getting pitch perfect

Here's what startups are going to the Venture Houston pitch competition's semifinals

A panel of judges selected 30 startups to compete in the Venture Houston pitch competition. Here's who's competing for over $1.7 million in investment prizes. Graphic courtesy of HX

Venture Houston — a two-day virtual conference put on by the HX Venture Fund — is slated for Thursday and Friday of this week, and, in addition to several panels, the event has a startup pitch competition with over $1.7 million on the line.

Judges selected 30 semifinalists and assigned to three different tracks — each named for a Houston sports team — for the competition. The semifinals will take place on Thursday, February 4, at 1:30 pm. Two startups from each track will move on to compete in the finals on Friday, February 5, at 1:30 pm. Three winners will claim cash prizes — first place will win $15,000 from Halliburton Labs, second place will win $10,000 from Softeq, and third place will win $5,000 from ChampionX.

InnovationMap is the media partner for Venture Houston. Click here to register for the two-day virtual event.

There are also 11 investment prizes on the line, and all of the 30 semifinalists are eligible to win those:

  • $500,000 from Fitz Gate Ventures
  • $250,000 from The Artemis Fund
  • $250,000 from Montrose Lane
  • $250,000 from Live Oak Venture Partners
  • $150,000 from Carnrite Ventures
  • $100,000 from Mercury Fund
  • $100,000 from Next Coast Ventures
  • $50,000 from Houston Angel Network
  • $50,000 from Texas Halo Fund
  • $50,000 from Plug and Play
  • $25,000 from baMa
Twenty-six judges — representatives from venture groups, startup development organizations, and more — evaluated entries and selected the following semifinalists for the competition:

Astros Track

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:
  1. Belmont Technology Inc - Jean-Marie Laigle
  2. Cemvita Factory - Blake Manuel
  3. Data Gumbo - AndrewBruce
  4. MacroFab - MishaGovshteyn
  5. Mainline - Chris Buckner
  6. Orbital Traction - Stuart Schaaf
  7. PATH EX - Sinead Miller
  8. Syzygy Plasmonics - Trevor Best
  9. Topl - Kim Raath
  10. Venus Aerospace - Sarah Duggleby

Dynamo Track

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:

  1. Bondwell Technologies - David Howell
  2. CaseCTRL - Pamela Singh
  3. Cinevva - Mariana Muntean
  4. Connectus Global - Michael Anderson
  5. Conversifi - Steven Krubiner
  6. DOSS - Bobby Bryant
  7. Koda Health - Tatiana Fofanova
  8. Sibme - David Wakefield
  9. The Postage - Emily Cisek
  10. Work & Mother - AbbeyDonnell


Rockets Track 

Graphic courtesy of HX

Pitching order for this track is:

  1. CellChorus - Daniel Meyer
  2. Finboa - Dheeraj Singal
  3. Galen Data - Chris DuPont
  4. HTX Labs - Scott Schneider
  5. Keto A.I Inc. - Jeff Jenson
  6. Lodgeur - Sebastien Long
  7. Nesh - Sidd Gupta
  8. ORDRS - Erik Ibarra
  9. Spark Biomedical Inc - Daniel Powell
  10. Grant Source - Allen Thorton

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what companies are in the latest cohort for gBETA. Photo courtesy of gBETA

An early-stage accelerator has picked its latest cohort of five Houston companies.

The Fall 2020 cohort of gBETA Houston includes:

  • AllIDoIsCook is founded by Tobi Smith and focused on exposing the world to Africa's cuisine by manufacturing gourmet food products delivered directly to customer doors and available at grocers. Since launching, AllIDoIsCook has built out a manufacturing facility, shipped over 8,000 boxes and generated $1.1 million in revenue all without outside funding.
  • Chasing Watts makes it easy for cyclists to coordinate or find rides with fellow riders in their area with its web-based and native application. The company has over 3,000 users and grew 135 percent from Q2 to Q3 in new ride views.
  • DanceKard, founded by Erica Sinner, is a new dating platform that connects individuals and groups with one another by bringing the date to the forefront of the conversation and making scheduling faster and easier with special promotions featuring local establishments. Since launching in August of 2021, DanceKard has over 170 users on the platform.
  • Dollarito is a digital lending platform that helps the low-income Hispanic population with no credit history or low FICO score access fair credit. Founded by Carmen Roman, Dollarito applies AI into banking, transactional and behavioral data to evaluate the repayment capability more accurately than using FICO scores. The company has1,000 users on their waitlist and plans to beta test with 100 or more customers in early 2022.
  • SeekerPitch, founded by Samantha Hepler, operates with the idea that jobseekers' past job titles and resumes are not always indicative of their true capabilities. Launched last month, SeekerPitch empowers companies to see who jobseekers are as people, and get to know them through comprehensive profiles and virtual speed interviews, and the company already has 215 jobseekers and 20 companies on the platform, with one pilot at University of Houston and three more in the pipeline.

The companies kicked off their cohort in person on October 18, and the program concludes on December 14 with the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 Pitch Night. At this event, each company will present their five-minute pitch to an audience of mentors, investors, and community members.

"The five founding teams selected for our gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are tackling unique problems they have each experienced personally, from finding access to cultural foods, fitness communities and authentic dating experiences to challenges with non-inclusive financing and hiring practices," says Kate Evinger, director of gBETA Houston, in the release. "The grit and passion these individuals bring to their roles as founders will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact in the Houston community and beyond."

The accelerator has supported 15 Houston startups since it launched in Houston in early 2020. The program, which is free and hosted out of the Downtown Launchpad, is under the umbrella of Madison, Wisconsin-based international accelerator, gener8tor.

"Downtown Launchpad is an innovation hub like no other, and I am so proud of what it is already and what it will become," says Robert Pieroni, director of economic development at Central Houston Inc., in the release. "The five startups selected for the gBETA Houston Fall 2021 cohort are exploring new challenges that can become high-impact Houston businesses."

gBETA announced its plan to launch in Houston in September 2019. The program's inaugural cohort premiered in May and conducted the first program this summer completely virtually. The second cohort took place last fall, and the third ran earlier this year.

"These founders are building their companies and benefiting from the resources Downtown Launchpad provides," Pieroni continues, "and the proof is in the data – companies in these programs are creating jobs, growing their revenues and exponentially increasing their funding, which means these small starts up of today, working in Downtown Launchpad, are growing into the successful companies of tomorrow."

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