Uber Pitch brings entrepreneurs together with investors

Michael Dando wants to bring hip hop to Madison’s classrooms.

And he’s planning a forum that brings together local teachers and students who already teach and learn hip hop. But the UW-Madison doctoral curriculum student needs money for that, so he hopped on an Uber yesterday to get a 15-minute pitch with an investor.

“One of the most meaningful planning meetings I’ve ever had was on an Uber ride,” Dando said afterwards. “I’ve sat through a ton of meetings that were five hours long, and I felt we got half as much done.”

Dando was one of the 23 people in Madison who used Uber yesterday to get 15 minutes with an investor through a program that Uber launched in conjunction with the Forward Festival. Seventy requests came in for the program, though with only four investors, most people didn’t get a chance to pitch their ideas in the three-hour time window.

Dando’s investor was Eric Englund, the co-founder of UW-Madison’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic. The clinic’s other co-founder, Anne Smith, also participated in the program, as did American Family Venture’s Molly Lahr and gener8tor’s Troy Vosseller.

“I think there’s definitely people that will be applying to gener8tor,” Vosseller said of the four people he talked to. The driver, he said, also pitched a business idea.

Uber spokesman Dave Bauer said the company was looking to “connect great ideas with the right audience.”

“Oftentimes with things like this, we see very high demand, and this was no different,” Bauer said.

Dando said he got valuable advice from Englund, who asked him about the “real nuts and bolts” of what he’s looking to do and connected him to potential partners. Dando eventually wants to develop a guidebook on how teachers can connect hip hop with class content. But for now, he wants to bring together the “pockets” of teachers and students in Madison he met while doing research for his dissertation.

Those teachers, he said, are using hip hop to teach topics ranging from climate change to literature, helping students realize they have a passion for subjects they didn’t care for too much before.

“It gives students not only an access point but it increases their engagement,” Dando said. “It increases their capacity to take good, educational risks, to try something new.”

— By Polo Rocha,