StartUp Texas finalists announced

The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation on Wednesday announced the list of finalists for the organization’s first StartUp Texas Pitch Summit scheduled for July 8.

BCIC says it created StartUp Texas as part of its efforts to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurism in Brownsville. For the summit, to take place at the Brownsville/George A. Ramirez Performing Arts Academy, the finalists will present their business pitches to a judging panel of industry leaders and investors, who will provide feedback and choose winners to receive a portion of $100,000 in seed funding for their business ventures. Applications for the competition closed earlier this month. The event will be live-streamed so that the public as well as the panel of judges will be able to comment and vote on the contenders.

The 10 finalists, chosen out of 26 applicants, are Lunar Station Corporation, Permittivity, North American Secner Holdings LLC, Smartest Energy, LGI Foods Inc., Jen Zeano Designs,RockDuoVentures, Slide Semiconductor, Pluton Brewing Company and Wingz Inc.

BCIC Executive Director Josh Mejia said the finalists who end up being awarded seed funding won’t have to pay it back as long as the money is used to scale up their businesses, such as through improving manufacturing processes or logistics, or establishing an online presence to reach the global market. He said the quality of the applications exceeded his expectations, noting that among the finalists are companies in advanced manufacturing, the energy sector and new space.

“We have a group of entrepreneurs that are using licensed NASA technology and creating a novel leak detection system for underground storage tanks,” Mejia said. “They’ve partnered up with one of the largest energy companies out there, from Houston. We were very surprised just to see the quality of applicants that came in. It’s been a hit.”

The summit’s judging panel will include angel/ venture capitalists in the market for promising investment opportunities, he said. Each finalist will present for 10 minutes. The aim is to select five winners, each of whom will receive $20,000, Mejia said.

“They’re coming in with a collective pot of over $600 million that they could provide as venture capital investments here in Brownsville,” Mejia said. “So we’re also excited about that, and the (Small Business Administration) is also partnering up with us so that the $20,000 that we’re providing in (seed) funding could also be used as collateral to enable a $200,000 loan through SBA’s 7(a) program.”

The 7(a) loan program is SBA’s primary program for providing financial assistance to small businesses.

“We’re opening the doors and facilitating for a lot of capital money to come in and invest here,” Mejia said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com