Fourth Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge goes virtual

Last year (and pre-COVID), approximately 3,000 votes were cast during the first round of the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. This year’s virtual kick off saw more than 4,000 votes cast online. (ECU photo by Cliff Hollis)

Despite COVID-19, the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge (PEC) kicked off for the fourth time Oct. 12. While prior years had the first round taking place on the grounds of East Carolina University with students, faculty and staff casting votes for their favorite products/ideas, this year’s Challenge started online. In-person pitches were converted to videos. Facebook likes replaced voting tickets. Where the first round happened in one afternoon in prior years, this year’s kickoff took place over seven days.

“It was a completely different experience in this first round,” said David Mayo, PEC organizer. “In previous years, students relied on walk-by traffic to drive votes, but this year, they not only had to create compelling videos, but they also had to drive traffic to those videos.

“This experience was great practice for marketing their products and services.”

Moving On

After more than 4,000 votes cast and almost 10,000 video views, 20 teams will move on to the second round.

Those teams include:

  • Ajaa, a handmade jewelry and home accessories brand
  • Alignment Dancewear, tops and leotards for dancers
  • Booze Juice, an alcoholic juice box company
  • Campus Maps, an app for universities that targets students, professors and visitors
  • Carterr Collection, a handmade, cruelty-free and vegan cosmetic company
  • Colorful Desires, a platform for minority-owned businesses in college communities
  • Designs by Lyd, a Christian clothing line
  • Dogbell, a doorbell device for pet training that allows dogs to alert owners that they need to go outside
  • Food Trucking, an app that connects consumers to local food trucks
  • Go Bo, stick segments that can be connected to form more than 20 martial arts weapons
  • InHouse Call, a transformative communication tool for patient care in hospitals
  • Lymit, a social media app that will change how people view social media
  • Mystery Meals, a randomized food delivery service
  • Project Custos, a community-oriented mobile application and service to help deter human trafficking, sexual assault and other crimes
  • Quickirun, a concept that allows consumers to stay in the comfort of their homes to make a return for any nonperishable item
  • Sand-off, a body spray that repels sand and provides SPF protection
  • Simply Divine Extensions, a high-quality hair extension company
  • Spirit Sleeves, a customizable cast sleeve for children with broken limbs
  • Tellus, a COVID-19-inspired product aimed at reducing unnecessary waste in the United States
  • Ultra Golf, a revolutionary golf ball designed for the average amateur player

    Andy Gilicinski with SC Johnson cast a first-round vote during last year’s Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge. This year, inperson first round votes were replaced with Facebook likes. (ECU Photo by Cliff Hollis)

The 20 teams were chosen by popular votes, judges’ votes and at-large votes by the College of Business’s Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the PEC sponsor. In total, seven colleges and schools and 20 majors were represented in this year’s first round.

Like last year, the fourth PEC winner will have a chance to win more than $100,000 in cash prizes, making it the largest pitch competition in North Carolina.

“This year’s first round was just as tough as the prior years,” said Mayo. “The judges’ comments were overwhelmingly positive, and some popular vote winners exceeded 500 votes. Each year the teams and entries become more diverse, and that diversity drives innovation and success.”

Second Round

PEC’s second round is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.  Each team will submit a five-minute video for PEC judges to review.  Judges then will meet with the teams for a private two-minute Q&A session, and after which, teams will compete “live” (viewable by the public) in a 15-minute group Q&A session.  Five judges will select five teams to mentor for the final round.  From Feb. 1-7, the sixth spot will be decided by popular vote and will follow the same format as the first round.

PEC’s final round is tentatively scheduled for April 2021.

For more information about the Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge, visit