OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | WeekWise: Eleven and Twelve
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WeekWise: Eleven and Twelve

Week 11

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. If there was a theme to Week 11, that would surely be it. With the Bayou Startup Showcase growing closer each day, our week consisted of Pitch Practice after Pitch Practice after Pitch Practice. All week, our team’s iterated on their slides and their scripts to tweak them to be just right. With the help of our pitch coaches, our founders finished the week with polished presentations. That being said, we would like to give a formal thank you to all of our pitch coaches who helped our founders develop their pitches throughout this final week:

Keith Kreuer of RedHouse Associates, Anderson Ta of Open Factory, Matt Peña, Jordan Szymczyk of OcuCheck, Kyle Dixon of Towbee, Tom Kraft of Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Beth O’Sullivan, Gayle Moran and Beata Krupa of Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, Grace Rodriguez of Station Houston, LK Pryzant of Mercury Fund, and Ali McHenry of DigiChef.

Aside from the Pitch Practices, we only held two other events, in order to give our founders time to prepare. The first of which was our final Founders Dinner, where instead of discussing everyone’s accomplishments, we reviewed expectations for the Bayou Startup Showcase and the following week. As we get down to crunch time, everybody needs to be ready to execute.

The second was a final advisory board meeting where we were joined by Jim Kane of University of Houston, John Reale of Station Houston, LK Pryzant of Mercury Fund, Apurva Sanghavi of START Houston, Michael Loup, Adam Wulf of Milestone Made, and Tom Kraft of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. This was our third and final installment of this event for the summer—an experiment that proved hugely beneficial for the startups. These Advisory Board Meetings helped the founders focus their businesses and plan for the future, while simulating a real-world meeting they may have with their own advisory board one day.

Week 10

T-minus two days until the Bayou Startup Showcase. With the finish line so close, we aimed to give our founders as much free time as possible so they can prepare and perfect their pitches. Our only event before the showcase was a dress rehearsal on Monday, in preparation for the big day. We gathered the entire cohort and went through the event to make sure that everyone knew what they would need to do and when they needed to do it. There were a few stumbles, but it has been amazing to see the progress that our founders have made in just a couple of weeks.

After an off-day Tuesday, we gathered Wednesday morning for a “Lunch and Munch with Jessica” where we all gathered around with Jessica to dish out the juiciest gossip about the rest of the cohort. Just kidding. But we did come up with a great list of superlatives to bring back the nostalgia of high school. The categories ranged from Most Interesting Hair to Most Likely to End Up on the Bachelor, and even the Most Likely to Get Married to Each Other: Müvve, naturally. We also prepared mentally with compilation pump-up video we found on YouTube. Needless to say, our founders were ready to go.

At four o’clock, our guests started to roll in. Members of Houston’s startup community, and even from the far reaches of Texas, came to watch our founders finally pitch their ideas. The excitement was palpable. After a few opening remarks, OcuRhythm, a RED Labs startup team, started the show pitching their light-therapy glasses to help people regulate their sleep cycles. One-by-one, our teams got on stage, gave their four-minute presentation, and gave the next presenter a high-five as they walked off stage. Every single team that stumbled during rehearsal went on stage and nailed their pitch without messing up once. Let me reiterate that: not a single founder froze or let out an “Umm.” After 14 more flawless pitches, Topl closed out the showcase presenting their mobile payment and retail point-of-sale platform.

Then, after closing remarks from Kerri Smith and Kelly McCormick (RED Labs), the founders made their way to their tables to start networking with attendees. With over 500 people in attendance, our founder’s took advantage of the networking opportunity and furiously handed out their business cards and swag. Not only were attendees able to meet all of our founder personally, but they had full access to catering by Underbelly and Hay Merchant. With craft beer and Korean braised goat and dumplings, attendees were guaranteed to leave happy.

After the showcase, everyone made their way to Dean’s Bar in Downtown for the Houston Startup Happy Hour (and, because we care, we got all of the founders free drink tickets). After an unclear number of beverages, the founders headed home for the best night’s sleep they likely had in weeks

The next two days, our cohort milled about in the TMCx, slowly packing up their stuff, surely in emotional shock that the program had come to an end. Amidst the bittersweet ‘goodbyes’, we called the startups one-by-one to interview them on their way out. This last opportunity for feedback is most important for us to make sure we get unfiltered, honest feedback on what we can do better. Even though we gave our founders the opportunity to rip us apart, everyone was generally very pleased with the program and how far they’ve come. It’s been beautiful to watch all of our founders and their startups grow and develop. Even though it’s sad to watch them go, they will always have a home at OwlSpark. We will certainly miss these guys, but we can’t wait to see what our next class has to offer. #bayoustartupsummer17

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