Pitches and Perspectives

My Journey Judging the $30k Pitch Competition

From left to right: David Dykes of Greenville Business Magazine, Dr. Sabrina Russ of Simplicity Community Pharmacy, Lydia Callahan of ReadingHQ, Erik Weir of WCM, Ben Sarracino of Method Performance Labs, and yours truly.

A few months ago, my department director tapped me to represent The City of Greenville as a judge in the “30k Powerup Pitch Competition,” a statewide virtual competition for startups. Despite having competed and won in a pitch competition before, this was my first stint as a judge. Equipped with a gavel, robes, and a judge’s wig, I dove into the judging arena.

Initially thought I’d be evaluating only three or four pitches, so naturally, 21 pitches later, I’ve become an unintentional expert competition judge. Let me share some expert-level tips that I’ve picked up on judging a pitch competition efficiently.

Don’t get caught up in the details

The organizers provided a detailed scoring sheet, covering everything from “innovation/potential impact” to the subtleties of a “clarity of virtual interview.” Initially, my meticulous tendencies kicked in, but mid-first pitch, I realized these early-stage entrepreneurs needed a different approach. I shifted focus, zooming out to assess the overall business plan. The goal was to give each business a fair chance, not nitpick their every detail.

We’re not looking for mega startups that require buckets of cash, but big dreams that can be funded creatively and smartly.
-Erik Weir,
Founder,,
WCM Global Wealth

If given the chance, ask the right questions

Seizing the opportunity to ask questions became crucial. I transitioned from nit-picky inquiries to ones delving into the essence of each business. The key was simplicity—asking questions that brought out their vision, passion and purpose rather than scrutinizing every aspect of their plan.

Judge, by any means necessary

This unexpected pitch marathon taught me adaptability. Whether rushing from work to virtual pitches or catching up on recorded sessions during lunch, judging by any means necessary ensures every business gets a fair shot. Even if you become a father during the competition (like I did) persist and do your due diligence.

Remember why you’re doing it

In the hustle, it’s easy to lose sight of the competition’s purpose. Grounding my ratings in the mission—fostering big dreams funded creatively—gave me a fresh perspective. Despite moments of fatigue and information overload (21 business plans in 4 weeks), understanding the competition’s impact kept me going.

And the winner is…

Closing ceremonies were simple: opening remarks, checks, cake—45 minutes flat. It was amazing.

The winners were:

  1. Method Performance with $15,000
  2. Simplicity Community Pharmacy with $10,000
  3. The Reading HQ with $5,000

As Erik Weir aptly put it, “The purpose of tonight is to give them their money, not have an event.”

Judging the “30k Powerup Pitch Competition” was an immersive experience that enriched my understanding of entrepreneurship. The journey taught me that being a judge is about empathy and a genuine commitment to fostering the spirit of innovation. As I hang up my powdered wig, robes, and return my gavel, I take a sigh of relief, knowing that today, I have truly made an impact, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

About the Author

Byron Melvin

Byron serves the City of Greenville as a Digital Project Manager and is a lover of all things design and technology. Outside of work, Byron is an entrepreneur who enjoys spending time with his family, taking photos, and doing home improvement projects.
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