Tag: Spectrum

A Spectrum Event on How to Win an SBIR Grant

imgres-1The U.S. government invests more than $2 billion every year in promising new startups with creative innovations.

In Austin, startups including Tevido Biodevices, Spot on Sciences and Lynx Labs have received Small Business Innovation Research grants.

So how does a startup go about getting one of the SBIR grants?

That’s the subject of a meeting Thursday at the Austin Chamber of Commerce offices at 535 E. 5th Street from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. co-hosted with the South Texas Business Development Center at Texas State University as part of its Spectrum series for entrepreneurs.

The session features advice from SBIR expert and grant writer Lisa Kurek and an update on the I-Corps Node from Heath Naquin.

Registration is required to attend the event.

Texas A&M Looks to Partner with Tech Entrepreneurs

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Bv--Tq0IAAAXjArRoy Truitt, founder of Austin-based startup ScanSee, wants to tap into Texas A&M’s rich engineering resources.

Truitt, a serial entrepreneur who founded Truco Enterprises, which makes the On the Border brand of chips and salsas, created ScanSee four years ago. It makes an app, HubCiti, which can link all of a city’s businesses, departments, services and shoppers together.

On Tuesday, Truitt attended the Texas A&M Matchmaker Workshop in Austin at the Frost Bank Tower, it’s part of a series of programs called Spectrum focused on entrepreneurial mentorship, education and collaboration.

Truitt is interested in working on security software features for HubCiti in collaboration with Texas A&M. He credits the Texas State Small Business Development Center, which puts on the Spectrum series of events, for bringing a wealth of information to startup entrepreneurs.

“I had no idea this even existed and this is my business,” Truitt said. “I’ve started 17 companies so I should know this existed.”

profile-photo-TXStateSBDC-96x96Most people don’t know about all of the resources available to entrepreneurs at Texas A&M, said Dick Johnson, assistant director of technology at Texas State Small Business Development Center. Since Spectrum launched last July, the center has hosted eight events attended by more than 500 people on a variety of subjects from perfecting a pitch to understanding a term sheet.

“It’s all about sharing knowledge,” Johnson said. “It’s designed to increase awareness of some of the resources available for free, in most cases, to entrepreneurs.”

On Tuesday, five officials from Texas A&M gave brief overviews of their programs to assist companies with technology development and commercialization. The presentations involved a whole lot of acronyms representing the organizations including TEES, TCAT, TEEX, TTI, TTC and TAP. After the presentations, they met one on one with entrepreneurs to provide further assistance.

tees_logo_primary_stacked_maroon-1The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, called TEES, provides research, education, training and technology to companies and industries, said Dale Cope, director of industry assistance.

Texas A&M has 13,600 engineering students or 23 percent of the student population with more than 13 departments, he said. It’s one of the largest engineering schools in the country and its students and faculty work on tackling real-life engineering problems for industries.

TEES’ current research focuses on just about anything that has to do with engineering from energy to health care, national security, infomatics, infrastructure and transportation, Cope said. Its emerging research areas include robotics, sensors, imaging, advanced manufacturing and advanced materials for energy applications, he said.

E-Loo, photo courtesy of SWSLoo.com

E-Loo, photo courtesy of SWSLoo.com

George and Jeri Willa, husband and wife owners of Elgin-based SWSLoo, the American maker and distributor of Enviro Loo, a green toilet, attended the event to get some engineering help on their product. The Eloo, as it is known, is low maintenance and doesn’t require water, electricity or chemicals.

“We’ve been working on this project for six to eight years,” George Willa said. “We licensed the toilet from South Africa but we need to get more engineering in the product.”

They are also looking for more consistent market penetration through marketing efforts, Jeri Willa said. They are already selling products in 30 states and several countries including Canada, Mexico and Haiti.

“We’re still a small company and we’re still trying to improve our product,” Jeri Willa said. “That’s why we came here for engineering assistant.”

They were thrilled to have an opportunity to connect with Texas A&M’s engineering expertise, she said.

Nick Chremos, senior licensing manager for Texas A&M’s technology commercialization department, said it wants to partner with startups and industry to license technology developed there and get it into the marketplace.

The university has a whole patent portfolio of technologies it’s interested in working with companies on to build a product or service around, he said.

“There isn’t a single area of engineering where A&M doesn’t have expertise,” he said.

Some of the highway safety technology patents, created by Dean Alberson, assistant agency director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, have generated the most revenue for the university, Chremos said. The university shares 37.5 percent of all royalties with the inventor, he said.

One of the most active industry partners at the university is the Texas A&M Transportation Institute with 700 employees. It is the largest transportation research group in the U.S. and it has worked in all 50 states and more than 20 countries.

Photo of the driverless freight system, courtesy of Texas A&M

Photo of the driverless freight shuttle system, courtesy of Texas A&M

Last year, the institute worked on 677 projects and did $53.6 million in contract research. The work at the institute makes highways safer, Alberson said. It has helped to create breakaway signs, crash cushions and barriers that save lives, he said.

The institute is currently working on a freight shuttle system, a private venture, that would take trucks off the highway and transport freight on an elevated system above them using driverless vehicles.

