There Were Winners & There Were More Winners

On Thursday, September 19, 2019, eight finalists competed in Glendale Tech Week’s annual “Shark-Tank style” Pitchfest. The eight finalists were selected from a pool of over 60 applicants this year. Each finalist had the opportunity to pitch in front of an audience of over 100 people including investors and a panel of judges.  They competed for a $43,000 prize package. The finalists included:

Pitchfest 2019 was held at CBRE

Hovanes Margarian, AppearMe
Khalil Jammal, CareWell
Benjamin Benichou, Creative Bot, Inc.
Alexis Schomer, Expy Health
Ara Keshishian, PinpointEyes
Albert Stepanyan, Scylla
Benjamin Trammell, Tooth Fairy Stem Cell

After several hours of pitch presentations, the seven member panel of judges deliberated to choose the grand prize winner. Members of the public were also invited to vote online for their favorite startup which would be named the “Fan Favorite.” Both Pitchfest winners are Glendale-based startups and were announced during the Tech Awards Party that evening along with the winners of six awards recognizing a variety of standout companies and individuals. The evening’s winners were:

Pitchfest 2019 $43,000 Grand Prize Winner
Albert Stepanyan for Scylla
Albert Stepanyan is an artificial intelligence engineer and entrepreneur with a passion for coding. Coming from a military background and having experience building tech businesses, he decided to combine his skills to build Scylla – a real-time threat detection system designed to predict violent behavior through the use of AI. The technology aims to revolutionize the security and surveillance industry by addressing active shooting events, violent crimes and terrorist acts.

Pitchfest “Fan Favorite” - AppearMe was founded by brothers Hovanes and Armen Margarian, is a real-time and on demand web and mobile app that connects users with legal professionals.

With this year’s “Next in Tech” theme in mind, dozens of individuals and companies were nominated for Glendale Tech Week’s Tech Awards.  The Awards are a chance to recognize start-ups, student innovators, established tech firms and up and coming entrepreneurs for their accomplishments in the local tech industry. “The extraordinary amount of innovation and talent present in the City of Glendale and in the region is evident in this year’s diverse group of awardees. Glendale is proud to offer an environment in which entrepreneurs, startups and tech companies can reach their fullest potential,” said Mayor Ara Najarian, who served as one of the judges for this year’s Pitchfest.

Best Culture -  ServiceTitan
Founded by Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan, ServiceTitan is a software company built to accelerate the $400B home service industry. Their all-in-one software helps the industry streamline operations, improve customer service and increase sales.

Community Impact -  DishDivvy
Founded by Ani Torosyan and Nahid LaCiura, DishDivvy is a food-tech platform connecting approved home cooks with hungry neighbors. Its mission is to provide economic opportunities to underrepresented labor groups who are traditionally left out of the commercial food sector.

Cutting Edge Technology - DeepRoot Green Infrastructure
Deeproot Green Infrastructure is a global water technology leader which integrates green infrastructure such as trees, soils, and LIDs into streets, plazas, parking lots, and other paved surfaces. Their flagship technology Silva Cell allows for an efficient integration of water, soils, and tree roots to promote on-site storm water management through bio retention.

Rising Star: Isabella Bruyere
Currently a senior at Hoover High School, Isabella has been teaching a free after school coding class to elementary and middle school students for the last five years. She has created a space for children who do not have access to or have never seen programming to learn in a fun, pressure-free way. She teaches using MIT's Scratch platform.

Glendale Young Entrepreneurs - Picktrace, Inc.
PickTrace, founded by brothers Austin and Harrison Steed, builds powerful software products that help agriculture companies thrive. Their workforce and harvest management software helps growers gain insight into their operations and improve their operational efficiency. Their vision and goal is to revolutionize the industry with a complete farm management solution. Picktrace  recently moved to Glendale from Northern California.

