An Interview with Pika Energy, Winner of Gorham Savings Bank’s LaunchPad 2013

I caught up with Pika Energy’s Director of Business Development, Andrew Hickok, for an update since receiving $30,000 from the 2013 LaunchPad competition. I also asked what advice they would give to this year’s LaunchPad applicants. Note, the entry period for LaunchPad 2014 ends February 14th at 11:59pm, E.S.T. For complete details, rules, and entry form, visit launchpad.gorhamsavingsbank.com.

 

YOU USED THE $30,000 LAUNCHPAD AWARD TO MOVE INTO A NEW BUILDING. HOW IS THAT GOING? ANY NEW/BIG DEVELOPMENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?

Our recent focus has been building up our production capacity and continuing product testing. We’re now a team of 10 and counting, so we’ll soon be running out of space in our new facility. Personally, I’m logging miles to grow a national network of dealer/installers of Pika products.

 

YOU HAVE SOUGHT OUT (AND RECEIVED) MULTIPLE FUNDING SOURCES FOR YOUR PRODUCT/COMPANY. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS ABOUT APPLYING TO RECEIVE FUNDING FROM LAUNCHPAD AND OTHER SIMILAR PROGRAMS?

Pika has been successful in fundraising by pursuing many different sources. There can be a snowball effect where one funding award, such as winning LaunchPad, can help leverage funding from other sources.

To win Launchpad in 2014, an entrepreneur will need to successfully do 3 things:
  1. in your application, you must present a compelling case that your company has developed a differentiated and scalable product or service;
  2. as a semifinalist, you must convince your customers, friends, relatives, and strangers to vote for you online; and
  3. as a finalist, you must deliver a compelling presentation that brings to life your product or service.

 

HAS WINNING THE LAUNCHPAD COMPETITION PROVIDED ANY LEVERAGE FOR OBTAINING ADDITIONAL FUNDING?

Winning LaunchPad didn’t directly lead to funding but it gave Pika a shot in the arm in a few ways. It was a major psychological boost to our team and investors. The LaunchPad funding allowed us to move into a commercial facility, which enabled Pika to make a better case to future investors that we were on the right path.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ENTREPRENEURS ON THE FENCE ABOUT ENTERING THEIR IDEA INTO A PUBLIC COMPETITION, OR HESITANT TO SHARE A BUSINESS IDEA THEY HAVE NOT YET TAKEN STEPS TO PATENT/PROTECT?

I don’t believe there’s much downside with entering LaunchPad, and there’s a lot of upside. The format of the competition doesn’t require proprietary information to be shared. For entrepreneurs who might be on the fence, a competition like LaunchPad can provide valuable feedback that the entrepreneur can use to sharpen their business plan to present to future audiences. Pika participated in several pitch competitions in Boston before the LaunchPad competition, and our presentation definitely improved with practice.