One of the emerging inventions the university is particularly excited about is in using polymer materials to convert heat into electricity, Chremos said.

“We’re looking to find licensees,” he said.

Caleb Holt, product development center manager for Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, known as TEEX, works directly with companies to help them with product development, training and other services. It works in the areas of fire and rescue, homeland security, law enforcement and infrastructure and safety.

But it also tests systems, products and technology. Its product development portfolio includes responder tracking systems, weapon systems, environmentally friendly fire chemicals and more.

TEEX provides third party, unbiased testing for disruptive technologies, Holt said.

“We help to create standards for technology that don’t have standards yet,” he said.

“The Underwriters Laboratories testing takes place in a lab, but TEEX tests products in the most realistic scenarios possible,” Holt said.

It will take a Toughbooks rugged laptop computer and put it on black asphalt in the 100 degree Texas weather to make sure it really does meet military grade specs, he said.

How to Craft the Perfect Pitch

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Crafting the pitch, photo licensed from Getty Image

Crafting the pitch, photo licensed from Getty Image

A good pitch can determine whether a startup lands money from investors to expand.

But few entrepreneurs know how best to pitch.

Texas State University’s Small Business Development Center held a special training session Wednesday afternoon at its Round Rock campus to help entrepreneurs titled “Pitching to Anyone: How to Own the Room.” It’s part of its Spectrum Series of events tailored to assist entrepreneurs.

The session provided tips on everything from how to dress to crafting the right pitch and how to make a video pitch.

The three keys to giving a great presentation are confidence, credibility and passion, said Jim Comer, Comer Communications.

“Fear gets in the way of being unique,” Comer said.

But individuality leads to likeability, he said. So it’s essential to have some techniques to get through a presentation. He said entrepreneurs should smile, maintain eye contact, talk naturally, use natural body language and just use their hands organically.

First off, confidence comes from expertise, he said.

“You’ve got to be the expert,” Comer said. “And credibility comes from anything you can do to build up yourself and your team in front of the audience without bragging.”

Passion is key, Comer said.

“We’ve all got natural resources that make us unique,” Comer said. “The person that your friends like that is the one you want to share with the audience.”

And lastly, don’t forget to smile that starts a presentation off right, he said.

“This is not a torture test,” Comer said. “They want you to succeed. The investors are dying to hear a good idea. Smile, enjoy it. They are on your side.”

The pitch must also make a few points well. Comer suggested entrepreneurs state the problem, provide the solution and show how it works with brevity and clarity and to use an analogy if possible.

“You’ve got to use language the audience understands,” he said. “Don’t use acronyms or technological terms.”

It’s also important to talk about your team and how they have the talent and experience to make the startup succeed, Comer said. And an entrepreneur’s pitch deck must show financials that are easy to read and understand and not pie in the sky, he said.

Eliminate all jargon like paradigm shift, tipping point, and eliminate all technical terms from the presentation, Comer said.

“Think of how the Pentagon would say it and do the opposite,” he said.

He also said to remember “A.T.O – Acknowledge the Obvious.” If something goes wrong during a presentation like the projector catches on fire, acknowledge it and then move on, he said.

“The investors will be as impressed by “grace under pressure” as by your idea,” he said. “However you respond to the unexpected – they are judging you.”

Everyone can be a great presenter if they just fight their fear and focus on their individuality.
To pitch through video, make your point clear, believe in your product, speak passionately and genuinely and stick to the point, said Scott Edwards of Edwards Media.

A crowdfunding video generally costs from $1,500 to $3,000, Edwards said. A video for a company’s website costs from $2,500 to $3,000, he said.

Texas State Small Business Development Center has a studio with cameras and other equipment for entrepreneurs to use once they have gone through training said Dick Johnson, senior technology commercialization advisor. It’s a great way to record a pitch video to see how entrepreneurs appear to potential investors, he said.

Ninety-three percent of any first impression is a visual one, said Jean LeFebvre with Panache Image.
Clothes communicate an image to people, LeFebvre said. Less gimmicks equals better communication, she said.

“You need to put thought into an outfit. It’s not an afterthought,” LeFebvre said. “The most common mistake is not getting dressed for the role you play.”

She advised entrepreneurs to wear classic clothing and use accessories sparingly to be trendy.

“Don’t wear athletic gear when you’re not working out,” she said. “Gym shoes belong in the gym.”
LeFebvre advised people to dress properly even when they run errands.

“At any time be prepared to meet with your potential bosses, your potential investors,” she said. “You want them to see you as a successful person.”

Peg Richmond and Paul Wright, technology commercialization advisors with Texas State Small Business Development Center, gave the top ten investor pet peeves entrepreneurs make when pitching their ventures.
They are:

#10. It’s not fiction writing – tell your story – not a fairy tale
#9. Trying to be someone you’re not.
#8. Reading or talking to your slides
#7. Making the audience connect the dots
#6. Not knowing your ask
#5. Inconsistent messaging
#4. Building suspense and holding nuggets till Q&A
#3. Your business elements don’t match
#2. Burying the headline
#1. Transactional v. Relational

On June 24, the Spectrum Series continues at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce with “The Art of the Deal” information from experts on how to close a deal including what a term sheet looks like.

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