Tech Notes: IMPACT awards set for May

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IMPACT awards set for May 13

Three emerging technology companies will be spotlighted at this year’s TECH Fort Worth IMPACT Awards on Wednesday, May 13 at Texas Christian University.

The IMPACT Awards recognize and celebrate the global impact of emerging technologies in North Texas.

The luncheon is a celebration of clients and graduates of TECH Fort Worth programs, and portfolio companies of Cowtown Angels, a program of TECH Fort Worth that brings together independent angel investors and early-stage companies needing capital. Three emerging technology companies will be spotlighted during the seventh annual event:

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• BearTek Gloves manufactures innovative protective gloves that allow remote access and control of target devices. These feature-rich gloves allow users to conveniently and safely control their Bluetooth devices and GoPro products. Simple touches of the thumb to the appropriate finger will activate the desired function on the target device. The interchangeable modules plug into a connector inside the glove’s zipper pocket.

• The Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company provides golfers with precision scoring clubs – nine irons and wedges. Most recently, golf club designers have been obsessed with distance. The new Ben Hogan irons and wedges make no such sacrifices. The company has combined the shot-making genius of Hogan with the power of today’s game to provide irons and wedges with the distance you want, while also giving you the precision, accuracy and playability that Hogan demanded.

• Encore Vision is developing the world’s first treatment for presbyopia, which is the lost ability of the lens inside the eye to change shape in response to a visual stimulus allowing focus on nearby objects. Think reading glasses. There is no treatment for presbyopia. Encore Vision is working toward a (liquid) solution.

“Because TECH Fort Worth’s influence in the region’s technology ecosystem has grown tremendously, we like to give recognition to our clients that already are achieving measurable success,” said TECH Fort Worth Executive Director Darlene Boudreaux. “These entrepreneurs are working to better our world and the opportunity to shine this spotlight on them is gratifying.”

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Al Guillem, President of ZS Pharma, a graduate of TECH Fort Worth, will be the keynote speaker. His talk will be “From $0 to $1 Billion: How We Did It.” ZS Pharma raised more than $100 million during its IPO last year and has a valuation of approximately $1 billion.

A Client Showcase, sponsored by Comerica Bank, opens the luncheon activities at 10:00 am; attendees have an opportunity to visit with TECH Fort Worth clients, and in some cases, see their work.

Luncheon registration begins at 11 a.m. and lunch starts at 11:30. Returning to emcee is Jim Lacamp, senior vice president of investments at UBS. Lacamp is co-host of a Dallas-Fort Worth financial radio show, frequent television investment expert and a member of Cowtown Angels.

Sponsors of TECH Fort Worth include the city of Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington, the Fort Worth Business Press, Sabre, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Lockheed Martin, Dell, TriNet and the Neeley School of Business at TCU.

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StartUp Lounge

A new entrepreneurial space – The StartUp Lounge – has opened at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). The StartUp Lounge expects to augment institutions that exist within the North Texas Region by facilitating initial steps within the entrepreneurial process.

The initiative is a collaborative, with representation from Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies, the UT Arlington schools and colleges of business, science and engineering, and TECH Fort Worth through TECHFW@UTA.

“It is an open access meeting space where inventors/entrepreneurs can come and network with potential business partners,” said Joe Barrera, the director of the Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies. “This would include anything from vetting and refining ideas, to forming management teams to taking technologies to market.

“Furthermore, it is a space that can be used to educate and train future entrepreneurs in hopes of increasing successes for our students, faculty and community.”

The Shimadzu Institute for Research Technologies at UT Arlington is a centralized research resource focused on providing access to instrumentation and expertise to support research in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, cognition, engineering, geoscience, material science, nanotechnology and neuroscience.

Shimadzu is a 133-year-old Japanese company focused on manufacturing analytical instrumentation, i.e. precision instruments, measuring instruments and medical equipment. It operates in the United States as Shimadzu Scientific Instruments.

TECHFW@UTA is a multi-year partnership between the university and the Fort Worth-based technology nonprofit that assists entrepreneurs in launching and growing their companies.

The partnership was established to commercialize university research. TechFW@UTA offers training and educational programs to UTA faculty, staff and students. And UTA faculty members and research teams gain access to the North Texas entrepreneurial community.

In search of America’s next tech hub

Seventy years ago, Detroit was the technology capital of the United States. Seventy years earlier, at the height of steel’s golden age, it was Pittsburgh. During both periods, Steve Case points out, the stretch of California running from San Jose to San Francisco — what we now know as Silicon Valley — was mostly farmland. It’s signature export wasn’t computer chips or mobile apps. It was prunes.

In other words, the country’s innovation landscape shifts over time. Question is, which unlikely city will emerge as the next technology hub?

It could very well be anywhere. Or better yet, Case says, it could be everywhere.

“Most of the attention and most of the capital still finds its way to places like Silicon Valley and Boston and New York City, but there are great companies and thriving start-up communities being built all across the country,” said Case, an AOL founder and now the top executive at Revolution Ventures, a talent spotter that invests in early-stage tech companies. “The story of American entrepreneurship in other parts of the country, and in sectors other than technology, just isn’t being told, and that has to change.”

Case has spent much of the past year mounting a grass-roots campaign to highlight and accelerate the growth of start-up communities in pockets of the country not generally known — at least, not anymore — for producing tomorrow’s next big company. Dubbing it the Rise of the Rest tour, Case and a small team have zigzagged across Middle America, holding business pitch competitions in nine cities and leaving behind more than $1 million in funding.

“There are interesting things happening in these cities,” he said, “and by visiting, we just wanted to throw a little kerosene on the fire and take things to the next level.”

During his travels as part of President Barack Obama’s jobs council and a public-private partnership he led called Startup America (now called Up Global), he began to realize that the types of businesses you might expect to find in the back yard of Google or Facebook — or only on the coasts — were setting up shop in places such as Iowa and Tennessee.

The ideas were rich and exciting. The money, however, wasn’t moving inland with them. Last year, three-quarters of all venture capital investments went to companies in three states: California, Massachusetts and New York. Leaving behind so many other entrepreneurs is bad business for America — or “putting all our eggs in two or three baskets,” as Case put it.

“I don’t think we’ll remain the most innovative and entrepreneurial nation unless we’re building and investing in entrepreneurial communities across the country, not just in a few areas,” he added.

The rate at which Americans are starting new businesses has dipped in the past decade, data shows, while the pace at which companies are failing has accelerated. A steep challenge facing emerging entrepreneurs has long been access to capital, and that’s particularly true for those outside the traditional start-up hotbeds, Case said.

In order to shed light on those places and the start-ups that call them home, Case climbed on a bus last summer for a four-cities-in-four-days tour through the Rust Belt — Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati — and ending in Nashville. As is now the routine, Case held a pitch competition in each city, featuring a panel of judges composed of local investors and successful entrepreneurs. And at each stop, the winning company received a $100,000 investment from Case.

Case upped the ante by holding a follow-up competition at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in March. All five of those city winners were invited to pitch to another panel of investors in Austin, and the winner, Iowa’s Pear Deck, which provides interactive software tools to teachers, scored an additional $150,000 check from Case.

Case isn’t finished. At the event in Austin, Case announced that a third Rise of the Rest tour would kick off in May. He and his team will head to the Southeast, making stops in Richmond; Durham, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina.; Atlanta; and New Orleans. He has penciled off dates on his calendar for a possible fourth tour this fall. – J.D. Harrions, The Washington Post

Up Global

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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