolutions CIO, Einar Rosenberg said. "We believe it’s not about good or bad employees.  All employees are human, but that doesn’t mean they are flawed. Our company sees the human factor as essential and we spent three years and millions of dollars, to create a technology that gives employees super powers."

Judging the three startups was a panel of business professionals from both the investment and retail side of the industry. The judge's panel consisted of:
"All three contestants came prepared and represented themselves well," Williams said. "As with most startups, their largest challenge is to tell their story well beyond the what’s and how’s, and focus on the why’s. Why is a customer going to use your offering?  Why are you different from everything else? Why fund you?

"The largest differences for Disco Melee was three-fold:  1) they had worked out an innovative solution to a well-recognized customer (gamer) problem, 2) they had a working beta with a large testing base, and 3) they had a revenue generation model with a network effect moat."

Congratulations to all three startup competitors for there intriguing and innovative technologies.