Searching for the Next Great Solution: Reverse Pitch MKE

Beth Cole, Sr Program Manager, Digital Innovation

Oct 8, 2020

Ever since the first Reverse Pitch MKE in 2017, the premise of this unique event has been the same — great ideas can come from anywhere. With this year's event returning November 11 to kick off Startup Milwaukee Week, there are certainly some unique circumstances that have impacted the program and the challenges being presented for innovators to solve.

If you're not familiar with Reverse Pitch MKE, the concept is simple, yet powerful: Companies present some of their most pressing business challenges that don't have an existing clear-cut solution. Entrepreneurs, startups and other creatives are invited to solve these challenges with their ideas, the goal being to launch a product and business of their own with the help of venture capital and other invaluable resources.

This year, Northwestern Mutual is participating along with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin regional health network. The winner on our end will receive up to $90,000 in seed investment from Cream City Venture Capital, co-location space in Cream City Labs, a cash prize of $10,000*, access to our corporate mentors and networks and $2,000 in legal services.

Past winners have proven the value of this event. The 2017 winner, Socialeads, an artificial-intelligence platform that uses social media to help generate referrals for financial representatives based off the life events of people in their networks, recently closed $750,000 in additional funding. The most recent winner, Pythonic AI, took the prize with its MedReviewer platform, which streamlines medical records reviews and claims processing through machine learning. Northwestern Mutual underwriters are currently testing a live pilot of MedReviewer.

Virtual Event Silver Linings

Reverse Pitch MKE has always been about connecting with people one-on-one in an energetic environment. Like most in-person events that have been forced to go virtual due to the pandemic, this face-to-face aspect will be missing. However, a key advantage to going virtual is that we'll draw from a much larger audience. While the company eventually formed through Reverse Pitch MKE will be Milwaukee-based, we are hopeful the virtual format will provide opportunities for attendees throughout the state, region and the country who may not have otherwise been able to attend in person.

We will pre-record the business challenge presentations before showing them during the live event, then make them available on-demand afterward, which will make it easy and convenient for innovators to watch (or re-watch) and decide if they will apply to pitch back their solution early next year. While it may be disappointing to miss out on the in-person interactions, this virtual format allows us to expand our reach and tap into a larger pool of entrepreneurs this year. I'm excited about our expanded scope, which I anticipate will result in even more valuable ideas.

2020 Reverse Pitch MKE Challenges

This year's event will feature four challenges — two from Northwestern Mutual and two from the Froedtert & MCW health network. Their winner will receive the same amount of funding and resources through Inception Health, the innovation arm of the Froedtert & MCW health network.

Northwestern Mutual will present challenges related to developing an innovative approach to attracting a diverse talent pool, as well as building financial security for the next generation. The Froedtert & MCW health network will share challenges related to addressing the impact of social isolation and loneliness on health and supporting individuals with challenges that inhibit engagement with digital health services, both areas of particular need given the recent impacts of COVID-19.

Each of these challenges is important and relevant in today's world. But especially important to me is the diversity challenge, which has given me a chance to hear from many different people across the organization. Diversity and inclusion, and increasing the number of diverse hires in our workforce, has been a long-time focus for Northwestern Mutual, but we know we can make an even greater impact to drive this work forward by leveraging technology and creating a new, innovative solution.

I’m also excited that this year’s event is focused on increasing the number of diverse entrepreneur participants to help build and grow their businesses in Milwaukee. These events allow us to connect with startups in new ways, and Reverse Pitch MKE provides an important opportunity to reach and support even more underrepresented entrepreneurs in our community.

The Reverse Pitch MKE 2020 event empowers us to find solutions. It's truly inspiring to play a role in overcoming challenges that will help people both within and outside of Northwestern Mutual. It demonstrates our commitment to innovate for our clients, while also building a strong and diverse tech ecosystem in southeast Wisconsin.

To learn more about Reverse Pitch MKE and to register to attend on November 11, please visit

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