Startup Texas ‘Demo Day’ pitch competition to be held in Brownsville

Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
The eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization’s logo greets visitors Thursday, March 9, 2023. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The fifth annual Startup Texas “Demo Day” pitch competition is scheduled for Oct. 26 at Brownsville’s eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization, and things are a little different this time around.

This is the first time the event’s competitors have all gone through 8-12 weeks of accelerated business training designed by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, which partners on Startup Texas with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center (ECC).

The accelerator program, aimed at helping companies scale, evaluate market research and fine-tune financial projects while building connections with local business leaders and founders, uses ECC’s AdvanceUp Accelerator curriculum. The cohorts are in either Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) accelerator programs, both under UTRGV.

The other Startup Texas partners are the eBridge Center, itself a joint venture of BCIC and UTRGV; and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). The application period for the Oct. 26 pitch event ended in August. The five business founders selected for the upcoming pitch competition have gone through specialized workshops, mentorship sessions, pitch practices and other training since August.

“This Demo Day event is the culmination of their hard work where each startup pitches their company to the community and a panel of judges for a chance to win up to $40,000,” said BCIC Director of Business Development Nathan Burkhart.

The event is “a little more niche” this time around because it’s directly tied in with SBIR or STTR programming, which usually involve government research projects, he said.

“So the companies that are presenting are business that would benefit from research or partnership with the government in that regard. Unlike the last (Demo Day), where is was all just food entrepreneurs,” Burkhart said.

For this event, the focus was on attracting companies in the fields of software development, green technology, biotechnology, heavy manufacturing, energy or medical innovations.

Meanwhile, even the losers in the Oct. 26 competition will come away with something, he said.

“Even if a business doesn’t end up winning money, they at least got all that mentorship and assistance to still move forward with their business in Brownsville,” Burkhart said.

Startup Texas has come a long way since the first one five years ago, he noted.

“It’s growing a whole lot,” Burkhart said. “We’re going to have another cohort in December. That will be the last of the year. But from once a year to three times a year, and each one now includes an accelerated component.”

Startup Texas Demo Days are open to anyone who wants to see the action live, and the eBridge Center is able to accommodate a fairly large crowd, he said.

“I think this last one we had about 175 people show up,” Burkhart said. “We’ve been able to fill that room with up to 300, so there’s plenty of seating.”