The founders of 11 small businesses competed in Union Bank’s fourth startup pitch competition on May 27, and three were awarded a total of more than $15,000 in funding. All the entrepreneurs are recent graduates of a business accelerator program hosted by Connect All @ the Jacobs Center, which is dedicated to minority-owned companies. Contestants completed a four-month training program, and then had just five minutes to pitch their ideas in a video presentation to a panel of judges. (Full disclosure: I participated as a judge in this year’s program.)
The first-place winner was First Gen Scholars, a startup founded by Jonathan Burgos. First Gen Scholars’ mission is to help high school students who are the first person in their family to attend college—they not only assist with the college application process, but provide mentorship until the students graduate. Burgos won the $7,500 prize, and he also won this year’s Audience Choice award, which was decided by public vote through the Jacobs Center’s YouTube channel.
“Jonathan Burgosdid an outstanding job showcasing the importance of First Gen Scholars and highlighting the market opportunity and the long-term vision for the company,” said Bruno Rodriguez, Union Bank branch manager for the El Cajon Valley location and a judge on the panel. “Union Bank is proud to support the future of business in San Diego through this competition.”
The second-place winner was Charbon Plus, founded by Lucien Eloundou, which produces skincare products for Black and brown skin. The unique ingredients for the charcoal mask are sourced from Cameroon. Eloundou won a prize of $5,000 to expand the line.
Taking third place this year was Hexagon Laser, a design and manufacturing company founded by Oscar Corral that specializes in artwork using laser engraving on wood. The company has created coasters and tap handles for local craft breweries such as Novo Brazil, and it also has a line of wall art and home decor. Corral won a prize of $2,500.
Connect All is a partnership between the city of San Diego, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and Connect with San Diego Venture Group.