Mimicking the style of hit TV show Shark Tank, nearly a dozen startups made the case for their ideas before a panel of judges Wednesday evening, often frantically working to make a convincing pitch before time ran out.
More than 100 attendees gathered at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center at Texas A&M University to watch and participate in the third "Silicon Valley Bank Shark Frenzy" event.
Presented by Startup Aggieland -- a program of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at A&M's Mays Business School -- the three-hour event featured 11 four-minute presentations by startup companies, 10 of which were followed by respective four-minute question and answer segments led by the six-person panel of judges.
The panel of judges included founder and CEO of ecoATM Mark Bowles; Phil Graves, senior director of corporate development at Patagonia; Silicon Valley Bank President Michael Descheneaux' ARCH Venture managing partner Clint Bybee' Nathan Day, founding CTO and chief research scientist of SoftLayer; and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of ethernet and professor of innovation at The University of Texas.
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In what officials said was an "unusual move," two healthcare-focused teams and what was described as "Uber for moving" split the top prize for the evening.
Trucke, a moving startup that uses college-aged contract workers and partnerships with local apartment complexes and furniture stores to fuel its young business, was joined by healthcare startups Saber and Voyager, which are working to develop bacteria-killing blue light bandages and an implant to aid in the fortification of veins for dialysis treatment, respectively.
Ideas and innovations presented alongside the three winners included startups focused on equipping hotel rooms with smart home technology, potentially cost-saving and environmentally friendly new paintbrushes, a Texas-based yeast lab for state brewers, a less lethal replacement for bullets and more.
In addition to the main award, Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson and College Station Mayor Karl Mooney presented the inaugural Mayors' Cup Award to Ryze, a team focused on developing a professional relationship management application. The startup also received a $1,000 monetary award along with the recognition.
During an onstage interview midway through the event, class of '03 Texas A&M graduate Graves shared some insight into the work he does with Patagonia by finding new products to invest in that can be both financially successful while also having a positive impact on the planet.
Graves also discussed where he looks for innovation, praising university campuses just like the one here.
"The university setting is a great place to find innovations," Graves said. "Texas A&M is a great place that I want to continue to invest in as we try to find the innovations that will help us to build the best product while causing less environmental harm."
While the 11 startups had the opportunity to present before the panel, several other Texas A&M students presented their ideas and interacted with attendees during a reception preceding the main event.
Among them was sophomore Bailey Mullins, whose pitch focused on podcast service Mindless Millenials Studios with potential plans to incorporate community service as well.
With a passion for encouraging "millennials to self-educate," Mullins said the availability of educational resources in audio form, like podcasts, has enabled more people to gain access to a wide variety of subjects. Along with the growth of Mindless Millenials, Mullins said he has a vision to one day expand the business to include a nonprofit based in his native Austin that will give the homeless community an opportunity to work and, hopefully, make a "fundamental difference in their everyday lives."
Mullins is not currently a part of the Startup Aggieland program, but he said he is interested in joining the community and support network it offers.
"Having the structure from programs like this is really a benefit," Mullins said. "Having people that want to help you that really understand that your dreams are possible is really cool."
For more information about the Startup Aggieland program, visit startupaggieland.com.