StartUp TX judges announced; Pitch competition to take place July 8

The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation has announced the judges for its StartUp Texas Pitch Summit taking place on July 8.

Ten finalists will compete against each other in pitching their ideas for innovative products and services across a range of categories for a chance to win a portion of $100,000 in seed funding to scale up their start-up ventures. The judging panel, which includes venture capital investors, will decide which entrepreneurs’ ideas have the biggest potential for profitability, sustainability and social impact, according to BCIC. Viewers will also be able to weigh in during the inaugural, live-streamed pitch summit. Five winners will be selected among the finalists.

The five judges are Richard Deulofeut-Manzur, venture and regulatory associate with Austin-based Trust Ventures, Samuel Garcia, senior associate with Amplo Venture Capital & Private Equity; Rafael Munguia, founder and chairman of Munguia Enterprises and a member of the Rio Grande Valley Angel Network, Dr. Tara Rios DDS, founded of Tara Rios Dental Groups and former District 43 state representative, and Shubhra Sharma, who founded Little Haven, the state’s first licensed, prescribed pediatric extended care center.

BCIC says it created StartUp Texas as part of its efforts to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in Brownsville. The 10 finalists out of 26 applicants were announced last month. They are Lunar Station Corporation, Permittivity, North American Secner Holdings LLC, Smartest Energy, LGI Foods Inc., Jen Zeano Designs, RockDuo Ventures, Slide Semiconductor, Pluton Brewing Company and Wingz Inc.

“Given that small businesses drive our economy, it’s important that emerging entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups have a place to go that eliminates barriers to growth and helps turn their dreams into reality,” said BCIC Executive Director Josh Mejia. “Our goal with StartUp Texas is to foster scalable business and provide entrepreneurs the chance to access capital and commercialize their products or services, right here in Brownsville.”

BCIC Chairman Michael Limas predicted the judges will have a hard time narrowing down the winners given the caliber of the finalists, and noted that the judges may offer investment opportunities beyond what’s being provided through StartUp Texas.

“Our goal at BCIC is to provide all the tools local entrepreneurs need to succeed,” he said.

The summit will take place at 5:30 p.m. on July 8 at the George A. Ramirez Performing Arts Academy, with only judges and members physically present due to coronavirus precautions. Nathan Burkhart, BCIC director of marketing and small business development, said the original plan called for an in-person networking event to take place alongside the pitch competition, though that idea was nixed to obey social distancing recommendations.

“Although COVID-19 has affected our original set up, we feel strongly that through this format we can protect the health and safety of all participants,” he said.

For more information or to RSVP email Burkhart at nburkhart@bcic.us or call (956) 459-2123.