Applaudo Studios at Casa Mexico SXSW pitch competition

Katina Kenyon
By Katina Kenyon

Yesterday was speed coaching on steroids!  It was “roll up your sleeves” kind of mentoring that I just love. 

Invited as a coach at the SXSW 2019 International Pitching Competition held in Austin, TX at the Huston-Tillotson University, I was thrown into the shark tank of helping these entrepreneurs best position their product, their service, themselves, their go-to-market and the financial projections into a tight, 5-minute pitch.  Hosted by the International Accelerator and Casa Mexico this pitch competition offers a chance for startups from around the world to present their businesses to be accepted into a coveted position at the International Accelerator, also located in Austin. There were 43 companies from 12 countries pitching their businesses with the hopes of making it to the final 10 and to be invited to apply at the International Accelerator.  

Huston-Tillotson, a historically black university, offered the perfect backdrop for welcoming in the diversity of foreign-born entrepreneurs, largely from Mexico but with representation from Italy, Norway, India, and Greece to name a few.  

The energy was electric! Let me set the scene.

A huge college auditorium with over 25 coaches strategically placed, with large placards showing the coach name, gave way for these 43 entrepreneurs who were armed with our coach bios, filtered in and lined up for the coaches they felt could best help them.  We spent a solid 20 minutes together, and I found most of my coaching sessions were so heavy that we went over this 20 minutes almost all the time. I was particularly focused on 2 areas.

  1. Product or services: Did the startup have a product/service that solved a need, answered a question, was differentiated, held a competitive advantage.  Real talk… did I understand what the startup was actually trying to deliver with their product/service?
  2. Solution: Did the startup have a value proposition that was sustainable, more importantly, was that solution one that could be monetized now, short term and long term.  

From small aesthetic tweaks to 180 pivots, this was a 5-hour experience that jazzed up my business juices.  I’m hooked.

I’ve been a mentor at IA for the last several years, but the SXSW International Pitch Competition is always a highlight.  

If you are a foreign-born entrepreneur looking to be a part of an accelerator in the US, check out

Here’s to the rest of SXSW living up to Day 1!