The second annual StartUp Texas Pitch Summit judging panel was announced today by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC). The esteemed panel will determine which of the top 7 finalists have the most innovative product or service with potential for scalability, social impact, and sustainability in the region. 

“Given that small businesses drive our economy, it’s important that emerging entrepreneurs and early stage startups have a chance to access capital and get assistance to help turn their dreams into reality,” says Nathan Burkhart, BCIC Director of Marketing & Small Business Development. “This program is part of our ongoing efforts to build a self-sustaining ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Brownsville, Texas and the greater Rio Grande Valley as a whole.”

The event was originally scheduled for February 26, but the recent Texas winter storms and the recovery efforts that followed pushed the date back to this Thursday, March 11. The program is a highlight of the eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization, made up of a collaborative partnership among BCIC, UTRGV Entrepreneurship & Commercialization Center, City of Brownsville, SBA, and the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. 

“We are excited to bring together business and community leaders, local entrepreneurs, and our community for an event that invests in our local economy, supports our small businesses, and showcases the unique talent and opportunities we hold as the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Michael Limas, Chair of the Board.

The second annual event will consist of 7 interactive food, technology, energy and manufacturing companies pitching their product or service for their chance to win a share of $100,000. 

“We are continuing to tap into the human capital of our community,” says Burkhart. “We are focusing on commercializing scalable businesses and establishing entrepreneurial equity in developing and advancing an open and inclusive ecosystem for all entrepreneurs.”

This year’s independent and impartial judging panel comprises active business leaders with experience in investment, manufacturing, innovation, sustainability, business and economic development. 

The StartUp Texas Pitch Summit 2021 will take place on Thursday, March 11th 2021 at 5:30 PM streaming online from the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy through social media platforms

For more information on the event or to RSVP, or to learn more about the BCIC’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a culture and ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Brownsville, please visit BEDC.com or email Nathan Burkhart at nathan@bcic.us or call 956-459-2123.

The StartUp Texas 2021 Judging Panel

John Hanak, Managing Director of Purdue Ventures, Co-founder of the Purdue Foundry. 

John Hanak is the Managing Director, Purdue Ventures at the Purdue Foundry. Formerly, he served as the Statewide Director of the Purdue Technology Centers. He has held officer-level positions at a Fortune 500 metals manufacturer, a middle-market machine-building company and a technology product development firm. Additionally he co-founded a technology commercialization and consulting firm and a small investment partnership.

Krista Covey, President of First Flight Venture Center and Hanger6

Krista’s passion is serving high-impact entrepreneurial ventures and helping them achieve success. She has been supporting the development and growth of early-stage companies through her work building and leading award-winning innovation hubs in Florida and Texas. She has an extensive background in banking and finance and has experience in business incubation and acceleration, strategic management, business development, marketing, economic development, economic gardening for high-growth science and tech companies, and public relations. As an entrepreneur at heart, she has also grown her own successful finance business with a profitable exit and served on several start-up boards. Krista is a certified Business Incubator Manager with the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) and currently serves as second Vice-Chair of the InBIA Executive Board of Directors. She is part of the Startup Champions Network, driving long-term change by supporting innovation and entrepreneurship and working to reduce barriers for entrepreneurs, and has served on numerous community and industry boards. Krista is a regular speaker on topics relating to business innovation, technology transfer, incubation, acceleration, mentoring programs, economic development, funding vehicles and other programs designed to transition ideas into profitable ventures that significantly impact local communities. 

Trey Mendez, Founder of Trey Mendez Law Firm and Dodici Pizza + Wine, Mayor for the City of Brownsville 

Mayor Mendez is a local lawyer and businessman.  Prior to becoming Mayor for the City of Brownsville on July 2, 2019, he served 9 years as a Trustee for Texas Southmost College, the oldest and fastest growing community college in the state.  Mr. Mendez was born and raised in Brownsville and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the UT Austin School of Law.  In 2020, he was accepted for admission to the Harvard Kennedy School program for Senior Executives in Leadership.  He is a board member of the Brownsville Community Foundation, and currently serves as an ex-officio member of the Public Utilities Board.  In 2018, Mr. Mendez co-founded Dodici Pizza and Wine, a restaurant located near Market Square in Downtown Brownsville.  Earlier this year, he served as a member of the national platform committee for the Biden campaign.  He is a former board member of Main Street Brownsville, a former chair of the Heritage Council and is the co-creator of the Crossroads Festival. Mayor Mendez has made citywide broadband connectivity a priority for the City of Brownsville. 

Jennifer Serrano, Founder of Jen Zeano Designs, StartUp Texas 2020 Winning Finalist

Jennifer Serrano is the founder of Jen Zeano Designs, JZD. JZD is a Latina owned and operated brand that focuses on empowering our Latina hermanas through community and cultura. Born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico she is an immigrant to the United States with a mission to honor her parent’s sacrifices and struggles. She also serves as the lead photographer and creative director at JZD. She graduated from The University of Texas at Brownsville and has been featured in Forbes, People En Español, People Chica, Texas Monthly, Glamour, and more.