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Homeland Security taps Dallas' Tech Wildcatters to drive innovation for first responders

Tech Wildcatters accelerator drives innovation for first responders

Dallas startup accelerator Tech Wildcatters announced a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Innovative Technology in advance of its third accelerator, Emerge, which is designed to impact first responders such as firefighters and police through wearable technology.

The goal is to help first responders do their jobs more effectively and enhance their safety through innovative customization of consumer technology. Wildcatters CEO Gabriella Draney Zielke calls it an “unprecedented collaboration between our private and public sector partners.”

Zielke says that DHS contacted them as part of a new endeavor to reinvent government research and development. Accelerators can not only help the government keep pace with the speed of innovation, but they can also help emerging startups find new markets to sell their products. Accelerators like Tech Wildcatters take equity in exchange for seed capital, mentorship and access to investors.

Although this is Tech Wildcatters’ first time dealing with the public sector, Zielke believes it is equipped to handle the layers of bureaucracy.

“With our startups, it’s a mile a minute,” she says. “But we work with large enterprises, and you have to understand why things might take longer there with the layers and levels. We’re already used to this. We operate at enterprise speed when we’re working our partners, so it’s always a challenge, but it’s not a scary challenge.”

Emerge will take six teams on a 12-week accelerator to develop wearable tech that can benefit first responders, as well as tackle bit data issues. Zielke says that when DHS brought the plan to the table, Wildcatters saw the opportunity to get involved near the start of a new technology cycle.

“We love the hardware side of things personally,” she says. “It’s not just devices themselves — it’s really big data issues, and wearables is just one piece of that. Homeland is working to figure out and make use of it. Wearables is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Representatives from Tech Wildcatters, TechNexus (another partner in Emerge), DHS and CIT will be at SXSW on March 13 to do talk about first responders and how the emerging wearables market will affect them.

“It’s basically a reverse pitch,” Zielke says. “We’re going to talk about the challenges that first responders face — not necessarily what the tech is — and introduce the problems and the rules of engagement.

“So if you do have a solution, then here’s one way to engage, here’s how to think about this, instead of just being, ‘Well, I have this thing and nobody will listen to us.’”

Applications for Emerge are open until May 10, and the accelerator begins June 8.

Tech Wildcatters co-founder Gabriella Draney
Tech Wildcatters CEO Gabriella Draney Zielke says the accelerator's experience with B2B enterprise operations has prepared them to work with the Department of Homeland Security.  Photo courtesy of Tech Wildcatters