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Statewide investor and accelerator announces $50,000 Houston startup competition

Capital Factory is calling for Houston startup pitch competition applications. Photo via Getty Images

It's game on for Houston startups looking to win some investment dollars. Texas-based Capital Factory has announced a pitch competition specifically for Houston founders.

Capital Factory is accepting applications now through April 26 for the competition that will take place on May 21 as a part of Houston Exponential's second annual Houston Tech Rodeo, which is is being held May 17 to 23 this year. The week-long collection of events will be held in a hybrid capacity with both in-person and online events.

Five Houston startup finalists will be selected to pitch for the $50,000 SAFE or Convertible Note investment prize, access to the Capital Factory Mentor network, entry into Capital Factory's portfolio, and more.

Any tech or consumer packaged goods startup is eligible to apply, according to a blog post from Capital Factory, and applications are available online.

Capital Factory was recently identified as the most active Houston startup investor, according to a recent report by the Greater Houston Partnership. Between 2017 and 2020, the organization invested in 29 deals at Houston-based companies.

In January of 2020, Capital Factory merged with Station Houston, effecting an increased presence in Houston. In an interview early last year, Capital Factory Founder and CEO Josh Baer says he has 40 Houston companies in the organization's portfolio and he had plans to double that by the end of 2020.

Ahead of the pitch competition and of Tech Rodeo, Houston Exponential is calling for event submissions to be a part of the week of programing. To submit an idea, click here to fill out the form by the March 31st deadline.

Check out this a video from last year's Tech Rodeo. Note: InnovationMap is a media partner for Tech Rodeo.

Houston Tech Rodeo 2020 - Official Video youtu.be

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Building Houston

 
 

SeekerPitch exists to update the job hiring process in a way that benefits both the job seekers and recruiters. Photo via Getty Images

Companies across the country have been requiring resumes and cover letters from their new hire hopefuls since the World War II era, and it's about time that changed. A startup founded in Houston has risen to the occasion.

Houstonian Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch when she was looking for her next move. She felt like she had developed a formidable career in digital transformation and had worked with big name clients from Chevron to Gucci. However, she couldn't even get an interview for a role she felt she would be a shoe-in for.

"I knew if I could just get through the door, a company would see the value in me," Hepler tells InnovationMap. "I wasn't being seen, and I wasn't being heard. I didn't know a way to do that."

And she wasn't alone in this frustration. Hepler says she discovered she was one of the 76 percent of job candidates who get filtered out based on former job titles and keywords. At the same time, Hepler says she discovered that 80 percent of companies reported difficulty finding talent.

Samantha Hepler had the idea for SeekerPitch based on her own ill-fated job hunt experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

"I was just a symptom of a larger problem companies were facing," Hepler says. "Companies were using algorithms to dilute their talent pool, and then the hires they were making weren't quality because they were looking for people based on what they've done. They weren't looking at people for what they could do."

SeekerPitch, which is in the current cohort of gBETA Houston, allows job seekers to create an account and tell their story — not just their job history. The platform prioritizes video content and quick interviews so that potential hires can get face-to-face with hiring managers.

"We empower companies to hear the candidates' stories," Hepler says. "We're bringing candidates streaming to computer screens. We are the Netflix of recruiting."

Hepler gives an example of a first-generation college graduate who's got "administrative assistant" and "hostess" on her resume — but who has accomplished so much more than that. She put herself through school with no debt and in three years instead of four. SeekerPitch allows for these types of life accomplishments and soft skills into the recruiting process.

SeekerPitch profiles allow job seekers to tell their story — not just their past job experience. Photo courtesy of SeekerPitch

Over the past few years, a trend in hiring has been in equity and diversity, and Hepler says that people have been trying to address this with blurring out people's names and photos.

"Our belief is that connection is the antidote to bias," Hepler says, mentioning a hypothetical job candidate who worked at Walmart because they couldn't afford to take multiple unpaid internships. "They can't come alive on a resume and they won't stand a chance next to another person."

SeekerPitch is always free for job seekers, and, through the end of the year, it's also free for companies posting job positions. Beginning in January 2022, it will cost $10 per day to list a job opening. Also next year — Hepler says she'll be opening a round of pre-seed funding in order to grow her team. So far, the company has been bootstrapped, thanks to re-appropriated funding from Hepler's canceled wedding. (She opted for a cheaper ceremony instead.)

Right now, SeekerPitch sees an opportunity to support growing startups that need to make key hires — and quickly. The company has an ongoing pilot partnership with a Houston startup that is looking to hiring over a dozen positions in a month.

"As a startup, your key hires are going to make or break your company — but you have to hire quickly," Hepler says. "That's the ultimate challenge for startups. ... But if you don't hire well it can cost your company a lot of money or be the demise of your company. It's people who make a company great."

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