OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | WeekWise: Nine and Ten
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WeekWise: Nine and Ten

Week Nine

Week Nine is here and we can hardly believe it! We kicked off the week with leadership lunch featuring Kaz Karwowski, who discussed the art of negotiation. Founders devoured lasagna while Kaz explained the importance of being a good negotiator. The founders walked away with a better understanding that despite popular belief, negotiation is a win-win, not a win-lose situation. Founders participated in an activity where they battled with the same scenario but from opposite perspectives. The founders had to negotiate a deal that benefitted both parties, and had a taste of a potential real-life scenario. Monday wrapped up with Startup Founders Series with Jessica Traver, CEO and Founder of IntuiTap Medical, Inc. Jessica was just named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare for her spinal tap device. The device challenges the traditional, less scientific, method of spinal taps by helping doctors visualize the vertebrae to guide a needle. Jessica stressed the importance of believing in a team, not just the idea.

Tuesday and Wednesday the founders continued to receive feedback on their pitch scripts. With the help of mentors, they gained confidence and improved on their early versions of their scripts. Since Bayou Startup Showcase is coming up in just a few days, the founders are working out the last tweaks of their scripts.

Thursday started with Founders’ Lunch, where the founders updated the cohort with their progress. With interview counts reaching the triple digits, the race is on to complete them all. Founders have been able to see and hear the progress of other groups through Founders’ Lunch and their progress shows more and more each week. After lunch, founders began practicing their pitches in front of the cohort. With peer feedback, the founders were able to see how their pitches sounded to the cohort. They were able to judge their timing, inflection, and content. Their peers used red and green cards to clarify whether or not segments of the presentation were understandable. Thursday ended with an optional happy hour at Rice University’s on-campus graduate student bar, Valhalla, where founders relieved some stress over some adult beverages.

Finally, Friday! Founders showed up early this morning with another draft of their slide decks from designers Meagan Dwyer, Alex de la Fuente, and Touré Jones to present during pitch practice. Steve Wilbur, Jim O’Sullivan, Randy Zhou, and Charles Connell coached the founders on their slide decks and pitches.

Early investors don’t invest in the technology, they invest in the team.” — Jessica Traver, IntuiTap Medical Inc.

Week Ten

With the Bayou Startup Showcase just around the corner, founders are gearing up to pitch to a crowd of 400 at the University of Houston’s Student Center Theatre. This Monday is the last day before we officially transition into full-time pitch practice, so we packed it with some awesome activities! First, we went through a full rundown of the big day’s events.

Once we nailed down every detail, we moved on to our last Leadership Lunch of the summer! We brought in one of our regulars here at OwlSpark, Kaz Karwowski, for a discussion on Ethics. Founders had some prep work to do for this lunch: reading through a case study on the shared code of ethics for engineers from the National Society of Professional Engineers. Split into two teams, founders debated on the ethics of the deal and began to understand the causes of ethical errors in business over pizza. Understanding how to check for ethical behavior and its importance in business helps founders set some foundations for their company culture.

Last on the agenda for Monday was our last Startup Founders Series. Our last guest for this OwlSpark fixture was Chris Buckner, Co-founder and CEO of FanReact and Mainline.GG. Chris founded FanReact in 2014 as a sports-only social media app designed to give sports fans the ultimate fan forum without distracting posts found in other social apps. They proceeded to partner with Yahoo Sports Radio, Major League Lacrosse and the University of Houston, who all made FanReact their official fan experience app for their organizations. Since that time, FanReact has evolved to create communication tools for their clients, giving them full control of community and social platform content, advertising, and media coverage.

For the rest of the week, everybody at OwlSpark and RED Labs was laser-focused on preparing to pitch at Bayou Startup Showcase. With some highly-valued pitch coaches to help with everything from content to delivery, our founders were in the best of hands. Our pitch coaches are: Tom Kraft, Jordan Szymczyk, Steve Wilbur, Mike Evans, Anderson Ta, Ben Emley, Camille Nichols, Thomas Fields, Keith Kreuer, Syed Biabani, and Gayle Moran.

We’re counting down the days until the showcase and our founders are incredibly excited to show the greater Houston entrepreneurial community what they’ve been working so hard on this summer. Come show your support (RSVP for Bayou Startup Showcase) and watch some powerful pitches!