Pitch.me Allows Salespeople to Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Jackson, MI, is a city of roughly 35,000 people situated 40 miles west of Ann Arbor. It’s known for a few things: It was the birthplace of the Republican Party; a center of automotive manufacturing before Detroit became dominant; and the location of Michigan’s first Coney Island restaurant.

What Jackson is not, usually, is a hub for tech startups. However, a charitable commerce company called Pitch.me is working to change that. Co-founder Brandon Ansel, a serial entrepreneur who has a day job running Walton Insurance Group, says Pitch.me came out of a frustrating experience he had at work.

About 18 months ago, Ansel realized he needed to do a better job innovating his insurance company, so he began a deep dive to figure out how to change that. When he analyzed how his employees and sales reps were communicating with management and customers alike, he had an epiphany.

“The system was broken,” he recalls. “There were three ways I was getting most information: junk mail, e-mail, and cold calls.” Due to the sheer volume of messages he received, he found it almost impossible to cut through the noise to find the truly important pieces of correspondence.

Shortly after this epiphany, Ansel took a call that would change everything. “A cold caller got through to me by lying to my assistant and telling her that we had a meeting,” he says. When he got on the phone, the caller began pitching Ansel on a product that he claimed could save Walton $100,000 annually.

“I told him I don’t build relationships with liars,” Ansel says. “He yelled at me and said, ‘How the hell else am I supposed to get to you?’ So I said, ‘Put your money where your mouth is. If you donate $50 to my favorite charity, I’ll take a meeting with you.’ He agreed and asked how, and I figured there must be an app out there to facilitate introductions.”

It turns out there wasn’t any such product, or at least there wasn’t one that did exactly what Ansel had in mind. So he assembled a team of developers and got to work. Earlier this month, the Pitch.me app officially launched for iOS and Android.

Anyone interested in requesting or accepting an introduction establishes a free profile in the app; salespeople sign up as Providers and executives as Deciders. Providers donate a small sum to a Decider’s favorite charity and get a a 15-minite call in exchange. At the end of the call, if the Decider is interested in exploring the pitch further, he or she “awards” the Provider with personal contact information.

“Every time I get an inquiry, I direct them to Pitch.me,” Ansel says. “Charities love it. We see ourselves as a free market solution that complements LinkedIn.”

If a Decider feels they are getting too many inquiries, they can increase the dollar amount of the donation to discourage frivolous pitches. Ansel says there are even celebrities and business leaders (the chief financial officer of Dunham Sports, for example) on Pitch.me that occasionally make themselves available for inquiries.

Ansel says he wants the participating charities to get the full dollar amount quoted by the Deciders, so Pitch.me charges an additional $1.50 plus 9 percent of the donation as an introduction fee. “The average amount for an introduction is $10,” he adds.

Ansel says he’s been able to lure talent from the coasts to Jackson to work on Pitch.me, and the 15-person company has so far raised about $3.25 million from local angel investors.

Ansel says he plans to spend the rest of the year getting the word out about Pitch.me, but in 2018, he has bigger plans.

“We want to connect [blockchain technology] to the app and create our own cryptocurrency,” he says. “With 15,000 downloads so far, we’re starting to get some good traction.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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