TechFW honors startups at ninth-annual impact awards: Small beginnings led to a big impact on Fort Worth

TechFW Impact Awards

TechFW recognized four local technology entrepreneurs at its ninth-annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon.

The annual event — which took place Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Texas Christian University’s Brown Lupton University Union — aims to “celebrate the global impact of emerging technologies.”

Academic director of the Entrepreneurship Center at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, Keith Hmieleski says that at TCU the focus on entrepreneurship is value-driven.

He added that eight out of the ten most common ways to die in the U.S. are on an increase. The need for health-focused innovation and entrepreneurship is on the rise, and three of the four award-winners of this year’s IMPACT awards’ innovations have to do with health or quality of life.

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“We are here to celebrate four companies who are exemplars of trying to make change in the world,” Hmieleski said.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price attended the awards presentation saying that in Fort Worth, we take our entrepreneurship seriously.

“It’s entrepreneurs that are the backbone of our economy,” Price said, adding that we wouldn’t have the growth in our city we have experienced if we didn’t have the technology and innovations that startups like those involved with TechFW bring to the table.

“Our local economy benefits $20 million direct from what TechFW has done annually, isn’t that amazing?” Price said.

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The IMPACT Awards Luncheon also featured keynote speaker Chris Moran, who serves as vice president of Corporate Development for the Lockheed Martin Corporation and executive director and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures.

Moran said his job within Lockheed is to look for and help the company find the next big idea(s), because he says innovation starts with a great idea.

Moran offered three key threads to guide people and businesses to innovation:

— Seek out smart collaborations with internal and external partners

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— Identify your target market and identify an initial market where you can make a difference and turn down business opportunities that take you in a different direction

— and Identify your risks and put mitigations in place.

“Trying to be all things to all people is a sure way to fail and fail spectacularly,” Moran said. “Under the right conditions entrepreneurs have incredible power.”

In addition to the four businesses that were to receive awards from TechFW, the organization also debuted a new award — the Legacy Award — to present to 20-year supporter and board chair Nelson Claytor.

Vernon Rew, former chairman of the board for TechFW and an attorney at Whitaker Chalk, said of Claytor, “When I served with him, I knew i could always count on him to have the best interests of TechFW and its clients at heart.”

Claytor, after accepting his award, said he believes the development of a strong technological ecosystem is critical to the success of Fort Worth.

“TechFW has done some pretty amazing things [and] the future looks really bright,” Claytor said. “I will be retiring from the board of directors at the end of this year … and I know I will be leaving the board in capable hands.”

The startup award winners for 2017 were as follows:

Duane Dimos, University of Texas at Arlington’s vice president of research, presented the 2017 Impact Award to Andrew Feghali with Aeroblaze Laboratory.

Aeroblaze is an FAA-registered independent facility specializing in flammability testing for aircraft interiors. Its 4,000-square-foot testing facility is located in north Fort Worth. Feghali is both founder and lab manager.

Cody Kiser, Fort Worth market president for Comerica Bank, presented the 2017 Impact Award to Elyse Dickerson and Joe Griffin with Eosera.

Eosera aims to “heal humans – not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, too.” The company is committed to developing products that address underserved medical needs. Its first product is EarWax MD, which has launched already on Amazon and in CVS stores nationwide. Dickerson serves as the CEO and cofounder, and Griffin serves as the chief scientific officer and cofounder.

Anuja Ghorpade, interim vice president of research and innovation at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, presented the 2017 Impact Award to Richie Petronis and Jerry Boonyaratanakornkit with Exact Diagnostics.

Exact Diagnostics says it is committed to helping patients receive accurate answers and diagnoses by providing exact quality control materials and custom products for laboratories conducting infectious disease, oncology and genetic testing. Petronis and Boonyaratanakornkit are co-founders and Petronis heads the company’s commercial operations.

Robert Francis, editor of the Fort Worth Business Press, presented the 2017 Rising Star Award to Jennifer Hendrix with Go Vivid.

Go Vivid’s product is DirectMe, a portable, adaptable and interactive electronic system designed to provide responsive route guidance and obstacle avoidance for individuals with low to no sight. Hendrix is both founder and CEO.

“To the blind, your hopes, dreams, vision and life are our mission,” Hendrix said.

TechFW executive director Darlene Boudreaux called all in attendance to get involved with the organization through the Cowtown Angel’s initiative, becoming a part of their M. Crew mentorship program or simply donating to the nonprofit.

Jim LaCamp, senior vice president of Wealth Management within UBS Financial Services Inc., was the event emcee.