On May 22, a group of 13 hopeful startup companies pitched business plans to a packed house at Granada Theater in Dallas. In the audience were fellow entrepreneurs, their Tech Wildcatters support team and mentors (of which I was one), and — most important — people with money.
The end goal of Pitch Day 2014: find investor partners who can help turn those startup dreams into realities.
We all know what it’s like to have a dream. For Tech Wildcatters co-founder Gabriella Draney, it’s to make Dallas one of the top three startup hubs in the world. And Tech Wildcatters might just get us there.
The 2014 Tech Wildcatters class was its most international yet — an indicator that the world is paying attention to what’s happening Dallas.
The Forbes-ranked B2B accelerator started doing Pitch Day in 2010. It’s the culmination of an intense 12-week program in which entrepreneurs work with the top talents in their industries to refine their business plans, network and, hopefully, secure the necessary funding to move forward.
In the past four years, Tech Wildcatters has mentored 52 companies; between them they have created 225 jobs and are generating $21 million in revenue. Last year, Health Wildcatters was born to serve the growing demand in the healthcare sector.
In 2014, Tech Wildcatters accepted only 4 percent of its applicants, and this class was the most international yet. The teams represented six countries, including Slovenia and Brazil — an indicator that the world is paying attention to what’s happening Dallas.
Another first in 2014: two startups found their “soul mates,” as Draney describes it, and decided to merge their companies.
During Thursday’s Pitch Day, all of the teams — introduced by the mentors with whom they had most closely bonded — distilled their visions into just a couple of minutes. As a mentor, it was thrilling for me to see how far many of them had come in defining their ideas, targeting their markets and, yes, selling their stories.
These companies are in various stages of their life cycles. Some have talent in place and a product already bringing in revenue; others need money to staff up and actually bring their idea to market. But in addition to the entrepreneurial bug — I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “serial entrepreneur” — one trait they all share is passion.
Following the presentations, everyone headed to next-door Sundown at the Granada for a happy hour, where in addition to letting loose — it has been a jam-packed three months, after all — the teams got to visit one-on-one with accredited investors.
Only time will tell if these companies succeed, but thanks to their experience with Tech Wildcatters, they certainly have a fighting chance.
Meet the teams:
The Houston-based startup, which is already up and running, bills itself as “Bake Sale 2.0.” It’s a crowdfunding platform for grades K-12, i.e., an easy and social tool for teachers to raise much-needed funds for their classrooms — money that often comes out of their own pockets. A sentimental favorite.
This is a live, interactive, point-of-view HD video-streaming service. From a consumer standpoint, it means you can take a car for “a test drive” from the viewpoint of the salesperson — in real time with no delay. For a business, it can help a commercial real estate company headquartered in Turkey go on a site visit with the contractor on a property in Dallas — without the costs or headaches associated with the business trip.
One of many SAAS (software as a service) solutions in this class, Zephos combines all of the programs you use every day — Dropbox, Facebook, Google Drive, email — into one dashboard so you don’t have to log in multiple places. Available for individuals and businesses.
“We hate passwords,” declared Klaus Fosmark during this presentation. Nexiden’s patent-pending technology uses smartphones to provide authentication and transaction authorization services, thereby (hopefully) making user names and passwords obsolete and helping to combat security breaches.
My Dealer Service
This web-based solution helps auto service departments deliver real-time information to its customers, from recommended repairs and estimates to the time the car will be ready for pickup. It also provides valuable data — including on-the-spot feedback — to the service providers.
Reveel by iCcode
The patent-pending video recognition solution allows people to interact with video content simply by scanning the screen. (Like what Shazam did for music, only with visual content.) So if you see something you like in a commercial or TV show, you can scan the screen to learn more about it — even buy it. These are the Slovenians.
This content management system (CMS) allows brands to not only publish their own content, but also solicit — and publish — user-generated content, which those customers can then share with their networks. Whichbox currently has a product and is generating revenue, through clients such as Fossil.
This is the one most likely to make it big. Instant API makes is easy for developers to create, host and publish APIs. (For the non-technical, an application programming interface, or API, specifies how software components interact with an operating system.) What used to take months now takes minutes — at a fraction of the cost. Instant API added 2,000 users in just the last two weeks.
GetReal.estate would like to be the future of real estate listings. The company provides social tools and immersive media (kind of like virtual tours, only way cooler) to connect buyers and sellers with agents, and to connect agents to land developers and to each other. It currently operates in Brazil and hopes to do the same in the U.S.
This web-based tool helps meeting professionals plan and control meeting details in real-time so they can focus less on logistics and more on people. A mobile app keeps attendees informed of meeting details. GruupMeet is based in Dallas.
This website — and, soon, mobile site — connects travelers with local guides to create the most authentic experiences possible. Guideally is focused on emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and currently has “guides” in 45 cities on four continents.
Security was another hot topic at these proceedings — in light of recent breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and eBay — and Akros provides security solutions at the enterprise level. Its technology protects the IT infrastructure at companies large and small.
This company is “on a mission to stop attrition,” which it hopes to accomplish by providing colleges with a web platform that helps students succeed by better addressing how they learn— and save the schools on costs associated with retention. Upswing currently has customers, and the Upswing team found their soul mates in Your Sigma, another team that had created an online learning solution.