Innovation is at the heart of every startup, but it's far from easy to achieve. Innovating innovation is all the more difficult -- and that's exactly what the experienced entrepreneurs at The Hatchery have been doing for the past three years.

The Hatchery is a New York-based startup incubator taking a different approach to helping fledgling companies connect with the right people at the right time. Intent on "breaking the mold" of New York's "cutthroat" approach to startups, the company employs a unique presentation model it describes as "American Idol meets Venture Capital."

A single seven-minute presentation is the central element of the program. Attended by an invitation-only audience of entrepreneurs and investors, the event -- dubbed "The Gauntlet" -- asks entrepreneurs to lay out their startup, hitting all the expected high points. Five experts, drawn from the worlds of finance, law, and technology, form a panel that leads fifteen minutes of questions and answers. Past panelists include representatives from Bessemer Venture Partners, The New York Times, Goldman Sachs, Virgin USA, NBC Universal, and SAP.

Each event focuses on a particular area or market, and gives three firms the opportunity to "run the gauntlet." Previous sessions have covered a range of topics including New Media, Mobile Tech, Financial Services, Gaming, and Interactive Advertising, as well as events featuring All Investor and All Women panels and companies from the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The company has attracted attention from the likes of American Venture Magazine, National Public Radio, Information Week, Crain's New York, Reuters, The New York Sun, and New York Daily News.

Entrepreneurs who feel ready to face the gauntlet can apply through The Hatchery's website. Entrants are asked to provide slides upfront, and encouraged to include a seven-minute video presentation, though only those based outside New York are required to do so. Archived presentations are viewable on, and dates for future events are available from