Introducing Hello World: A Pitch Competition from Nowhere, USA

South Bend Code School is partnering with venture capitalist Cyan Banister to fund student’s business ideas.

In March of this year, the New York Times published a story titled ‘Silicon Valley is Over, Says Silicon Valley’ detailing a bus tour through the Midwest comprised of two members of congress and a dozen venture capitalists (VCs).

Twitter was rife with opinions on the story. Many, like the tweet below, expressed skepticism about the VCs’ intention to back up the tour’s lofty goals with action:

The tour’s final stop was our hometown of South Bend, Indiana, so naturally we took interest in the conversation happening on Twitter. I remember INVANTI co-founder Dustin Mix texting “are you seeing Cyan’s tweets about South Bend?”

He was referring to Cyan Banister, a partner at San Franciso-based Founders Fund and one of the VCs on the tour. Founders Fund is a venture capital firm “investing in companies building revolutionary technologies.” Known for investments in Space X, Palantir, AirBnb, Stripe, Facebook, Spotify, and Flexport — the fund is widely regarded as one of the Valley’s premiere venture firms.

And Cyan? After dropping out of high school and ending up homeless, she learned how to build products with code — eventually resulting in early investments in Uber, and Space X among others. She had been quoted in the article talking about potentially moving to the midwest, and was standing firm against the skeptics:

And when another person followed up with “what about this trip spurred you to (re)consider living in the Midwest?”

If you know us and our team, you know that we loved watching this conversation unfold. In just a short visit Cyan had experienced the same energy that is motivating a lot of us to build things in South Bend, and it was compelling enough for her (and others) to tell the story online.


Three days after the tour stop in South Bend we received a direct message on Twitter from Cyan expressing that she’d like to support companies started by our students.

Of course, we were down with this idea. When we talk about our mission “eliminating the barriers between people, technology, and jobs,” an important piece of that is empowering empowering our students to build their ideas using code. We actively help students apply to college and get paid-internships at technology companies, but we’re entrepreneurs and have experienced first-hand how building your ideas with code can change not just your life, but the life of our community.

This is why we’re proud to announce Hello World: A Pitch Competition From Nowhere, USA. Over the next two months, high school students in South Bend will work individually to come up with a business idea centered around tech, build a prototype of that idea, and present it to a panel of judges.

To make it more exciting — Cyan Banister will be giving out $5,000 in prize money split between the top three teams to help fund and motivate ongoing work on their company. 📈


What is a pitch competition?

A pitch competition is where individuals present (or pitch) business ideas to a panel of judges. Students who choose to compete will work individually or on teams of 2–3 to come up with a business idea centered around tech, build a prototype of that idea, and present it to a panel of judges.

Who can sign up?

This opportunity is available to high-school aged students enrolled in South Bend Code School programs for the duration of the Pitch Competition (Week of September 10 — Tuesday, November 13).

Join us: southbendcodeschool.com 🚀


Up Next on the blog:

During these two months leading up to the pitch competition, we’ll be documenting the students’ process in blogs. Up next is scenes from this past week when INVANTI co-founders Maria Gibbs and Dustin Mix joined class to help students develop ideas that solve real problems.

INVANTI co-founders Maria Gibbs and Dustin Mix with SBCS students

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