J.P. Morgan Joint Investor Spotlight Highlights Rising Techstars Startups

Feb 13, 2023

Calvin Waddy spent a lot of time staring in the mirror. 

“I can’t even tell you how many times I practiced my pitch,” said Waddy, the founder of Buzzbassador, and one of 59 founders chosen to present at the inaugural J.P. Morgan Joint Investor Spotlight event in New York. 

It’s not that his pitch was rusty. Waddy and his business partner Shelby Baldwin, were still riding high, having completed the Techstars Atlanta Powered by J.P. Morgan program just a month prior. But when you have the opportunity to pitch your business in front of more than 100 public and private investors at the J.P. Morgan headquarters, you make it count. 

“To be a part of the Atlanta Techstars class and to participate in the investor spotlight is a big deal,” said Baldwin. 

The Buzzbassador duo joined fellow founders from the Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and Washington D.C. programs whose companies represent more than 20 verticals, from jewelry to SaaS, real estate and shoes. 

Ryan Garcia, the CEO of Friendly Shoes, pitched the accessible footwear company at the event. Friendly Shoes are currently sold in seven countries and sales have topped $1 million all through word of mouth. So despite being a slightly more mature company, it’s always beneficial to be around founders, mentors and investors.

“We want to help more people in 2023, and we are optimistic about our future,” said Garcia. 

Tami Nelson, senior director of special projects for accelerator investments, had been percolating on the idea of creating cross program opportunities for months when she approached the J.P. Morgan team. 

“J.P. Morgan opened up their space, their staff and production teams and told us to bring the special Techstars sauce,” said Nelson who put together an experience that brought together investors and mentors who aligned on thesis and equity. In addition to the live pitches, panel discussions and small group meetings made for a “white glove experience.” 

“Our number one goal was cutting a check and we got there,” said Nelson. “Every minute was worth it.” 

Brandon Storms, founder and CEO of Retavo, called the opportunity with JPM “a door opener.” 

“It’s the exposure and the genuine interest in diversifying their deal flow that stood out,” said Storms. Retavo is a white-label multi-vendor peer-to-peer platform where businesses can enable their own scalable P2P marketplace.

Karissma Yve, the founder of Gildform, attended Techstars Detroit powered by J.P. Morgan. She pitched her company, a print on-demand jewelry design and manufacturing platform that helps brands create jewelry from concept to creation, at the event.

“The value that my team has received is next level and game changing,” said Yve. “The event brought the right people at the right time.”

Besides the connections with investors and mentors, founders were able to meet peers from the other programs.

“We are all going through the same thing,” said Yve. 

“We are told from day one to lean into the power of the network,” added Waddy.

Leaning in and staring at yourself in the mirror.