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Tech Fuel will accept applications from local technology startups until Jan. 10, provided that they have raised less than $1 million in outside funding, have less than $1 million in revenue, and plan to grow their company in Bexar County.
Tech Fuel leaders will select the top five applicants on Feb. 15 to present their startup’s business plan before a panel of five judges, who have yet to be determined. The five startups will have three months to further develop and execute their business plan, which they will present for a second time in May. Tech Bloc will announce the top three startups during a rally in the spring of next year.
The first place winner will receive $30,000, the second place winner will receive $15,000, and the third place winner will receive $5,000.
Those interested in competing in Tech Fuel can apply here.
Bexar County will fund an economic development grant for the top three startups from its $1 million Innovation Fund, of which Tech Fuel is the first project to be funded. The County announced the $50,000 grant to Tech Bloc to host the competition in May during the first Tech Bloc rally.
Since its inception about six months ago, Tech Bloc leaders have delved into San Antonio’s technology scene to promote growth and development to compete with international technology economies.
“I don’t think I have ever seen an organization get together and move as quickly as Tech Bloc has done and really rejuvenated our community,” Wolff said.
“(The competition) is as much for the prestige as it is for the money. Although the money does help,” he added. “It just builds more enthusiasm in the community as they start thinking about if they want to do a startup tech firm.”
Blake Yeager, founding member of Tech Bloc and managing director of Techstars Cloud, emphasized that Tech Fuel is not just a pitch contest or one-time application process. Instead it is a competition that promotes growth and movement for local startups.
“Tech Fuel is going to be a little bit different,” Yeager said. “What we are going to do is focus on awarding entrepreneurs and startups that are executing, they are getting things done, they are not just talking about great ideas, they are not just talking about these amazing companies they are going to build, they are actually going out and doing it.”
Tech Fuel will fund startups at various stages of development. The three winners will receive the grant based on the amount of progress they have made during those three months of business development.
“These startups can be at any stage,” he said. “It can be a couple of people working on an idea part time. It could be a company who is already started that has a product in market and some early stage revenue.”
Tech Fuel will provide entrepreneurs an incentive to make their startup dreams a reality.
“If they are an early-stage company that didn’t have a product in market, maybe it is just getting the initial version of the product out and getting some feedback from some initial beta testers and that would be very impressive,” Yeager said. “If it is a company that already has a product in market and they have revenue, maybe they have been able to grow revenue 50% month after month which would be amazing. … The nice thing about the way we have structured this competition is that we are going to be able to judge companies that are in different stages of their evolution against each other and reward those companies that are really getting things done.”
Tech Bloc’s mission is to attract and retain young, educated people to San Antonio who have a knack for technology. People often look to Austin’s growth in the technology sector when judging San Antonio’s stance on talent and technology.
“The cost of living is higher in Austin, it’s not an easy city to get around in. As we build this urban amenity that we are doing now, south on the river, north on the river, even going east and west, it is changing some attitudes in the talented tech community,” Wolff said. “There’s no comparison. We are a much better place to live.”
Lew Moorman, Tech Bloc’s board chairman, praised Judge Wolff’s support for the startup economy.
“While the dollars are not huge, the truth of the matter is that it just takes a little nudge to get a few people who are having coffee who have a few ideas to go, ‘You know what? Now there is this competition. Let’s get together and let’s get to work and let’s see if we can go win it.’ This is how things get started,” Moorman said.
*Top image: Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff gives opening remarks at the Tech Fuel press conference. Photo by Scott Ball.