Kwame Boler is still cleaning up when it comes to pitching his startup.
Boler, the founder and CEO of NEU, has taken home a grand prize of $50,000 from the National Black MBA Association Scale-Up Pitch Competition. The win follows Boler’s success in GeekWire’s new Elevator Pitch series in which he went up against other entrepreneurs, touting his business during a 42-second ride to the top of Seattle’s Space Needle.
Boler’s business is a marketplace connecting Airbnb hosts with hotel-grade cleaners. At the GeekWire Summit earlier this month, Boler pitched to judges again, along with several other finalists from the series. He took third prize, but also won the Geek’s Choice award as the crowd favorite.
The Scale-Up competition featured founders who are black or of African descent, and took part at a conference in Detroit at the end of September. Boler bested 10 semifinalists and three finalists, and did so with a 3-minute presentation that included slides and visual cues.
In an email to GeekWire on Wednesday, Boler said this was his second time competing in the Scale-Up competition, and he was humbled last year when he didn’t make it to the finals.
“There were a lot of lessons learned from the experience overall and we went in [the second time] with a fresh perspective and better expectation,” Boler said. “Scale-Up judges only had 5 minutes to digest the presentation, ask (the right) questions, and score accordingly. However, since the scoring was uniform and given to us in advance, it helped knowing what we were going to be judged on and thus, we simply catered our presentation to best address the rubric.”
In a story on Black Enterprise, the young entrepreneur shared his advice for founders of color and first-time founders.
“You’re going to have to work two to three times as hard to prove and validate that you’re credible,” he said. “There’s a growing mantra that’s quite prevalent within this industry, which is that if you ask for money, you’ll get advice. And if you ask for advice, you’ll get money. So be sure to do the latter.”
Boler also told GeekWire that both the Elevator Pitch competition and the NBMBAA challenge had incredibly fierce companies participating.
“We’re just happy to be recognized for our hard work,” he said. “Stay tuned for more to come.”
Get more startup advice from Boler in this GeekWire podcast in which he joined fellow entrepreneur Cassie Wallender of Invio.
And watch Boler’s GeekWire Elevator Pitch from earlier this year in the video below: