Pipeline Innovator of the Year Recap

Pipeline Innovator of the Year

This past week I was thrilled to present during the Pipeline Innovator of the Year competition as a student spotlight. Pipeline Entrepreneurs is an “exclusive community of entrepreneurs building high-growth companies in the midwest.” I received this opportunity after winning the University of Kansas Start-Up Showcase last fall hosted by the KU Innovation and Collaboration. 

After graduating in December, I am now fully immersed with Just Play Sports Solutions. I recognize that the Pipeline Innovator of the Year was an unbelievable opportunity to gain exposure for our company. This was a chance to show the world that Just Play is not just a science project or something a kid is working on in his garage. It is a living, breathing, and rapidly growing monster.

The resources I received from Pipeline to prepare for this opportunity were truly unparalleled, and I cannot thank the Pipeline team enough. Hayley Brower, the Pipeline Coordinator, could not have made my preparation for this event any easier. Nathan Gold, the National Pitch coach, does unbelievable work. Not only did Nathan help transform my pitch, but he instilled the confidence within me to be able to deliver. My mentors Kyle Johnson and Davyeon Ross were great people to bounce ideas off of to help develop the pitch. 

The first networking event was in the evening on Wednesday, January 20th, where I had the chance to connect with many of the Pipeline entrepreneurs. It did not take long to see why these entrepreneurs enjoy Pipeline so much. Everyone can relate to one another. Most of them have already gone through, or are currently experiencing, the same highs and lows of starting their own companies. However, everyone is willing to offer their advice because they understand the value in sharing and genuinely want others to succeed. 

The pitches were scheduled for the following morning along with the tech check and naturally there were a few issues. Fortunately, when you have a room full of innovators, you find a way to make everything run seamlessly once it’s go time. The opportunity to pitch and gather feedback was a tremendous learning experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. 

The true power of Pipeline comes from the passion that manifests inside every member. Pipeline members truly do invest in each other and not just monetarily. Nathan better defined “investor” to the entire group as, “Anyone who provides support.” It could be friends, family, financial investors, customers, or anyone who contributes time or money. The Pipeline passion is their commitment to each other and building entrepreneurs to bring prosperity to the midwest. 

I cannot thank everyone from Pipeline, my mentors, Julie Nagel and KU’s Innovation and Collaboration, Wally Meyer and Center for Entrepreneurship at KU enough for this opportunity. I am excited for the potential to work with Pipeline Entrepreneurs as Just Play continues to grow.

February 9, 2016

About the Author

Austin Barone
Co-founder, Just Play Sports Solutions, LLC

Austin Barone is the 2015 winner of the University of Kansas Start-Up Showcase and represented KU at the Pipeline Innovator of the Year celebration.