Defying Expectations: Elix Impresses Seasoned CEOs with their Pitch
by Daniela Schwartz
Asking adults to invest $20,000 into a teenager’s incubator business may sound unimaginable to most people, let alone even receiving a positive reply. According to today’s standards, if an adult even listens to a teenager make a proposal about a business, that would be considered quite an accomplishment. As a result, teens often feel under-appreciated by adults. This was not at all the case for the four juniors representing the Elix team during their meeting with possible investors and partners. In fact, they had only positive feedback for their ambitious goals.
The early November pitch to MindTank, a local business that offers a workspace for entrepreneurs, was Elix’s first glance of how earnestly professional adults would consider them. The team of 16 and 17 year olds came prepared, with their lines and queues memorized. The team thoroughly introduced themselves and explained their goals, but also regarded their limited experience in business and reached out for help.
Only a sentence into her speech, Isabella Liu, Elix's 16 year old Founder and CEO, had already impressed her audience of successful adults by stating that Elix was California's first social impact incubator for teen entrepreneurs.
“Sorry, is that the first? You’re kidding,” asked a member from the audience. Isabella assured her this was indeed true.
The pitch was broken into 3 parts: an introduction, staff explanations, and questions from the audience. Throughout the introduction and explanation no viewer said a single word, their eyes were glued to the young speakers, and afterward plenty of questions arose asking what steps would be taken next to improve and expand the business.
The attendees of the pitch were Ariel Nessel, Adam Shapiro, Craig Slayen, Sally Nunn Newson, Chris Beltran, and Louise McCallion. Nessel runs a real estate development company and is the Founder of the Pollination Project, Adam is a leadership coach, Slane is Principal at Winship Wealth, Newson is a Creative and Design Director at Nunn and Associates, Chris is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of many companies, and McCallion is a CEO at Living Reflections. The Elix staff present included Isabella Liu, the Founder and CEO; Brendon Wright, CTO; Haley Catton, CMO; and Stash Pomitcher, CFO.
“The first hurdle I had to face was starting Elix,” Isabella said, beginning her pitch to seven stern faced adults. “I actually failed twice pretty badly before Elix worked out...After I realized we had to move towards an incubator model, I finally landed upon Elix.”
While explaining the business, she highlighted the importance of reaching a wide audience of any socio-economic background and that the incubatees launch a bold socially oriented ventures. In fact the name Elix, originated from the word “elixir” with the idea that the team could create anything.
“We’re turning an ideas into a sustainable companies, which is essentially the same as turning nothing into gold, in our opinion,” Liu said.
Pomitcher followed Liu’s lead by introducing how the company plans to sustain itself financially. He explained the three forms of financial support that all give the donor the option to contribute to the overall Elix Innovation Fund or a specific venture.
“We are looking for $10,000 to $20,000 of initial seed money to cover our basic costs and to get us started. Within the next year, we are looking at closer to $100,000 for us to manage and distribute as we see fit to each different wave of incubatees that we bring in each year,” Pomitcher said.
Catton, on the other hand, has focused her marketing goals to appeal more to lower income areas and schools. She has been reaching out to school administrators and counselors, which she has found to be the most productive way to spread the word about Elix to students.
Catton hopes that with the help of a professional mentor her marketing aspirations can come true. She wants all high school students to know that Elix can be an option for them.
“I’d like to believe that I know the basics of marketing, but there’s something about working alongside someone with actual professional marketing experience that I can’t get from my research or from the books that I’ve read,” Catton said.
Wright shared with the audience some current projects that Elix is accelerating: Smart Paint, Eco Wash Network and NovisTech. Elix is expanding both these businesses throughout more of the Bay Area.
“We recognize that great incubation is comprised of both capital and expertise. We are looking for experts who can help these social ventures expand into their field of business that they are looking into,” said Wright.
Wright showed excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunity that Liu granted him, and equal emotion for the opportunities that Elix can grant teenagers.
“I do think that teenagers are often undervalued and underestimated in their actual capabilities and I do think that it’s extremely important to give motivated teenagers the opportunities and abilities to grow their mind,” Wright said.
As the meeting progressed, Liu went into detail on how the team wants help from the adults. Although the team of teenagers may have an impressive amount of business knowledge, it doesn’t compare to the help they could receive from experienced adults.
“Obviously indulging the audacious ideas that of teens is a lofty goal, particularly because we ourselves are teens. While our business knowledge may be pretty good for high school students, it might not be everything we need to do what we set out to do,” said Liu.
Despite this, the Elix team made it clear that they’re already on their way to success. As teens, the Elix team has pulled off incredible feats like working with six distinctive social ventures, partnering with prestigious organizations like Morrison and Forrester, and local high schools universities. Furthermore, the team of young innovators made a deep impression on their MindTank audience: by the end of the night, Elix had secured a formal partnership with the office space and many new mentors. Success!