UT, Austin startups showcase products, services at Venture Expo

Nathan Han

Dozens of interested investors and representatives from 25 Austin-based companies mingled at a venture capital exposition by the McCombs School of Business Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs.

“Companies from the UT and Austin innovation ecosystem came to the table,” said Mellie Price, director of JBTVL. “We’re highlighting some of the great work going on at UT and in Austin.”

Twelve startup companies in Texas Venture Labs’ Accelerator Cohort each gave a three-minute elevator pitch about their products or services at the fall Venture Expo on Thursday in Robert B. Rowling Hall. The JBTVL Accelerator program pairs hand-picked companies with graduate students in the JBTVL Practicum program. These students work to solve problems that the company chooses during the semester-long program, Price said.

“For example, a company can say, ‘Hey, we need help with our go-to-market strategy,’” Price said. “Then the students will work on that with the company. It gives them hands-on experience and the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills.” 

Amir Bahari, CEO and co-founder of protein doughnut company Elite Sweets, said he found three issues within his company for students to solve, including working on the company’s demographic profile.

“The students say what they want they want to do, and we say what problems we want to work on,” Bahari said. “Then we come to an agreement, and they work on that project and give us reports summarizing the problem.”

The Venture Expo is a biannual event in conjunction with the Accelerator program. Price said past companies in the program have found success in part due to the expo. One of them was BeatBox Beverages, a company that makes alcoholic drinks aimed at parties and went on to raise money from more investors after the expo to get the company going.

“There are a bunch of companies that have gone through the program that are still going strong,” Price said.

The other 13 companies also had booths and were a selection of UT-based and Austin-based companies. 

Pocket Punch showcased their hand-held, all-in-one self-defense device at the expo. The device contains pepper spray, a safety alarm and a flashlight inside a pair of plastic knuckles. Co-founder Margy McCallum said the company, founded by five undergraduate seniors at UT, joined the expo after hearing about the event through their faculty sponsor.

“We’ve showcased our product, and people have been interested and eager to learn more,” marketing senior McCallum said. “People have been enthusiastic about sharing ideas that have been interesting. We’ve been able to connect to people that could help us in the future. So it’s been pretty helpful but also just cool.”