Launch Pad: A Springboard to Success
The SEMA Launch Pad, presented by the Young Executives Network (YEN), provides a springboard for young entrepreneurs and business owners to launch products into the $46 billion automotive specialty-equipment industry. The annual competition is open to contestants age 18–39.
The final phase of the 2020 competition was slated for the SEMA Show. In lieu of a live event, finalists’ presentations were prerecorded at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles for broadcast on November 2 during SEMA360. The event was moderated by Aaron Kaufman of Arclight Fabrication.
Making the Cut
The crop of 80 contenders was recruited through SEMA’s online marketing campaign and YEN’s social-media outreach. To make the cut, contestants went through a vetting process. YEN’s Launch Pad Task Force reviewed the applications and selected the semifinalists.
“We went through each application line by line and either moved applicants forward or out of the competition, whittling it down to 15 semifinalists,” said Jonathan Barber, task force chair. At that point, the competition moved to online voting.
The top 10 finalists were chosen by the public and then a Manufacturer’s Rep Task Force selected the top five. The finalists were Justin Bradshaw of Rever; Khanjan Desai of Alchemy; Roland Hence from FrontLane; Matt Rafeld of Beachcomber Offroad; and Eric Rivera of Dirt Dynamix.
“It felt great to make it into the final five—a lot of validation—but it didn’t feel like a competition,” said Bradshaw, whose entry was a unique GPS mobile app and website. “It felt like we were all winners. Everyone had great ideas. We had time to talk with the judges and chat with each other to share ideas and advice. That’s important in the entrepreneurial community.”
Hence agreed: “At first you think of the others as competitors, but then you realize that you’re sharing stories, experiences and going on a similar path. We gave each other so much advice and got feedback. As entrepreneurs, that was real value.”
And the Winner Is…
After two days of filming, networking and touring the museum, it was time to announce the winner. The grand prize package, worth $25,000, including perks and $10,000 to benefit the winner’s business, was presented to FrontLane’s Hence.
His prizewinning safety product, Impulse, is a battery-powered wireless pulsating emergency brake light that reduces rear-end collisions under extreme braking conditions. Impulse can be installed on the rear window of any car or truck.
“To win the Launch Pad is incredible,” said a jubilant Hence. “As an entrepreneur, you dream about this moment. I am incredibly proud of my team and grateful to SEMA for the platform to showcase our hard work and life-saving product.”
Added Barber: “Being able to see the finalists, the excitement in their eyes and their drive and passion is what makes this contest so exciting and worthwhile. On behalf of YEN, a big thank you to the judges and Aaron Kaufman for another successful event.”