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Pair of future-looking start-ups win Glendale Tech Week’s Pitchfest

Two start-up companies tied for first place in Glendale’s third annual “Shark Tank”-style Pitchfest competition Thursday, each walking away with half of $60,000 worth of professional services to help expand their businesses.

Beating out nine other contestants, the founders of Messy.fm — a Wordpress-like creation tool for Podcasts — and CellectGen – an at-home detection test for gum disease — convinced a panel of investors, business leaders and city officials their companies had what it takes to thrive in the competitive start-up environment.

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“We thought they had high potential of getting great valuation in the future,” said Ara Aslanian, Pitchfest committee co-chair and local entrepreneur.

The Pitchfest awards ceremony was held at the Americana at Brand on Thursday evening as part of the closing party for Glendale’s Tech Week, a spate of tech events conceived by the city’s Economic Development Division to support and connect entrepreneurs in the industry.

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During her pitch, Messy.fm founder, Molly Beck, told the audience “everyone here has a secret desire to make a podcast” — likening the popularity of the content type to a gold rush.

The problem is prospective podcasters need a bunch of tools to get started, including an expensive microphone and editing software, she said.

Messy.fm, originally conceived to get more women into podcasting, provides all the necessary tools to get started in one subscription platform, according to Beck.

“We’re the first shovel for the podcast gold rush,” Beck said.

While most dentistry is still reliant on dentists identifying problems by sight, CellectGen founder Robert Gellibolian said his test allows patients to use a few drops of saliva to test for specific biological markers of early-stage gum disease. The results can be seen and relayed using a smartphone app.

“[CellectGen] is going to change the way predictive dentistry is done,” Gellibolian said.

“Our goal would be for these companies to grow their businesses and become viable companies,” Aslanian said of the winners.

Last year, Erin Beck’s Glendale-grown babysitting exchange was crowned runner-up.

While Beck didn’t go home a first-place winner, her then-nascent company Wana Family Networking service now operates in 26 states.

“One of the most remarkable things was I didn’t win, but I still found the city of Glendale to be a great incubator,” said Beck, who hosted this year’s event and helped launch a kid’s edition of the competition that was held Sunday.

Kiana Fong, the 12-year-old winner of Tech Week’s inaugural Kids Startup Showcase, pitched a jewelry shop.

“It was incredible. I think no one in the audience … expected the quality of presentation we were going to see,” Beck said of the eight young finalists’ pitches.

Older and younger generations mixed at a tech job fair held at the Downtown Central Library on Wednesday, with some attendees looking for their first post-college job and others hoping to switch professional tracks or companies mid-career.

Locally grown companies, such as call analytics and tracking company Phonexa, as well as big names like Amazon and CalTech, showed up to connect with prospective employees.

Gilet Nevado, 25, was at the fair looking for jobs related to IT project management or front-end development, and she said she’s seen Glendale’s tech scene — and the job fair — grow over the past few years.

“Last year, I went to the event and it was small,” Nevado said. “Now, a lot more recruiters came in.”

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