MassChallenge Texas Awards Ceremony

By Laura Lorek
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

The MassChallenge Texas accelerator transformed re:3d’s business.

“We’ve grown by more than 30 percent since we’ve been in the program,” said Samantha Snabes, the startup’s co-founder.

re:3d took home the $10,000 USAA Vetrepreneur Award in the MassChallenge Texas finalist awards ceremony held Wednesday evening at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Austin. Snabes is a reservist in the Air National Guard.

Eight other finalists received a total of $500,000 in awards. Altogether, 84 startups participated in the inaugural MassChallenge Texas accelerator program. The accelerator picked 16 finalists that competed for the prize money.

Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler, cofounders of re:3d

re:3D now makes an industrial 3-D printer that can print using four types of recycled plastic garbage, Snabes said. It launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign while participating in MassChallenge. Additionally, the company was able to migrate its customer relations management program to the cloud for free using Google Cloud credits, Snabes said. And the company also was introduced to two strategic partners, she said.

And the entire team now has healthcare insurance for the first time through TriNet, which it was introduced to through the program, Snabes said.

“They took care of our team. They took care of our product. They took care of our community,” Snabes said. “MassChallenge helped us lay the framework for a really promising future.”

re:3d, with 23 employees, manufactures out of Houston and has two offices in Austin and one office in Puerto Rico. The company is bootstrapped, and runs on revenue, Snabes said. It also won $1 million in the WeWork Creator National awards last year. It has also received National Science Foundation funding.

“We like having the ethos of being scrappy and agile,” Snabes said.

The two biggest winners of the night were EQO and Sempulse, which each took home $100,000 Diamond awards.

EQO, an Austin Technology Incubator startup, creates molecular solutions to fight aquatic invasive species.

“Austin is a community that really fosters innovation and we’re so proud to be a part of it,” said Stefan Schuster, founding team member of EQO

EQO, founded in 2016, has four employees and it hasn’t raised any capital yet, Schuster said.

EQO has developed an eradication technology to kill invasive aquatic species without harming the environment or other species, Schuster said. The company is piloting a trial of the technology, he said.

The $100,000 will allow the company to generate momentum and get its product out into the field, he said.

“We’re going to save the damn world,” Schuster said.

Sean Bauld, chief product officer and Kurt Stump, CEO of Sempulse.

Sempulse, founded in 2015, makes a medical device that applies to the ear and monitors vital signs within a few seconds. The startup has been testing the device with the military.

“It’s estimated that over half of our causalities in Afghanistan or Iraq were potentially survivable,” said Sean Bauld, Sempulse chief product officer.

The prize money allows Sempulse to continue to minimize the device, Bauld said. The military is the first market for the device for triage kits, he said. But there’s a huge commercial market too, he said.

The company has four employees, based in Austin and San Diego, and has raised about $400,000 to date including National Science Foundation’s SBIR grants.

Sempulse benefited greatly from the MassChallenge Accelerator, Bauld said.

“The French military is flying us out there because of an introduction made through MassChallenge,” he said.

“Our product design has been strengthened because of MassChallenge,” Bauld said. “Across the board, MassChallenge has been able to provide expertise.’’

Another healthcare startup, NovoThelium, which means new skin, out of San Antonio, took home one of the $75,000 Platinum awards. NovoThelium is working to provide nipple grafts to breast cancer survivors after a mastectomy.

NovoThelium, founded in 2015, has raised about $250,000 so far from National Science Foundation’s SBIR grants and breast cancer donations, said Lauren Cornell, cofounder, and CEO.

“This is very important to us,” Cornell said. The money will go to helping the company complete its animal studies and then go into human trials, she said.

NovoThelium Cofounders Bianca Cerqueira and Lauren Cornell

The MassChallenge Accelerator provided NovoThelium with helpful mentors and a curriculum on marketing and commercializing products, said Bianca Cerqueira, cofounder, and COO. And UPS helped with shipping and packaging, she said.

“They helped us with critiquing our pitch and getting to that next level to do fundraising,” Cornell said.

