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A startup starter kit:
IDEA Works FW
TECH Fort Worth
Fort Worth Business Assistance Center
Fort Worth and North Texas has been building up its entrepreneur ecosystem in recent years with stalwarts like TECH Fort Worth and the Business Assistance Center as well as new entrants like IDEA Works FW. Now city and business officials aren’t just focusing on luring new companies to the Metroplex, but in giving entrepreneurs and startups a helping hand.
The most recent example of this focus is an entrepreneurial entrant is located in the Alliance corridor and focuses on providing a service that is decidedly low-tech: filling your gas tank.
“I have yet to meet someone that says, ‘I love going to the gas station,’ ” said Frank Mycroft, president and CEO of Booster Fuels Inc. “This industry hasn’t changed much in a long time. Our goal is to provide a more cost-effective, less time-consuming way to get this chore done that doesn’t involve you having to go to the gas station yourself.”
While the chore may be low-tech, the process isn’t. Much like other “disruptive” start-ups such as Uber, it utilizes – what else – your handy, dandy smartphone. After creating an account and entering relevant details like payment information, users park their car in a lot authorized for Booster Fuels, click the app and open the car’s fuel door. Sometime during the day, a bright, grape-colored Booster Fuels truck carrying 1,200 gallons of fuel comes by fills the tank, checks tire pressures and cleans the windows. A receipt is then emailed to the user. The price? Usually at – or below – that of the current market rate.
“We love delighting customers,” said Mycroft, who noted that the service goes well beyond that found at most gas stations.
Mycroft, a co-founder of Booster who has an undergraduate degree from Princeton and graduate degrees from Stanford and Harvard and was an executive at asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources, didn’t get the idea while staring off into space. Married and with a child, he found himself late one night pumping gas after a long day at the office in a sketchy part of town. “I asked myself, ‘Why do we still do this?’ This is not something that anybody enjoys, so I began to think of a way to solve this problem and provide quality fuel at fair prices.”
Booster Fuels currently has a fleet of four active refueling vehicles in North Texas providing 50 to 100 “boosts” per day to more than 600 customers.
Based in Seattle, investors in Booster Fuels include some heavy hitters in the venture capital world – Madrona Venture Group, Version One Ventures and – the AllianceTexas connection – Ross Perot Jr. Booster Fuels raised $3.1 million in equity financing earlier this year. Currently the company’s services are offered in the Alliance area – Perot’s Hillwood group, along with Mercedes-Benz, DynCorp International, Bridgestone, Farmer Brothers, Allen Corporation of America, Tarrant County College, the Federal Aviation Administration and Tucker Rocky Distributing. The service is also available in several office parks in Collin County and areas of Silicon Valley in California.
For Hillwood President Mike Berry, he’s a customer of Booster Fuels, but he also sees the company as a symbol of the potential for the area as a business incubator.
“It’s the first third-party startup to incubate at Alliance,” he said. “We think it will become a new area of business for us. We think some of these startups, if they’re the right fit, can use the infrastructure we’ve built up here to develop their products and services.”
The next one is Pickup that works like the popular ride-sharing apps Uber or Lyft that helps those needing to move items that will not fit in a traditional car or SUV. Like Booster Fuels, Pickup has an investment from Perot, through his venture capital partnership, Perot Jain LP.
“Pickup is exactly the type of company our investment firm was created to support,” Perot said in an earlier news release. “We look for emerging and high-potential technology-based companies that we can partner with and add value. Pickup combines a transformative business model with innovative technology which made it a very attractive investment opportunity.”
For Fort Worth, the opportunity to help incubate startups like Booster Fuels fits into Mayor Betsy Price’s plans to focus on small business owners and startups.
“The Booster Fuels people came and talked to us about their plans,” Price said. “They needed fire department approval, so we encouraged the fire department to work things out and they got the approval.”
Price believes Fort Worth, with TECH Fort Worth, its Cowtown Angels, Business Assistance Center and IDEA Works, can become a place that nurtures entrepreneurs, startups and small business.
“Entrepreneurs often don’t know where to start,” she said. “I know when I had a small business, I didn’t have anyone but friends and family and sometimes you need more. I think we need to make entrepreneurs and small business people more aware of what we have here.”
Hillwood’s Berry sees these latest startups as just the beginning. “We can help some of these startups get established and offer them some space. Our infrastructure up here offers some ready-made customers so they can work out the bugs. Our strategy is to create this broader incubator platform so we can find more opportunities. I believe this will help Alliance and all of North Texas.”