Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

Entrepreneur Clayton Christopher, founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Deep Eddy Vodka, gave the keynote address at the PreAccelerator Demo Day photo by Dave Michaels

PreAccelerate hosted its Demo Day for its first graduating cohort Tuesday evening. The excitement was palpable as a grueling 6-week process culminated in startup pitches.
Keynote speaker Clayton Christopher, Founder of Sweet Leaf Tea and Co-Founder of Deep Eddy Vodka, recounted his experience of getting Sweet Leaf Tea off the ground from initial confidence, “It couldn’t be that hard” through all the unexpected obstacles, “it was that hard.” Though he didn’t know what he was up against, “…I knew we had a great product” which is what kept him going until Sweet Leaf Tea found success.
This is what PreAccelerate is all about: validating a product through a rigorous process to refine the model and reach a go-no-go decision and provide sufficient belief to power through the down cycles. According to Tina Cannon, Co-Founder of Napkin Venture, “we’re going to slam you with more information than you’re probably capable of absorbing, but we’re going to get to a point in six weeks, are you a viable concept or not.”

Lorna Hermosura of edMospher won Demo Day and received $5,000 in seed funding. Photo by Dave Michaels

The winner of Demo Day received $5,000 in seed funding. The award went to Lorna Hermosura of edMosphere. She won because she threw herself into the process and accomplishing some real challenges that the mentors threw at her. She met with mentors and others as much as possible to define and validate her idea to the point of being ready to prototype and test. When she started the program it was just an idea.
The next PreAccelerate program starts in March and more information can be found at its website.

Following are some of the startups that participated in Demo Day:


Lorna Hermosura, Founder of edMosphere worked at Southwestern University for nine years helping low income high school students to get into college. Six of the eight years, 100% of the students they worked with got into college. According to Hermosura, the key was “paying attention to how kids were feeling and really giving them tools to get through what they were feeling and to continue to be successful in school.” After attending a presentation on how energy efficiency efforts were utilizing real-time data to influence behavior, she hypothesized that “there’s got to be a way to use this real time feedback concept but to bring it in the classroom so that the classroom can be a more positive place for students and for teachers.”
The concept is “school climate,” and it’s beginning to get more attention in education circles. With such focus on test scores and student performance, this is an avenue to making a big difference. The federal government recently provided $39 million in grants to 11 states to address the issue. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much innovation in these projects, the most notable being a 150 question survey the students had to fill out and took months to process, leading to very little action.
edMosphere is a “computer application that captures how kids feel while they’re in school and it gives that information to their teachers in real time.” Being able to identify issues as they happen gives teachers a chance to effectively deal with them before they become a problem; students in turn can focus on learning.
They are looking to raise $50,000 to build out the prototype. They already have a class lined up to try out the prototype once it’s ready. The market size is big, 130,000 schools in the U.S. with budgets around $600 billion.


Trish Morrison, founder of MomCom. Photo by Dave Michaels

Having children changes your life. For women, a common refrain about motherhood is that it makes you put your individual self on hold. Founder Trish Morrison was “unprepared for how much my life would change… I needed something and I needed other people to tell me I wasn’t the only one out there.” However, with other women, “all we would talk about were our kids…”
MomCom “gives [women] the power to take back who they are and run with it.” MomCom is a conference to empower women and build community. Speakers and activities foster authentic dialog that resonates with attendees to encourage and catalyze taking actions in their work and lives, doing more than they were willing to try before attending. The conference has attracted big name speakers such as Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, who are known for connecting at an emotional level as well catalyzing discussions for action as well.
They have already completed two conferences, looking to do two per year (per city). They started with Austin and are focusing on building the brand first, after which they will begin adding an additional city each year. They are looking to raise $100,000 but their key priority right now is finding sponsors that get it and want to get in early to not just advertise but engage.
By hitting a strong chord with working mothers they are tapping into a huge and elusive demographic. Mothers control 85 percent of household budgets. With 85 million US families, this amounts to $2.3 Trillion annually in spending. In addition to conference fees and sponsorships, they are looking at merchandising and community building to provide other opportunities.


Terry Likens, founder of Tellapathy, photo by Dave Michaels

One in four Americans are affected in some way by mental illness, but not all are able to get the help they need. Founder Terry Likens recognized that transit presented a big issue to access and tapped into the emerging technology trend of using videoconferencing for appointments from his experience with the marketplace. According to Likens, “The industry is going towards this ambulatory type of treatment…the video technology is the way in.”
Tellapathy does not replace mental health sessions, instead it allows for complementary sessions that permit contact where it would not otherwise be possible. Additionally, the data capture portion of the solution allows patients to record their experiences throughout the day for therapists to get a fuller accounting of what’s going on in patients’ lives to better diagnose and treat conditions.
With 1.1 million mental health professionals in the US ranging from coaches to psychiatrists, it’s a large market. Tellapathy is looking for $250,000 to develop the prototype and the initial go-to-market push.