State Farm Next Door helps VCs and entrepreneurs connect with “Amplify’d”

It’s time to find out once and for all if that new business idea of yours was meant to fly. Or rather, get “Amplify’d.”

Next Door, the new concept from State Farm launched last year that’s part innovation lab, part community space and part café, is giving aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their ideas to several venture capital groups and angel investors.

The one-day lightning round on Thursday, June 14 called “Amplify’d” will consist of 20-30 pitches from startups, each selected based on their online submission of a game-changing idea that will shape an industry.

Says Brett Myers, Next Door’s program director: “We figured ‘why not help the next big idea instead of waiting around for it?’”

Each participant chosen will have about five minutes to pitch in front of potential investors. The event will also feature guest speakers throughout the day.

Next Door was designed to be a launching pad for entrepreneurial ideas long before this event.

As Mr. Myers explains, “We’re excited to see more and more startups using Next Door as one of their hubs. We see them brainstorming on our whiteboards, making connections through our events and holding meetings in our conference rooms.”

Passing by the location near Clark and Diversey in East Lakeview, it’s not unusual to see many laptops open and lattes sipped in the ample-sized lounge and café area. Next Door is even looking to add more bands to play in the space this summer.

Of course, there’s customer interaction at Next Door, too. However, it’s more of the financial planning variety than traditional insurance. If visitors so choose, they can meet with State Farm’s Financial Coaches in stylish and portable “pods” that keep the conversation private.

I’ve maintained that this kind of “co-working, community space that also happens to house a business” concept is a very fresh, low-pressure approach to selling financial products. People don’t often make decisions on complex products in one sitting, so why design an environment with the assumption they’re already at that final decision point?

In fact, other traditional settings (i.e., banks) are modifying their environments to be more inviting and multi-functional. In the process, brands like Next Door are learning about the specific needs and challenges of a demographic in their 20’s and 30’s coming through for complimentary financial classes and one-on-one coaching. Undoubtedly that should have an impact on the way the audience is communicated to.

Submissions for the chance to be selected for “Amplify’d” are due by Monday, May 14. And really, with only a few questions to answer on the online application, the process for throwing your hat in the ring to be potentially chosen couldn’t be easier.

You must submit your idea through Next Door’s “Amplify’d” website. You’ll find more details there.

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