OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | WeekWise: Nine through Twelve
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WeekWise: Nine through Twelve

Week Nine

We’ve had a lot of fantastic sessions and speakers this summer, but it is always fun to hear from one of our own. This week Achal Srinivasan (SpecMobile) led two technical and creative sessions. We kicked off the week with an in-depth look at Trello. When Achal noticed that a few teams were juggling a number of projects and tasks, he dug into what Trello is (an online task management board to map workflow), how to use it (it’s easier than it looks), and best practices for managing workflow (he prefers the “scrumban” method). It was an interactive session too; He provided a link for founders to work on a Trello board, so that they could explore together. Later that week Achal also shared his knowledge about simple web design. As founders were putting the final touches on their websites and landing pages in preparation for Bayou Startup Showcase, Achal shared a few do’s and don’t’s to help them snag visitor’s attention.

Kaz Karwowski of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership gave his sixth and final leadership talk this week on the importance of ethical business leadership. While all founders want their businesses to succeed, it is important to remember that success can be measured by more than profit margins. Founders also shared some of the challenges they’ve faced in the last week while trying to continue to validate that they’re courting the right customers and have a good market fit for their businesses.

Founders recognized a few familiar faces as RED Labs and OwlSpark alumni founders and former leadership team members came back to help our teams refine their pitch content. Many thanks to Kyle LaMotta (datafuel), Jordan Szymczyk (OcuCheck), Iggy Harrison (RED Labs Class 1), Avi Ravishankar (Müvve), Chris Georgen (Topl), Roberto Hasbun (Relevum Biotechnologies), Rob Austin McKee (examtron), Anderson Ta (Open Factory), Jimmy Comerota (ShowCoach), Rakshak Talwar (RaptorBird Robotics), Alex de la Fuente (Station Houston), and Camille Nichols (LeaseALLY) for spending a few days helping founders refine their pitch scripts.

This week, founders also heard from Dr. Jacques Zaneveld, President and Founder of Lazarus 3D Printing, who shared his story during the weekly Startup Founders Series. Jacques’ company has created 3D-printed organs to help surgeons practice and prepare for complex surgeries. We were surprised to learn that he didn’t immediately start with organs, but instead he worked his way towards this goal, validating that customers wanted the product he was creating. We also loved inspecting (read: playing with) 3D-printed organs.

We finished our week with a session from the one and only Aziz Gilani of Mercury Fund. Aziz has years of experience working and investing in software, and explained to our teams about the lifecycle of Software as a Service (SaaS). Aziz’s advice included tips on when to start hiring sales teams, when to seek investment funding, and how to handle the growth of your company.

Week Ten

This week can be summed up in the following phrase; practice is good, but more practice is better. We spent the week at TMCx practicing pitches in preparation for the Fourth Annual Bayou Startup Showcase. Founders pitched to industry experts, communications coaches, as well as former founders, gathering critiques on their presentation and content to perfect their pitches. All day, and often late into the night, founders took the stage to practice, practice, and practice some more.

We are so grateful to OwlSpark and RED Labs alumni founders and community mentors who helped Class 5 founders through the final days of pitchwriting and practice. Many thanks to Tom Kraft of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Caitlin Bolanos of the Rice University Entrepreneurship Initiative, Kyle LaMotta (datafuel), Iggy Harrison (RED Labs Class 1), Julian Se (Müvve), Rob Austin McKee (examtron), Anderson Ta (Open Factory), Jimmy Comerota (ShowCoach), Thomas Fields (GRIND), Craig Vollert (Teomics) and Camille Nichols (LeaseALLY), Greg Wright (RED Labs), Keith Kreuer (RedHouse Associates), Andrew Swick (Checked Twice), Mike Evans (Rice University), Steve Wilbur (INTX Capital), Ken Jones and Dave Cook (University of Houston), Gayle Moran and Beth O’Sullivan (Rice University), Rakesh Agarwal (SnapStream), Benjamin Flores (Brain Check), Matt Bell (Ikon Science Americas), Erin Flores (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center), and Grace Rodriguez and Alex de la Fuente (Station Houston). Thanks y’all for all that you do for us!

Week Eleven

This is the biggest week of the summer; the week of our annual demo day, Bayou Startup Showcase. Founders spent the first two days of the week putting the final touch on their pitches. Stress levels were high and anxiety was flying, but we couldn’t be more excited for the big day!

Late Tuesday afternoon, more than 400 attendees flocked to TMCx for the Fourth Annual Bayou Startup Showcase. We are so proud of our founders for the grace and fortitude with which they took the stage to deliver their pitches. All of the work founders put into their businesses throughout the summer had come to fruition that evening, and the founders blew us away (watch the pitches)!

Tejus Mane of AtmoSpark kicked off the pitches with Element, a solution for delivering fresh water to those who need it. Vidya Keertana took the stage to say how she plans to help corporate employers alleviate employee stress by way of Radiate. Ascent Décor’s Bo Jin demonstrated the need for his home décor rental service by showing us a picture of his apartment today compared to a year ago when he first moved in–his walls are still empty. SpecMobile’s Samantha Lewis shared the importance of listening to hard truths. Charles Connell of PredictMX shone (and not from sweat) as he elaborated on his plans for rocking the oil and gas industry using condition-based maintenance. And Sheila Mayfield of Power Audio Tours impressed the crowd with her tidbit of knowledge about the Mona Lisa and her plans for capturing the museum audio tours market in Texas. The event was a success!

Week Twelve

In Week Twelve, founders learned about various types of funding, the nitty gritty of finances, and resources available to them. Speakers included Jacob Setterbo of HIREtech, Keith Kreuer of RedHouse Associates, Dan Watkins of Mercury Fund, and Bill Griesinger of Comprehensive Capital Solutions, LLC about fundraising options. Danielle Supkis-Cheek of D. Supkis Cheek PLLC dove into the basics of startup finances. We rounded out the sessions with a founder favorite: “Increasing value to outside investors,” led by Al Danto of Rice University.

Founders rounded out the program with their third and final Advisory Board Meeting to discuss milestones, progress, and next steps with mentors Adam Wulf of Milestone Made, Chris Georgen of Topl, Tom Kraft of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Dave Cook of the University of Houston, Matthew Peña of Rice University, and Alex de la Fuente of Station Houston.

As another #bayoustartupsummer winds down, we’ve been taking some time to reflect on all that has happened this summer. The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind as founders prepared for Bayou Startup Showcase, and we are excited for the weeks and months to come!