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Bexar County is starting to see some of the first fruits from its $1 million Innovation Fund established last year. The fund aims to bring new startups to the County, provide funding for local companies and cultivate talented workers for entry into San Antonio’s tech pipeline.
Tech Fuel, a startup competition created by Bexar County and the tech advocacy group Tech Bloc, was the first initiative that sprouted from the Innovation Fund. The winners of the competition, which aims to attract incentivize startups to grow their businesses locally, were announced Thursday, June 16 at the Tech Bloc anniversary rally, and were formally recognized Tuesday by County Commissioners.
A company called SnackDot won the first place prize of a $30,000 grant. SnackDot allows business owners to easily stock, manage and sell snacks for purchase, and offers a delivery service that connects snack providers with purchasers, as well.
“This (grant) will be huge for my business. It’s really going to help me take it to the next level,” said Chris Turner, SnackDot founder and CEO of software development company Turner Logic. “One of the neat things is that people have already been coming to me after (I received) the first place award and (are) wanting the product.”
The second place $15,000 grant went to Rising Barn, a homebuilding kit manufacturing company. Rising Barn CEO and Founder Pegy Brimhall said in her presentation to the commissioners that the company is already in the planning stages of an event on July 12 to showcase one of its products.
Rising Barn will have one of its small, backyard units on display somewhere on Broadway Street.
“That is going to be the first product that will help citizens in San Antonio increase the density on the lots that they currently own,” Brimhall said.
Rising Barn backyard units range from 200 to 600 sq. ft. and will be priced from $35,000 to $85,000. Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) praised Rising Barn for bringing affordable housing options to San Antonio.
“I’ve worked with Rising Barn,” Calvert said. “Thank you all for your leadership in innovating for local and national issues.”
MilTribe, an online marketplace for the military community, won the third place prize, a $5,000 grant. The startup will launch its platform on July 1.
“This is a safer, more convenient, 100% secure way for military families on the move to shop, buy and sell goods with each other across military installations,” said MilTribe CFO Kevin La Rue.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff applauded the award winners and made suggestions for ways they could further expand their community networks and opportunities.
“We believe very much that San Antonio is an entrepreneurial city, and one that step ups and takes the risk in doing what y’all are doing is what’s going to build this city,” Wolff said. “We’re very appreciative of what you’re doing and your efforts and we wish you great success.”
In another win for San Antonio’s growing tech ecosystem, Bexar County agreed Tuesday to negotiate an up-to $70,000 grant agreement with 3 Day Startup (3DS), a three-day intensive program that uses a learning-by-doing approach to teach participants how to launch a company. The organization has expanded to 26 countries worldwide since it began as a student organization at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008.
If awarded, the $70,000 grant would fund a series of two, short format entrepreneurship programs in San Antonio hosted by 3DS that will reinforce and build the foundations for high-growth startups. Part of the agreement would be to hold both programs at the LiftFund headquarters, west of downtown.
“Young, inspired entrepreneurs come into this program with ideas and we help them turn those ideas into something with a proven concept,” 3DS Program Manager Maia Donohue told Commissioners.
“You can see from the (Tech Fuel) group before you how interested we are in … expanding our tech sector and building small businesses,” Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) said. “We are a small business community. Ninety percent of employment in San Antonio and Bexar County is through small business.”
David Marquez, Bexar County executive director of economic development, said that under the grant’s terms, 40-45 entrepreneurs will be expected to participate in each competition and that half of the participants will be women and other underrepresented populations.
3DS has held competitions in San Antonio in the past with Geekdom, but this will be the first time that the County has partnered with the company.
Top Image: Tech Bloc representatives, Tech Fuel award winners and Bexar County Commissioners pose for a photo at the county courthouse. Photo by Sarah Talaat.