Austin-based Cloud 9, a healthcare startup, won the other $75,000 Platinum award. The company has created an app to help provide mental healthcare to those who need it most, said JC Adams, the founder, and CEO.

“The reason we need accelerators like this is that we’re in mental healthcare which is even more broken than our healthcare system,” Adams said. “Healthy minds are often an afterthought. We forget how important they are.”

Cloud 9 needs community support through MassChallenge because sales cycles are so long with healthcare and government agencies and funding sources are uncertain, he said.

“This helps us get that initial inertia and momentum going,” Adams said.

JC Adams, Elizabeth Truong, and Robert Blount with Cloud 9

Cloud 9 has shown that cities and counties can save money by investing in mental healthcare. Its customers include community and mental health centers. It is also working with first responders like police officers and firefighters to quickly provide mental health help in a crisis.

A few weeks ago, Cloud 9 won $100,000 in the Smart Cities Challenge put on by Capital Factory. Now it’s talking to multiple cities and counties around the state. It plans to use its prize money to invest in business and product development, Adams said.

And Austin-based GrubTubs took home a $50,000 award in the MassChallenge Accelerator Awards.

GrubTubs, which also participated in the Tarmac TX Accelerator and won $360,000 in the WeWork Creator Awards in Austin last year, is planning to scale its business nationwide, said Robert Olivier, founder, and CEO.

With the help of the MassChallenge Accelerator, GrubTubs was able to hire its first salesperson, he said. That has led to $50,000 in monthly reoccurring revenue, he said.

Ashley King and Robert Olivier with GrubTubs.

GrubTubs collects food scraps from restaurants and then takes that waste to local farmers, who feed it to their livestock. The process keeps waste out of the landfill and helps farmers lower the cost of feed for their animals.

During the accelerator, GrubTubs learned a lot about logistics and how to scale its business from UPS, Olivier said.

“What we realize is there is no national food waste solution in this country,” Olivier said. “Now we’re putting together an entire team. Brainstorming how to take Texas first and then the east and west coasts.”

Less than 10 facilities nationwide take food waste to recycle and there are 60,000 farms in the country that need cheaper animal feed, Olivier said.

“Working with the farmers we can scale nationally,” he said.

GrubTubs, with 11 employees, has raised $325,000 in seed stage funding.

Its customers include Facebook’s corporate cafeteria in downtown Austin, which it helped save 53 dumpsters of food from going to a landfill last month, Olivier said. GrubTubs is also working with hotels and convention centers.

“You’ve got billion-dollar trash companies,” Olivier said. “It’s about time we have a food waste solution,”

The Mentor Method, a Washington, D.C.-based, mentor network that creates inclusive workplace cultures, took home a $25,000 award.

Janice Omadeke, CEO of The Mentor Method.

“MassChallenge is an incredible accelerator that helps open up a lot of opportunities with access to mentors and resources,” said Janice Omadeke, CEO of The Mentor Method.

The network of entrepreneurs participating in MassChallenge also helped Omadeke.

“We’re like family,” she said. “We help each other through the trenches.”

MassChallenge helped The Mentor Network with customer acquisition and access to mentors, she said.

“We’re impacting lives and helping companies save over $500,000 a year in diversity retention,” Omadeke said.

“Diversity and inclusion are no longer a nice to have but a true business imperative,” Omadeke said. “And by winning this award and by creating the Austin Mosaic Awards that happened in July, we’re energized, and we’re thrilled that corporations are starting to recognize that and are making the correct moves to make sure that diverse talent is seen as assets and not tokens or checked boxes.”

The other winners of this year’s MassChallenge awards included Augmenta, based in Greece, which won $50,000 for its technology that monitors the application of fertilizers and pesticides. And Popspots, based in Austin, won a $25,000 award for its AdMob product for retailers.

In addition, ZPEG, a video compression company, won the People’s Choice Award.

And the event included talks by Cristal Glangchai, founder of VentureLab and author of VentureGirls, Julia Cheek, founder of Everlywell, and Bryan Daniel from the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott.