BROWNSVILLE, Texas – StartUp Texas, a seed fund program for entrepreneurs hoping to scale in Brownsville, could be aligned with South By Southwest, the film, interactive media and music festival staged each year in Austin.
This is the hope of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, the City of Brownsville’s Type B economic development corporation.
BCIC’s aim with StartUp Texas is to foster intentional, goal-oriented relationships between specialists, entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders.
“I am very much looking forward to Start Up Texas 2.0. We are hoping to create a partnership with SXSW so we can provide even more awareness of the Valley, on what entrepreneurship has to offer,” said Josh Mejia, executive director of BCIC.
BCIC runs StartUp Texas. After a successful debut earlier this year, BCIC is planning to roll out StartUpTexas 2.0 in the coming weeks.
“We truly believe in the attraction factor of this program,” Mejia told the Rio Grande Guardian. “As you already know we had folks chiming in from Mexico City all the way to Boston, Massachusetts. We even have folks that are ready to apply from Costa Rica that are looking into diving into our area and really taking advantage of all the geographical features that we have.”
Mejia spoke about StartUp Texas in a Zoom conversation with the Rio Grande Guardian earlier this week. He was joined by Nathan Burkhart, BCIC’s director of marketing and small business development.
Here is the Zoom conversation:
“Start Up Texas wrapped up in July. We had five winning companies, ranging from a Latina-inspired and -owned clothing brand, to a company that does topographical maps of the Moon with weather patterns for missions to space. The five companies are already settling here in Brownsville,” Burkhart said.
“The exciting part is, Start Up Texas, the actual pitch summit, we are preparing for 2.0 and the applications will be opening this Friday. So, we welcome everybody to apply again.”
Burkhart said buddy entrepreneurs can do this by visiting BCIC’s website.
“Applications will be opened October 1. We are looking for a cutoff period somewhere in mid-January. We will be having preliminary rounds in February for our pitch summit.”
Burkhart said the first StartUp Texas was a great success.
“We had five winners who each won $20,000. They are each going to be setting up, in some fashion, in Brownsville, everything from New Space to commercialization of products. It is a great thing to see happen in Brownsville,” Burkhart said.
“We had a New Space company come in, we had an energy company come in, we had some consultant agencies, we had a clothing line. Food. We actually had someone who could process nopal powder in a way that is unique to anyone else in the world. These are all great things that you would expect to hear coming from a start up culture in Austin or Houston. This is happening here in the Valley and Brownsville. We could not be happier.”
Burkhart said there has always been a great entrepreneurial spirit in Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley.
“It has always been here. We just want to tap into that potential, the human capital we have in our back yard. And prevent them from leaving to stay in Austin or Houston, to start these endeavors. Everything they need is right here in the Valley and we can support that.”
That support can include incentives and other resources, Burkhart explained.
“We can provide them with the incentives and resources they need. More importantly, we believe in them. We want them to be that homegrown talent that can continue to take our community to the next level.”
Burkhart said not only is BCIC getting noticed for its attention to helping startup businesses. So are the companies the group is assisting.
“We are getting recognized on the national level and with 2.0 it is only going to get better.”
In addition to a discussion on StartUp Texas, the Zoom conversation also featured BCIC’s programs to help businesses rebound from the downturn in the economy caused by the coronavirus. The latest news on the development of the eBridge Center was also touched on, as well as Brownsville’s efforts to close the digital divide.