PentoPix Wins Best in Show and Entertainment Category at the 2023 SXSW Pitch Awards for its AI-Assisted 3D Animation Platform
By Laura Kobylecky, special contribution to Silicon Hills News
PentoPix won the SXSW Pitch Awards 2023 in the category “Entertainment, Media & Content”. PentoPix also won the “Best In Show” award in this contest. PentoPix uses AI-assisted technology to turn text into 3D animations.
SXSW Pitch featured innovators and trailblazers in the tech industry, from “independent tech companies to trailblazing startups” (1). The event brought together 40 interactive technology companies in 8 different categories. The startups pitched in front of a panel of judges.
I caught up with Volha Paulovich, Co-Founder and COO of PentoPix, to talk about her experience at the Pitch Awards. When asked for the shortest summary of her company, a demonstration of her freshly honed pitching skills, she said, “PentoPix is an AI-assisted platform that combines creativity and efficiency by converting scripts into 3D animated videos for storyboarding and pre-production.”
She was very excited to win Best in Show at the SXSW Pitch and said, “It’s surreal; I didn’t process it. This is the best result we could have expected. And in startups, you never expect the best outcome to happen.
Paulovich found the SXSW Pitch Awards to be a unique experience. She explained, “I pitch almost every day… I didn’t really give it much thought, and then the coaching started, and we completely turned things around, and that was awesome because that never happens, and I’m really glad we did.”
The SXSW Pitch process involved hands-on training. Paulovich described the process “Each startup gets a coach who we meet multiple times.” There’s a number of appointments required “we have a minimum bar of, I think, twice, but you can do more…I’ve done more for sure…probably four. The experience also included a coach who “can walk you through the process of the day or how to better structure your pitch, leave feedback on slides, how to prepare for Q&A.
Paulovich compared the experience to that of an athlete and praised his coach, calling them “absolutely amazing” and the overall experience as “something new and different”.
The SXSW Pitch experience was unique in the startup world, according to Paulovich “And it’s a level of support that you rarely get in startups, especially when it comes to pitching.” Pitch experience normally means pitching “to an audience of potential investors or users”. For these fledgling startups, “it’s sort of their job to figure out why your startup won’t work,” meaning “you don’t really hear the honest feedback because everyone is so judgmental.” The SXSW experience means having a trainer with “a completely new eye on you”, and Paulovich described this added value as “incredible”.
When asked more about what she learned from the SXSW Pitch experience, Paulovich described how she and her team “started to tailor things to the people we meet, and it just gave us this understanding .” She reflected, “There are always people who don’t fit, and that’s okay. We are not a gold coin so everyone loves you.
She highlighted the value of targeting a pitch, saying that “there are funds that invest in specific categories, everyone has investment criteria, and it’s okay if you don’t fit. This is not the end of the world; we have to keep pushing, and that’s great to understand. This wisdom came from “exposure to so many different backgrounds and so many different startups, so many different investors.”
Winning this award had a significant effect on Paulovich and his company. She says, “Now, since we won, we’re thinking bigger, on a much bigger scale.” The SXSW Pitch price is, according to Paulovich, “top of the line.” This award inspired his team with a vision that “we are on to something, we are doing great things, not that I didn’t believe in it before, but now we have this external validation.”
External validation led to more immediate changes. Paulovich explains, “To be honest, I was going to take a vacation after South By, and now I don’t feel like doing that anymore.” The encouragement of this experience inspired the feeling that “it’s time to push and go out there and continue all the conversations we started, connect with all the people we met and do more.
The motivation here came from more than winning the prize. Paulovich found being in Austin for SXSW to be uplifting in many ways, saying that “generally just being here in Austin, it gives that level of motivation and inspiration.” It makes people believe that “we can do this. We’ll achieve all of these great things and milestones in the future,” and it “kinda combats all of the mental health issues and all of the negativity that can be involved in building a startup.”
The SXSW experience seems to have inspired Volha Paulovich, co-founder and COO of PentoPix and winner of the Best in Show award at the SXSW Pitch, and perhaps that inspiration will be shared by others.