Dalton State Partners with Dalton Innovation Accelerator for PitchDIA Competition


Blake Hayes is already gaining real-world experience working with startup businesses through Dalton State’s partnership with the Dalton Innovation Accelerator (DIA).

Now he and other business students are working with the accelerator to plan and host PitchDIA, a competition based on the ABC show “Shark Tank” where entrepreneurs share their ideas with a panel of judges.

This year’s PitchDIA Competition is Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Stage 123 in downtown Dalton. The event is free and open to the public. Prizes for the winner include $5,000, six months of free office space at the DIA, a website package and more.

“Working on this project and at DIA are great ways to get real-world experience in a business environment,” said Hayes, a management major and an intern at DIA. “It is the perfect resource for students to not only get experience, but to refine their own business ideas.”

Entrepreneurship is growing in popularity among young professionals, said Dr. Marilyn Helms, dean of the Wright School of Business, who serves as a judge for the competition.

“Working on this project helps them hone their presentations and pitches and generates much interest in a start-up,” Helms said. “In fact, many business students have an idea for a new company they'd like to run, and we design our curriculum to help them be successful as entrepreneurs.”

Helms is joined by three other judges on this year’s PitchDIA panel. Piet Dossche is the president of USFloors, Jamie Hamilton is managing director of Atlanta Seed Co. and has extensive experience in investment strategy. Santash Sankar is a founding partner of Dynamo Ventures and was named as one of Forbes 30 under 30 in 2017.

DIA was founded in 2017 through a partnership of Inventure IT, Barrett Properties and Believe Greater Dalton. While it was originally formed with the purpose of establishing PitchDIA as an annual startup competition, DIA ended up becoming something much bigger. It now is the region’s central startup incubator.

DIA has been a fantastic opportunity for students here at Dalton State ever since its inception, Helms said. It acts as a location where students become immersed in the world of entrepreneurial business.