The Road to San Antonio passes through Charlotte on September 15, 2022, where we’ll hold the last regional pitch competition. There, seven companies will compete for $15,000 in regional prize money! Charlotte’s winner reserves a spot on stage in San Antonio to compete for the grand prize of $100,000 dollars, continuing USAA’s 100th Anniversary Pitch Competition. 

Update: Charlotte Winners Announced!

Gavin Baum-Blake and City Detect won the $10,000 first prize in Charlotte for their analytics software that uses cameras to provide data and trends on real estate’s curb appeal, urban decay, and gentrification, empowering businesses that live in brick-and-mortar spaces and government city planners alike to make smarter choices and investments. Bob Denaro and WingDriver are making our streets safer and our auto insurance cheaper with their B2B SDK and app that assesses driver risks, which earned them $5,000 in prize money. While City Detect is headed to the Finals in San Antonio, Tx this November, the other competitors can still earn a wild card spot!

The event also featured a fireside chat between Army National Guard veteran and founder, and former CEO of Keith Luedeman and USAA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy & Brand Officer Ameesh Vakharia. Together, they discussed the strength of entrepreneurial peer networks for problem solving and troubleshooting, something we do a lot of in the Bunker Labs community. There was also some discussion on seeking customer revenue and going beyond good ideas to design products and services customers are willing to spend money on, and how that’s preferable to investor dollars. A big takeaway was getting your product out at any level, failing, learning, and improving tends to be a more successful model than waiting on third-party investment dollars.

Need Help Honing Your Pitch? 

Pitching under ideal circumstances is difficult, but pitching for a competition is even more intense. Take another look at your pitch with Bunker Labs How-To Pitch Your Business blog series! 

The Competitors

Judges will hear business pitches from seven US military Veterans or eligible family members. Each competitor has just five minutes to make their pitch, followed by a five-minute Q&A with the judges.  

Gavin Baum-Blake
Army, Co-CEO of City Detect 

Gavin Baum Blake Pitch Winner

City Detect uses cameras and AI to automatically assess the exterior condition of real estate. City Detect provides property, neighborhood, and city level analytics including trends on curb appeal, urban decay, and gentrification. The data is updated weekly and is significant to both public and private organizations. City Detect launched in early 2021 and has 4 paying and 2 non-paying pilot customers. 

Bob Denaro
Air Force, Chairman of the Board for WingDriver 

WingDriver supports driver safety by avoiding accidents with next-level Computer Vision and AI designed for smartphones. WingDriver is a B2B solution that allows any company to implement driver distraction and drowsiness detection and warning, and other functions, with our technology in their apps using our SDK or by deploying our white label app for their customers. This is the next generation of Usage-Based Insurance, now able to assess actual driver risk. 

Eric Carlson
Navy Active Duty/Reserves, CEO of Blue Sky Cyber 

Eric Carlson Headshot

Blue Sky Cyber develops and deploys advanced B2B SaaS technology focused on data protection, personal privacy, and securing the Internet of Things (IoT). 

We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and is under constant attack in the digital age. We must take control of our privacy and protect our data from constant exploitation. The next big winners in the security marketplace will be the ones that secure the Internet of Things; Blue Sky Cyber. 

Ray Antonino
Army, Chief Expectation Setter of 

Ray Antonio Headshot

Getting a permit is time-consuming. Access to information is fragmented. Requirements differ from one municipality to the next and inquiry calls yield conflicting answers. Permits require in-person visits, paper forms, and waiting in line. Consequences for not getting permits or failing to properly close permits, include license forfeiture, fines, rework, lost opportunities, and delayed real estate closings. 

Our technology allows companies to manage permits, inspections, and license credentials for light commercial and residential construction at 19,655 building departments in the U.S. 

Brandon Noel
Marine Corps, Co-Founder and CEO of Data Droplets Inc. 

Brandon Noel Headshot

Droplets is pioneering the customer intake process to pair sales, marketing, and compliance. Droplets was founded in 2020 with the mission of providing auto dealerships with a technologically streamlined solution for their test drive and customer intake processes to automate and ultimately simplifying the steps they go through with each customer.  

Our software platform leverages ID scanning, compliance technology, and verification algorithms designed to provide business owners with peace of mind when it comes to data compliance and liability. Data generated from our system provides valuable insights for the dealerships and lead generation for partnering insurance brokers. 

Reda Hicks
Army Spouse, CEO of GotSpot Inc. 

Reda Hicks Headshot

GotSpot is an Airbnb-style platform for sharing all kinds of commercial space. We’re a marketplace where businesses that have space, and businesses that only occasionally need space, find one another. With GotSpot, Main Street businesses are a space resource for entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are a new source of revenue for local businesses. We’re leveraging technology to unlock the value of the built environment, grow local businesses, and build community resilience. 

James McCarter
Marine Corps, CEO of Shadowscape 

James McCarter headshot

Breaches don’t occur where you’re looking, they happen in the blind spots. Do you know where yours are? At Shadowscape, we start from the “Top, down” to ensure we prioritize and address the most glaring risks first. We grow and mature our client’s security programs from day one, ensuring that the solutions we recommend actually solve the problems posed by cyber threats. 

Our proprietary platform is purpose built to make cybersecurity programs easier to manage, cheaper to implement and more proactive, providing hyperawareness of where you stand against threats at all times. 

The Judges

Our judges have the unenviable task of choosing which of the seven pitches earn the top prize of $10,000 and a spot in the finals, as well as a runner-up, who takes home $5,000.  

USAA Pitch Competition Judges

Darrius Jones
Senior Vice President Digital Design & Innovation, USAA 

Darrius Jones and his team are responsible for delivering the breadth of the association to as many members as possible in the most efficient and scalable ways available. This is accomplished by partnering across USAA on the strategy and execution of consistent, member-centric digital experiences for all products & services. He is a servant leader who drives empowerment through clear accountability by creating empowered diverse teams that are focused on delivering strategically aligned outcomes.  

Prior to rejoining USAA, Darrius held several leadership roles with increasing responsibility including Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for Polycom/Plantronics, Head of Digital Channels & Experiences at Schwab & Cisco Systems, where he led strategy and new product dev for the Collaboration and Customer Care business. Earlier in his career, Darrius has a wide breadth of experience in technology architecture and execution while at Merrill Lynch and Computershare.  

Darrius grew up just outside of NYC in Montclair, NJ. He proudly hails from a military family in which his grandfather, father, uncles, and sister all served.  

Kevin Eckert 
Partner at TFX Capital 

Kevin Eckert is a partner at Task Force X Capital (TFX), a venture capital firm focused on investing in early-stage technology businesses co-founded and led by military veterans. Prior to TFX, Kevin spent over a decade as a Managing Director with Stephens Capital Partners and Stephens Inc. He began his business career as a member of General Electric’s Audit Staff and later joined GE Capital as a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, Kevin earned a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.   

Samantha Smith 
Senior Partnership Manager at Lowe’s Innovation Labs 

Sam Smith is a Senior Partnership Manager at Lowe’s Innovation Labs, helping Lowe’s bring the future home by connecting with technologists. Sam has been in the startup ecosystem for over a decade, founding her own company and supporting other entrepreneurs by hosting events like Seed the South. 

The Road to San Antonio

Keep up to date with the latest USAA 100th Anniversary Pitch Competition results, and get ready for our big finals event in San Antonio this Veterans Day, November 10th!