Cal State Long Beach doctorate candidate Komal Gada presents his startup concept to judges at the DLBA's Pitchfest contest on May 14 held at Studio One Eleven. (Courtesy of DLBA)

The Downtown Long Beach Alliance is once again giving local startups a leg up.

Seven Long Beach startups walked away from this year’s Pitchfest, the annual business competition hosted by the DLBA, with a combined total of $20,000 in prize money.

The largest prize in the May 14 competition, $6,000, went to PAVANAS, a wind turbine concept by Cal State Long Beach doctoral candidate Komal Gada. The innovation comes in the form of “vortex generator” tape that is meant to help reduce the air resistance of wind turbine blades, which will improve both their life span and effectiveness.

Gada’s efforts were also recognized at the CSU Startup Launch challenge last month, where PAVANAS won third place in the contest’s products track.

“I have been studying the aerodynamic characteristics of birds, drag reducing properties of shark skin, and the streamline body of dolphins for nearly a decade,” Gada said in a statement. “Putting together years of research and innovative thinking along with my mentor Dr. Hamid Rahai at CSU Long Beach, I have developed a novel design which can be used on any slender body to improve its aerodynamic characteristics.”

In order to qualify for the Pitchfest competition, the 12 participating startups were required to attend the DLBA’s Entrepreneur and Small Business Education Series, which consisted of weekly classes meant to teach entrepreneurs the skills required to run a business.

Topics, which ranged from human resources to marketing to negotiating a lease, were taught by faculty from Cal State Long Beach’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and College of Business, alongside several established professionals in the Long Beach area.

Judges used a series of criteria to determine winners based on their understanding and innovation in their field. Pitches needed to demonstrate knowledge of the target customer base while showing appeal to potential investors. The product or service itself needed to be innovative and stand out from competitors, and the entrepreneurs behind them had to lay out a plan of how they would use their resources to implement the business model.

The six other startups to receive cash prizes were:

  • Cheri’s Caribbean Kitchen, a planned restaurant that is looking to bring Caribbean cuisine to Downtown Long Beach, which won $3,000.
  • Kelpie, a start-up trying to create a swimsuit bottom that is comfortable for trans kids to wear, which won $2,000.
  •  plus3mm, a creative design and marketing studio that will operate out of the U.S. and Germany, which won $2,500.
  • MindWallet, an investment advisory business that specializes in high yield bonds, which won $2,000.
  • Mobile Wine Bar SoCal, which will serve as a pop-up mobile wine bar for private events, which won $2,000.
  • SistaGals Bake Goods, a business focused on authentic Southern desserts, which won $2,000.

This year marked the fifth time this pitch event has been held by the DLBA.

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.