STARTUPS SHOWCASED THEIR IDEAS, MINGLED WITH POTENTIAL INVESTORS
For the last three months, Tech Wildcatters Executive Director Molly Cain has watched startups blossom into budding businesses.
On Thursday, the inaugural cohorts in the Dallas-based accelerator’s new data-driven program, “The Gauntlet,” had their time in the public spotlight during Tech Wildcatters Throw Down: Spring Pitch Day at the House of Blues.
”All the perseverance and all that preparation — you don’t really see that on stage, but I’m extremely proud of them for the work that they did to get here,” Cain said.
And as the event’s handout reminded, there were no “participation trophies.”
Tech Wildcatters debuted the new model in late February with 28 companies. On Thursday, 11 remained from that initial group.
The startups’ offerings ranged from an automated camera that uses facial recognition technology for filming live events to a commission-free real estate brokerage platform.
Those that presented had reached level 3 of the five-tier system, meaning they have established a customer base and brought in revenue.
”It’s totally changed the tone. The people that were on stage today earned it.” -Molly Cain
”It’s totally changed the tone. The people that were on stage today earned it,” Cain said.
In the past, entrants into Tech Wildcatters’ program were all given a $25,000 upfront investment in exchange for 8 percent equity. Under the new model, startups receive $30,000 sliced into smaller payments as they progress through the stages. Plus, those who reach level 5 have a chance to earn an additional $100,000 from the TW fund.
Allen Selis, founder of Tech EdVentures, received recognition for his company’s newly acquired level 3 status with a $15,000 check presentation following his pitch.
Reaching the milestone means his team has done its homework, he said.
“Behind what you see on stage is a lot of work to understand your client, figure out what they need and make sure you are adapting to that … Those are things that can make the difference between a great idea and a runaway success,” Selis said.
More than 800 people packed the concert hall at the House of Blues populating both the floor and balcony levels. Some of them were looking to hone pitch techniques for their own up-and-coming startups while others such as Randy Lunn came looking for potential investments.
The venture capitalist, who hails from Laguna Hills, California, made his first investment in Dallas-based RF Monolithics Inc. in 1978. Since then, Lunn has returned to the city over the years to fund other companies.
“I think that Dallas is one of the leadership cities for innovation and company building,” Lunn said.
Although he didn’t give specific names, he said a few of the TW startups had intrigued him. He said TW’s Gauntlet program “[optimizes] success on the back end.”
“It’s evolved very nicely and it’s a very smooth and easy way to bring companies in and move them successfully through the pipeline.” -Randy Lunn
“It’s evolved very nicely and it’s a very smooth and easy way to bring companies in and move them successfully through the pipeline,” Lunn said.
TW investor and mentor Ryan Scripps, who started working with the accelerator in 2011, said Thursday’s event raised the bar for pitch days.
As an investor, the new model allows him to get his money’s worth since companies don’t earn it until they’ve reached certain goals.
“I love the concept and I’m really anxious to see how it’s going to play out over a few more classes and over the years,” Scripps said.
For the 11 startups that presented Thursday, their time in the Gauntlet isn’t over. Cain said they expect some will return to the stage during the fall pitch day as they’ve progressed even further in the program.
“The journey is just beginning with them and this is one moment on stage,” Cain said.
Previous coverage: Initial Batch From Tech Wildcatters’ ‘Gauntlet’
To Make Pitches Thursday
Tech Wildcatter startups took a moment this week from prepping their pitches to tell us more about how their businesses began.
Photos by Hannah Ridings and Michael Samples
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