Seven startups ready for launch thanks to the TTU Innovation Hub's intensive program
April 16th was graduation day for the seven teams of startup entrepreneurs participating in the 2019-2020 Texas Tech Accelerator program at the Innovation Hub. The ceremony and celebration were conducted virtually, due to restrictions related to precautions against COVID-19.
Graduation marked the participants' successful completion of ten months of intensive work focused on the goal of launching their respective startup companies or discovering licensing opportunities based on proven ideas, inventions, or intellectual property from university technologies.
As with all of its cohorts, upon acceptance into the TTU Accelerator program, each team received a $25,000 grant through the Hub's partnership with the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, access to initial seed-funding support, co-working space, education, and team mentoring.
Participants say the benefits of the program extend even further beyond those things.
Acceleration meets hustle
Anthony Betteridge, co-founder and CEO of startup VxMED, says as a novice entrepreneur, the accelerator experience was invaluable.
"It would be hard to overestimate the number of important takeaways for me, our CMO and co-founder Nathan Lloyd, and our CTO Jordan Ketring," he says. "Pitch decks, business plans, customer discovery, marketing, sales, fundraising, operations, accounting, founders agreements, intellectual property, product development, web development—all of this was completely foreign to us before the TTU Accelerator program. We have taken VxMED from a student idea drawn on a whiteboard to a virtual reality software product deliverable to customers- all in the course of the last ten months. The plans we laid during the accelerator will become the foundation for our growth over the next five years."
Cara Wells, founder and CEO of EmGenisys, says she entered the TTU Accelerator program as an "entrepreneur on the rebound" and graduated as a confident disruptive innovator.
"I had just lost my first company and was on a mission to pick up the pieces and start over where I had left off," she says. "My previous success worked against me, and my work ended up in the hands of my competitors. At first, I tried to fight it, but my mentors and I felt I was wasting a lot of time, effort, and energy for little gain. Through the accelerator, I was challenged to make something new and make something I could call my own. At first, I felt lost. Ultimately, though, I came up with a brand new product. I went from a hardware solution to creating a software/artificial intelligence solution addressing multiple pain points of my customers' and enhanced their workflow. It was hard to let go of the original concept and look beyond it, but pivoting was the best decision I could have made for the future of EmGenisys. Our team is now well-positioned to grow, scale, and ultimately exit to a large animal health company."
Both startup entrepreneurs credit their iTTU mentor teams with making a significant difference for them.
Betteridge says, "Our mentors provided insight, guidance, and feedback that were instrumental in helping us make decisions about our business, operations, marketing, and sales plans, as well as our funding strategies and how to get the most out of the accelerator curriculum. Each brought unique expertise and a wealth of experience to every meeting with us. Our true progress as a team resides in the lessons learned and a foundation of knowledge we got from the curriculum and mentors."
Wells agrees that guidance from mentors is one of the most impactful aspects of the program. She hopes to return to TTU Accelerator as a mentor herself to stimulate a new generation of entrepreneurs.
She has advice for other startups, including the next TTU Accelerator cohort. "Don't name the yacht!" Well says. "My first startup ultimately failed because we got wrapped up in the idea of what could be. We literally named our imaginary corporate yacht. There is a stigma that implies startups are cool and trendy. I hate this because I believe it is important to stay grounded and remember that the odds are against you. Beating those odds requires sacrifices, lean spending, and lots of elbow grease. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and daunting at times. Get comfortable with your mentors and fellow executives. The Accelerator program is not about parading around your strengths, but working through your weaknesses. Embrace the process and be vulnerable."
Betteridge adds to that advice: "Focus on each day and each milestone as they come. Build a team that supports each other and shares the vision of how your innovation and business can change the world for its customers. Believe in yourselves and your ideas. Pivot when it becomes obvious that there is a better way. And don't give up!"