Got an idea? Pitch it at the Vault

Entrepreneurs have a chance to bring their business dreams to life at Lafayette’s Third annual The Vault event, where participants pitch proposals to a team of investors in hopes of obtaining financing.

“It helps innovators bring products to market and companies to the next level,” said Pete Prados, chief idea officer at InventureWorks, a company that works to connect innovators to investors and that sponsors The Vault idea pitch at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

Anyone with a viable business plan is free to pitch an idea, Prados said, but “only the best are put onstage.”

Potential investors from Acadiana and across the state will sit in the front rows of the audience, with some taking their turn onstage to vet the business proposals, Prados said.

Ten pitches will be presented in three categories: quick pitches for students and startups, nonprofit pitches and for-profit pitches.

Audience members will pay $10 for voting “chips,” and the quick-pitch ideas will receive the proceeds based on how many people support the idea with their chips.

“It’s one chip for entry, and that’s the one you’re going to vote with, but you can buy more chips if you want to donate,” Prados said.

The student or startup collecting the most chips also will receive a bonus check from the Acadiana Entrepreneur Group, he said.

Nonprofit pitches could receive up to $50,000 from the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, a local agency that helps fund public projects in the city.

In the for-profit category, Prados said, investors are looking for healthy businesses that are ready to expand.

The for-profit winners could receive a potential funding deal from investors after the ideas are further evaluated.

“It’s basically a handshake agreement,” Prados said. “They say, ‘I like what I’m hearing.’ They do research, vetting, see if numbers are correct and then strike a deal.”

One of The Vault’s biggest success stories was Morse native Wade Clement, who pitched his idea at the first The Vault event in 2012: an electric truck-loading lift system called Lift Horse used to load heavy objects in the back of pickups.

Clement said he decided to submit his invention when he saw an ad for the first Vault event.

“When I called them, they came down and took a look at what I had, and they were interested,” Clement said. “They said, ‘You’d be a prime candidate.’ ”

Although most people brought their pitches on paper, Clement said, he brought the actual lift system to the Vault event and demonstrated for the investors onstage.

“I was so nervous,” he said. “There was nothing these guys would not say or do, but they had never seen anything like this.”

Clement secured financing, and an engineering firm was brought in to test Clement’s lift system and modify it for safety and durability.

Clement said they have an inventory of 25 truck-loading lift systems, which they plan to sell to Coburn Supply Company Inc.

“We’re real early into it,” Clement said. “It’s just hitting the market.”

Any individual or company seeking to participate in The Vault must submit business ideas by April 20 to InventureWorks.