On Saturday, 22 student entrepreneur teams competed in Texas Shark Tank at UT, where they pitched their company ideas to investment professionals with backgrounds in venture capital and serial entrepreneurship.
The competition, which featured teams of students from UT and across Texas, was hosted by the University Securities and Investment Team (USIT) and Texas Convergent, two UT student organizations.
USIT vice president Eric Sun said Texas Shark Tank allows students to show off their startups to investors from the Austin area and beyond.
“Austin is one of the biggest startup hubs in the nation, and we really wanted to offer all the entrepreneurial opportunities that Austin has to offer to student startups across Texas,” said Sun, a business honors, finance, and math junior. “A lot of these connections actually lead to stronger relationships that result in an amazing mentor network and even seed funding in the thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The first place startup was SurviVR, a virtual reality program for police training. The company, presented by a UT-Dallas student, creates realistic and cost-effective training scenarios that help police officers train and prepare for situations such as an active shooter or domestic battery. It is also the only VR training product that emphasizes unconscious bias monitoring, according to Brian Hoang, CEO and co-founder of SurviVR.
Hoang said his team is trying to solve the problem of accidental or preventable deaths of both police officers and civilians, many of which could have been avoided with more effective police training, he said.
“We take it really seriously especially when we’re trying to differentiate and make a better product out there, because if you mess this up and you get this wrong, you could kill somebody,” said Hoang, a software engineering senior at UTD. “It’s a very delicate problem, but we’re fully confident in our team’s ability given our experience.”
Harvey Powers, a Texas Shark Tank judge and the founder of USIT, said SurviVR won the competition because the startup has shown significant traction, is a needed product and has a well-established market strategy.
“(SurviVR has) inroads in the North Dallas police community and they have what seems to be ... a lot of the right connections,” Powers said. “It’s a product that should be a good business, and they’ve built it to the point where they have some tangible results, and we’re excited to see where it goes from here.”