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

 
 

Percy Miller, aka Master P, took the virtual stage at the Houston Tech Rodeo kick-off event. Photo courtesy of HTR

Percy Miller developed his music career as Master P, but it's far from his only entrepreneurial endeavor. At Houston Exponential's kick-off event for the 2021 Houston Tech Rodeo, Miller took the virtual stage with Zack O'Malley Greenburg, a journalist and author.

In the discussion, Miller shared his experience in his many fields of entrepreneurship, including music, fashion, consumer packaged goods, and more. He focused on trusting your own hard work, surrounding yourself with a good support system, and embracing failure — something he's done throughout his career.

"I don't look at it as a loss. I look at it as a lesson. Every 'L' is a lesson," he says. "Every time I had a business fail, I learned something from it and it opened up a door into a future."

To hit the highlights from the fireside chat with Master P, check out some overheard moments below. To stream the full broadcast, click here.

“A music career only lasts 3 to 5 years at the most. … I started diversifying my portfolio and I looked at the tech side and said, ’This is where you got to be at.’”

Miller says he was out in the Bay Area in the '90s and early '00s, and he saw first hand the tech scene developing in Silicon Valley. He even released an album in 2005 called Ghetto Bill, a reference to Bill Gates.

“I have failed a lot — don’t be afraid to fail. Get out and take that chance on yourself.”

Miller's music career mirrors, in some ways, the dynamic path of a startup. He received a $10,000 investment from his grandparents and used it to launch his career.

"I created an empire with $10,000," he says.

But It wasn't always easy, and Miller remembers the hustle, selling his music from the trunk of his car, and his many failures.

“You have to be committed to what you do — and you have to love it. It never was about money. When you’re passionate about something, you have a purpose. You’ll get there. If you do it for money, you’ll probably never be successful.”

Passion is a key ingredient in the recipe for success, Miller explains. It drives accomplishment and, "if you get it that easy, you'll probably lose it even quicker," he continues.

“I have an entrepreneurial spirit — I have to learn everything about what I’m doing.”

When it came to developing his music career, Miller says he wore every different hat in the process because he knew he would work the hardest.

"For me, if I can be the talent and the person who runs the company, I feel like there's no limit," Miller says. "I knew I could depend on myself."

“Show me your friends, and I can show you your future.”

Miller started his own record label, No Limit Records, and it was here he cultivated an environment of artists who didn't just want to perform, get pampered, and hang out at the club.

"People at No Limit — it was like a university," he says. "Everybody was coming to study to not only learn how to be an artist but also learn entrepreneurship and financial literacy."

“Most people wanted that advanced check, that money upfront. But my thing was I wanted the control in the end. When you come from a poor culture, you look at things differently. At least I did.”

Miller says he learned this at a young age, that if you hold the power, you make the decisions. "I want better for my kids and the only way I am going to do that is by creating longevity where I own the largest percent of the company," he says.

“It’s all about economic empowerment — we’re stronger together.”

Miller says he's focused on product and taking over the grocery stores, as well as driving economic empowerment for other BIPOC-founded companies and putting money back into the community.

"I want to focus on other minority-owned companies and brands get their products on the shelves,' he says.

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