William Lee, Abrupt Collective
A Glendale based digital marketing consulting agency, Abrupt Collective was founded during William’s junior year in high school. His company consists of a collective of individuals who specialize in delivering quality content to their clients.

PickTrace: Q & A with Brothers/Co-Founders Harrison & Austin Steed

New to the Glendale Tech Scene is PickTrace, a fast growing software company that provides high tech solutions for farms all over the US, Latin America and Australia, founded by brothers Austin & Harrison Steed.

After moving their operation from Northern California to beautiful downtown Glendale, they talked to us about their startup journey, overcoming obstacles, how they narrowed the search for a new home from 17 cities across the U.S. to Glendale, CA, and why they're thrilled to be here.

Harrison Steed, Co-Founder & COO of PickTrace

Tell us a little about PickTrace; how did the idea for the company develop and what has it evolved into today?

PickTrace was founded after my brother (Austin) was asked by my father to create a system to resolve our workforce management issues. After a year of building the solution for our own family farm, and creating multiple iterations, the product took shape and other growers garnered interest in what became PickTrace. After selling to our first few customers in 2014, Austin and I opened our first office in San Diego. Shortly after, we were accepted into Y Combinator in Mountain View, CA and raised a small round of capital. We continued to grow, hiring a small fantastic team in the East Bay of San Francisco. In Fall of 2018 we raised a Series A financing round and decided to move to Glendale! 

Why is PickTrace an important player in your industry?

PickTrace is helping growers complete a core function of their business, payroll. Without a solution like PickTrace, farmers leave themselves exposed to payroll noncompliance lawsuits, workforce inefficiencies, and lack of production insights. Agriculture is one of the slowest adopters of technology, yet is one of the most important industries in the world - we strive to provide tools that will ultimately lead to healthier businesses that produce higher yields.

What were some of the challenges you had to overcome to get to where you are today?

In a startup, nothing is permanent! The go-to market strategy will change, the product will change, the management style will change, etc. - you're constantly in flux and iterating on ideas and methods. It can be a challenge to let go of an idea that the company has outgrown or methods you've practiced for years. Financial constraints were also a constant battle pre-Series A.

PickTrace is used all over the US, Latin America and Australia. Why did you choose Glendale to be home to your headquarters?

We started with a list of 17 cities across the US. We considered a large list of metrics and requirements, ultimately whittling down the list to just two areas, Denver and Los Angeles. After a lot of thought and multiple visits to each city, we decided Glendale because of 6+ things. Proximity to customers, number of other successful businesses in the city, walk-ability, traffic, transportation infrastructure, affordability of office space and general cost of living

Austin Steed, Co-Founder and CEO of PickTrace

Austin Steed, Co-Founder and CEO of PickTrace

You’ve been in Glendale for over 6 months now. How’s it going so far? What do you love most about our city?

Being in Glendale has been a fantastic decision. The food! I do not think most people realize just how many different restaurants Glendale has, you can eat somewhere different every single day. I also love the cleanliness of the city - you guys have done a great job of maintaining a clean and safe environment. I appreciate some of the changes that we have seen in the last few months, like the new outdoor eating area in the alley on Wilson near our office.

If someone came to you for advice about possibly moving their business to Glendale what would you tell them?

I would tell them there is a great space available in our fantastic building! I would tell them that Glendale is a young, active city with a lot to offer - it has everything that a business needs - parking, food, gyms, great traffic management.

Drawing on personal experience, what advice would you give to new startups hoping to break into the tech industry?

Focus. One of the biggest challenges, and something we are dealing with today, was a lack of focus on the minimum viable product. It was easy for us to become distracted and allow sales to dictate product. When sales dictates product, we've found that long-term vision becomes cloudier. When we were able to focus on selling to a small group of people, with a very focused product, with a clear path to how we will achieve growth and expansion, product was happiest, customers were happiest, and sales were strongest.

Any final thoughts?

Join our team! We are constantly hiring and looking for awesome people to join PickTrace!

In the News: ServiceTitan