Texas Shark Tank hosts its first ever statewide competition

Eilish O'Sullivan

An advertising campaign for local alcohol advertisements to be placed in Austin-based bars was the winning pitch at this year’s first statewide Texas Shark Tank competition.

“We’re replacing really boring commercials with commercials people want to see,” said Jansen Derr, computer science senior. “It feels really good to win. We’ve been working on this for months and months, and winning just validates all of our hard work.”

Derr and his business partners, Gilad Oved, computer science senior, and Zack Crowell, a student at St. Edwards University, were just one of 25 teams chosen to compete in this event. The event, which was hosted by the University Securities Investment Team and the Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, helps students build on their entrepreneurial ideas. This year’s event featured students from various Texas universities, such as Rice University and Texas State University, and is for students who have not received a lot of funding for their ideas.

“There are a lot of people here who are passionate for entrepreneurship and there are a lot of people here who are passionate about helping other people realize that,” said Eileen Bau, director of marketing for USIT.

The event was held Saturday at the Student Activity Center. It was the first collaboration between USIT, which provides financial and accounting information to UT students, and LEA, which fosters student-run entrepreneurship on campus. Unlike the well-known show “Shark Tank,” the winning pitches do not have to exchange equity, or give up a piece of their startup, for funding.

“You can come in with an idea … (or) a startup with little to no experience and we actually help you (develop your pitches),” said Bau, marketing and Plan II junior. “You do get the chance to pitch your idea to people who not only have experience in entrepreneurship, but also have the resources to potentially launch your idea.”

Only four teams made it to the finals, with the winning prize being co-working space at Capital Factory, which provides startups an opportunity to meet investors, employees, mentors and customers.

“We are really excited that through (Texas) Shark Tank, and our really fantastic partnership with USIT, we are going to be able to support the student entrepreneurs who are already working on something here while they’re in college,” said Daniel Miyares, management information systems senior and LEA director.