Chicago Ideas Week: The Piranha Tank


October 18, 2013

This year, during Chicago Ideas Week, Lightbank partnered with Silicon Valley Bank to host Piranha Tank, our own version of ABC’s “Shark Tank”. Chicago Ideas Week is a 7-day annual celebration of ideas and innovation, designed to ignite, inspire, & connect the city around great ideas and people. Brad Keywell, Lightbank’s managing partner, founded Chicago Ideas Week in 2011 to inspire innovation and entrepreneurship in the Midwest.

During the Piranha Tank, each startup gave a 10-minute pitch/presentation and then endured 5 minutes of questioning and feedback from some of the brightest minds in the Chicago entrepreneurial world.

The Piranha’s (or judges) included Paul Lee, general partner at Lightbank, Logan LaHive, CEO of Belly, Barry Nalebuff, co-founder of beverage company Honest Tea, and Harry Weller, general partner at venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

The four startups that pitched their business ideas to our piranhas were:

  • Options Away, a startup that launched last year allowing consumers to put airline tickets on hold for three to 21 days
  • Optyn, a maker of email marketing technology for small businesses
  • PrettyQuick, a service for booking last-minute spa and salon appointments
  • Georama, a travel startup that is licensing its recommendation technology to airlines and hotel chains

At the end of the event one winner was chosen to receive $10,000 toward their business. Luckily, the Piranha Tank judges were much nicer than Shark Tank!

This year’s winner of Piranha Tank was Options Away.

The Lightbank team enjoyed learning about each of these new businesses and participating in Chicago Ideas Week.