The ride to the top had a celebratory stop at the Startup Summit on Thursday, as the finale of the Elevator Pitch startup competition crowned a champion.
When the judging was all said and done, Katherine Sizov, CEO & co-founder of Strella Biotechnology, creators of sensing technology that predicts the ripeness of produce, beat out three other entrepreneurs on stage at the event in Seattle.
Sizov made it to the finals as the winner of Episode 4 during the third season of the Startup show, which featured pitches being made in the 32 seconds it takes to get to the top of Seattle’s historic Smith Tower.
The Summit stage was only two steps off the ground on Thursday, but Sizov still rose to the occasion with her pitch about how her company could help solve a food waste problem that creates more carbon emissions than all U.S. transportation combined.
“To solve this problem, we create a proprietary sensing technology coupled with software that can tell you how ripe produce is,” Sizov said.
The company has helped Washington state apple and pear growers organize their inventory based on shelf life in order to reduce food waste and improve the overall quality. Strella has monitored more than 2 billion pieces of fruit to date.
Asked by a panel of judges why Strella couldn’t be a consumer application for helping shoppers pick ripe avocados, for instance, Sizov said addressing the problem before it gets to the store makes more sense right now.
“The way that we look at it is, let’s say you went to the grocery store and every time you went there, you knew that your avocado had exactly two days of shelf life, instead of sometimes hard, sometimes mushy avocados,” she said. “We think that if we can solve the supply chain inconsistencies, then ultimately the consumer is going to get a more consistent product.”
The four Elevator Pitch finalists were selected from categories this season that included sustainability, consumer products, FinTech, and the future workplace.
Episode 1 winner Amina Moreau, CEO of Radious, pitched an online marketplace that turns houses, apartments and other residential properties into workspaces, rentable by the day.
Episode 2 winner Devin Miller, co-founder and CEO of SecureSave, pitched his company’s purpose built emergency savings solution designed to help people feel and be financially secure.
Episode 3 winner Erin Quick, co-founder and CEO of PairTree, pitched a service that provides tools, resources and support to navigate and simplify the process of adoption.
The finalists all reached the Startup Summit stage by beating out two other entrepreneurs in each of the four episodes.
The show, presented by WestRiver Group, featured a panel of judges that included Maria Colacurcio, CEO of Syndio and winner of Elevator Pitch season two; Anthony Bontrager, managing director of WestRiver Group; and Kirby Winfield, a longtime Seattle entrepreneur and founding general partner of Ascend.vc.